- The coworking community can communicate in meaningful ways with a chat tool, from meeting new coworkers to forging social connections and staying up-to-date with exciting events.
- Community managers and operators save time using coworking software that answers community questions and allows the community to network independently.
- Technology is advancing at lightning speed, and it’s difficult to keep up when coworking spaces build in-house software. With the right software partner, system updates are made automatically.
Most people expect digital processes across their day-to-day lives. Even at work, using workplace management software is now becoming the norm, not the exception.
The nature of coworking spaces is centered around flexible ways of working and community building. Coworking spaces can integrate digital tools to bring together a distributed community, encouraging coworkers to meet one another and build on the physical connections forming in a shared workspace. Chat apps provide an additional opportunity for social interaction: a virtual space.
Adrian Palacios, co-founder and CTO at Nexudus, answered some questions about whether coworking spaces should create their own chat apps for members to network, and how to best use them.
Power to the people
A chat tool facilitates several types of meaningful communication in coworking spaces. Users can access a chat application on their smart devices and connect to their workspace community.
Introductions: When a new member joins a coworking space, it can be a nerve-wracking experience introducing themselves to everyone. Instead, a quick introduction blast on a chat app lets everyone know there’s a newbie in the community. It saves their time (and nerves) and encourages others to get to know their new coworker better.
Forging social connections: Coworking spaces typically include a diverse community of freelancers and solopreneurs, startup companies, and corporate workers who are using multiple workspaces. If some workers use a private office but don’t mingle in the hot desk area, they may never cross paths with other coworkers. A chat app connects the entire community.
Updates and events: Chat apps typically facilitate the ability to share public messages. Community managers can use chat apps to their advantage by updating members on the goings-on in the office, explaining house rules, and sharing exciting social events. Members have a platform at their fingertips to promote their own events and ask the community for advice and feedback.
Palacios explains that chat apps “help members [get to] know each other better which, in turn, may spark conversations and engagement down the line.”
Too many platforms
Despite the incredible ways that a chat app can strengthen coworking communities, the pitfalls of asking a large community of people to use a chat app can be challenging as “we’re all saturated with so many networks and profiles to complete,” says Palacios.
He explains: “One of the main struggles to drive community engagement within coworking spaces is the lack of information about who is actually in the buildings, what they do and offer, what’s the expertise, etc…”
When some people adopt it whilst others don’t, a chat app isn’t reflective of the entire workspace community. But there are solutions: the software could house a directory of all coworking members, so they can view each other’s profiles.
Embedding automated responses into workplace management software can “draft a basic profile for each member joining a location. Members can then have a look at those drafts, review, and adjust as needed before publishing them,” explains Palacios.
Another reason why members might not be active on chat? They simply don’t know how to use it. “Making sure customers know how to make the most of the tools and the platform we provide” is really important to Palacios and his team.
Palacios isn’t referring solely to the community’s adoption of technology. When the operations team is confidently using coworking software, the day-to-day running of the business becomes more effective.
Saving precious time for operators
Coworking software adds value to operators by saving time. Nexudus software, Palacios says, “resolv[es] common problems and answer[s] frequent questions community managers and operators get from members, i.e. ‘how to connect to the printer, what are your opening times, can I bring my pet into the building?’”
Embedding generative AI technologies into chat systems gives users specific responses they’re looking for. Palacios says that the benefit of “embeddings [is that] we can teach these systems about the specifics of each of the locations we work with.”
The great news for operators and community managers? They no longer need to manually answer the same questions over and over. LLMs — large language models — “take a prompt from a member via the members portal or the member’s app (i.e. ‘I’m having trouble connecting to the wifi.’) and find the closest set of articles to propose a solution.”
Palacios says these features allow members to find information more easily without having to reach out to a community manager all the time, saving that manager time, too.
By giving people accurate information in real-time, coworking management software empowers people to make decisions — like when to go into the workspace.
A hybrid working trend report produced by Othership found that “60% of workers are more likely to come into the office if they know their friends are, too.” Workspace management systems and chat apps help workers organize their day according to their personal preferences and friends’ schedules, building meaningful relationships along the way.
The benefit of whether or not coworking spaces build their own chat software or not is up for debate. Developing in-house software is challenging because it needs constant updating in order to keep up with new technological advancements, like generative AI, which is pushing chat software forward at lightning speed.
The launch of ChatGPT at the end of last year, and subsequent new releases “is really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the use of this technology,” says Palacios.
Developing a generative AI chat function that’s integrated within workplace management software is much easier to keep all software together, as opposed to using a “generic chat-like system” or decentralized digital tools.
The future of chat
So, what does Palacios think the future holds for coworking chat apps?
Developments in chat are fulfilling “our wildest dreams about how users can interact with applications and businesses,” he says.
“The possibilities are quite endless…Conversational interfaces via text and voice are about to become way more common to interact with software, and they will certainly become much smarter at understanding more complex prompts and multiple-prompt conversations,” he adds. “All in all, this will make our customers able to use these platforms more efficiently, but also help members help themselves more easily.”