- How do you create a sense of belonging in your coworking space – and why does it matter?
- Creating a sense of inclusion in a coworking space positively impacts people in many different ways, and it also keeps members coming back.
- Initiating conversations, finding common ground, and getting to know your members are some of the key ways to build a sense of community within your space.
Coworking isn’t just about having a place to work. A desk and WiFi are important, but most people already have these essentials at home. So why do people use coworking spaces – and how do you create a sense of belonging that keeps people coming back?
In short, it’s the human factor.
People need social connections, real conversations, and relationships. They need a way out of isolation and a place where they can feel inspired and above all, included.
That’s where coworking communities come in.
As GCUC’s Liz Elam pointed out, a definition of belonging is “a feeling of elevated kinship.” Coworking spaces that foster this sense of inclusion have the ability to positively impact their members in many different ways, such as enhancing wellbeing and building professional connections.
And from a business perspective, when paying members feel a sense of belonging to a space, they’re more likely to keep coming back.
But, how do you create a sense of belonging in your space?
To find out, coworking marketing expert Cat Johnson hosted an online conversation with four coworking experts to dig deeper into the how and why. The event included:
- Wesley Alexander – Cobiz Richmond
- Liz Elam – GCUC
- Drew Puig – Bond Collective
- Iris Kavanagh – Women Who Cowork
Here are Allwork.Space’s key takeaways from the event.
“The power of communication”
For Wesley Alexander, creating a sense of belonging starts with communication.
The best conversations are “real and transparent,” noted Wesley, which means talking openly about what matters to you as a person as well as your vision for your workspace.
A simple conversation not only helps you to find common ground, it also reveals what matters to your current and future members, and their pain points. Once you’ve identified the challenges they’re currently facing, you can demonstrate how your space can be part of the solution.
It’s also important to remember that communication is a two-way street. That’s especially true for people who aren’t comfortable opening up face-to-face. As well as inviting ideas and suggestions in an open setting, create ways to provide anonymous feedback, too. This way, you will build a more inclusive space in which everybody feels heard.
“Know everybody’s names”
For GCUC’s Liz Elam, the cornerstone of an inclusive community is knowing your people. Often this comes down to simple yet impactful things like knowing their names and asking about their day.
“The reason people cowork is to connect,” said Liz, and that connection is made possible through a sense of belonging to your community.
One way people feel included is to be invited to participate. This participation could be anything from being invited to join an event, to running an event – and it’s especially meaningful if it stems from an interest or an idea they have shared with you.
“We have a loneliness epidemic. Community is the solution to help cure depression – it’s about people connecting with people in real life. Our world needs this.”
“Cultivating a feeling of belonging internally is super important”
Drew Puig from Bond Collective believes that in order to create a sense of belonging in your membership, you must first instil this feeling within your internal team.
Managers and staff who feel a part of Bond Collective naturally share that experience with members, he says. It’s an organic process that flows through their communities and everyday operations.
For a national brand with multiple locations, it can be challenging to create meaningful relationships that foster a sense of belonging – so Drew uses digital tools such as Slack to help fill the void. The idea is to find common ground and spark conversations. For example, one Slack channel is dedicated to coffee, while another is “Outfit of the Day.”
For the wider community, Drew makes a point of getting to know members and celebrating special occasions such as birthdays and business wins.
“These shared moments help us create genuine connections with our people and our communities.”
“I want people to feel like they’re coming home”
For Iris Kavanagh, a true sense of belonging feels like coming home. “I want them to know that we’ve got their back. It’s the little things – the big smile, saying hello, and asking, ‘how are you?’”
But it goes deeper than that. It’s about noticing their energy, and “whether they feel they can be their full self in your space.”
Understand how important it really is to feel included, as this will help you to emulate that same sense of belonging in your space. If you’ve ever felt excluded, you will understand just how impactful it can be.
“Look around the room and ask yourself, who’s not here right now? Why aren’t they here? What is it that I can do to help people feel comfortable enough to come here, to feel accepted and welcomed? How can we make the spaces feel safer?”
This often means you need to ask hard questions about your space. Hearing uncomfortable truths will help your community to grow and improve, and ultimately create a space in which your members feel comfortable.
In Iris’s words: “Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”
For more valuable tips and tricks from coworking experts, sign up for Cat Johnson’s free Coworking Convos. The next Convo takes place on Friday June 24: Your Neighborhood as a Marketing Tool.