June 18, 2021
Best Practices for Improving Communication in Coworking
Improve retention and build community by optimizing your internal and external communication
- Communication in a coworking environment requires thoughtful strategies for internal and external communication.
- Enabling an environment that enhances member communication is essential to building community and retaining members.
- Implementing communication best practices is the right way to foster authentic relationships at all levels of your organization.
Communication is a pillar of work productivity in any organization. Whether you’re building digital products, managing goods, or enabling skilled workers, communication defines outcomes at all levels of business.
In coworking, good communication is a proven driver of important business objectives. This includes critical objectives like retaining members and building a thriving community. But in this nontraditional office environment, the rules around communication are fuzzy. What are the best practices for internal and external communication within a coworking space or flexible workplace?
Solid communication culture inspires community…and drives retention
In a traditional office, business leaders drive home the need for communication. Good internal communication builds efficiency, teamwork, and employee engagement, among countless other benefits.
In a coworking space, good communication is even more critical. For one thing, members are customers — and those who receive a less-than-stellar experience may churn. Member retention is one of the most important drivers of sustainable revenue, and experience plays a crucial role. Belonging to a larger community of like-minded professionals means there’s a reason to keep coming back week after week. Considering there is always the easier option of working from home, coworking operators need to make the experience rewarding and dynamic.
The differentiating factor of coworking should never be its space itself, but its community – the members that give it life and its raison d’etre. When the coworkers are given more prominence, the community feels more special and united. This reflects well on the coworking itself, both in branding and emotional terms.Happy Working Lab
The three types of coworking communication
There are three forms of communication in a coworking environment: internal communication, external communication, and communication between members. Within each of these communication types, it’s important to consider the messaging, delivery, and mutuality.
Good communication starts with company culture. Internal communication, between coworking leadership and employees, is the foundation upon which this is built. A solid strategy begins with higher-ups and is engrained in the corporate culture from day one. If your coworking business or flexible workplace has not made good communication a priority before now, fear not! It’s not too late to build an internal communication culture that benefits all.
Best practices for improving internal communication in your coworking business
1. Share vision, strategy, and expectations 💭
Even in a small business, sharing a clear vision of goals, expectations, strategy, and values is key to establishing good communication. When leaders model the communication style they expect, employees will follow their lead.
- Share your business roadmap with your team. Include metrics, and any data that can help everyone understand business goals.
- Make communication visual and include elements of storytelling. The more engaging your delivery, the better your staff will be able to receive and retain your communications.
- Share ideas. Did you see a cool article? Perhaps it pertains to coworking trends, insights, or the future of work. Share thought leadership and other resources with your whole team — not just the higher-ups.
2. Use the right tools and avenues of communication ⛏
When it comes to communication, method is as important as message. Tools like Slack and Zoom are great for communicating within a team, particularly when working remotely or at separate locations. However, more tools don’t necessarily make for better communication.
What matters most when it comes to communication methods is accessibility and consistency. For example, if your team always uses Slack and email to communicate, a stray request via text message could get lost in the mix.
- Keep it simple! Carefully choose the tools you use to communicate and stick with them. Establishing a few select and powerful tools can set both leadership and staff up for success.
- Build consistency around communication. Regular, transparent communication sets the groundwork for the future. If a tough conversation arises, your team will already be well versed in the practice of communicating effectively.
3. Give and request feedback 🎤
Communication is a two-way street. True understanding comes when a message is delivered and received. Listening, understanding, and responding are all involved in effective two-way communication. To ensure important messages are received and accepted, establish mutual communication early in working relationships and within company roles. Communicate in a way that is empathetic and evokes empathy.
- Ask for regular feedback via employee interviews, check-ins, or surveys.
- In a smaller team, as often found in a coworking space, having an authentic open-door policy may be all that’s needed to facilitate a two-way street in communication with staff.
- Celebrate wins! When your team feels like they are setting and achieving shared goals, a sense of belonging grows. The benefits will trickle down to your members when they see happy, motivated staff.
- Praise is motivational. Leaders that offer praise and recognition see a boost in productivity, growth, and positive customer feedback. This could take place in a formal performance review or as a casual chat in the break room. Showing your staff that you recognize their good work goes a long way when it’s time for constructive feedback.
External communication refers to any interactions that happen between representatives of your coworking space and members or leads. From the receptionist’s greeting to marketing email campaigns, every communication touchpoint with your brand is an opportunity to attract, convert, or retain business.
Best practices for improving external communication in your coworking business
1. Make the in-person experience consistently enjoyable 😄
When members arrive in your space, they want to feel welcome. From the tone of a greeting to the office tour to resolving a billing issue, everything should be consistent across the board for everyone. The in-person experience in a coworking space directly impacts community building (and subsequently, retention). Ultimately, your members will feel more at home in your space with clear expectations and consistent messaging. Tools and technology can help with messaging consistency! You can use software like MailChimp via a Zapier integration to make every automated communication human and authentic.
- Determine the ‘vibe’ of your space, and hire for it! Choose naturally friendly staff members. Having people that are knowledgeable about your space’s niche and community adds value for members.
- Make a plan! Set policies and procedures in place for handling in-person interactions. A playbook that outlines who is responsible for which communications and when will strengthen your communication strategy.
2. Put a strategic marketing plan in place 🎯
Communication in a coworking space happens outside of office hours too. Your marketing and social media strategy will determine how your members view your brand when they are away from the physical office (ie. most of the time!). People often think of marketing as a sales role, but a sophisticated marketing operation is primarily about communicating.
- Stay current. Make sure your website is up to date and reflects your correct contact information, hours, and offerings. It should be easy to use and helpful for current or prospective members.
- Use a variety of channels for marketing communications. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, your company blog, partner channels, Google Ads, and others can help you reach your audience online where they already spend time.
- Tell stories to engage your audience. Humans are hardwired for storytelling. Adding testimonials, anecdotes, and interviews to your content is a best practice for improving engagement.
3. Choose transparency and clarity 🌟
Personality, style, and emojis have a place in communications, but the north star of a good external communication strategy should be authenticity. Aim for clear, useful communications over fluff to gain trust, win credibility, and reassure your members that your space is the best place to work.
- Whether you’re communicating online, in-person, over the phone, or via automated messages, be consistent in tone and delivery. All sources of communication should represent the tone and goals of your communication strategy.
- Choose one or two sources of truth for sharing important updates with your community. Your members should know where to expect updates about things that affect their work.
- Technology is your friend. Use an app like Optix to manage space bookings and send out messages to members. When you communicate within the same platform that members use to book space, you guarantee your message will be received by those who regularly use your space. If your business already uses the Optix app, the Announcements feature is the perfect channel for communicating important updates.
Member communication (AKA community building)
Member communication happens when you have achieved community nirvana. When your members are perpetually engaged and continuing conversations outside of the channels you establish. It’s the in-person collaboration, the exchange of personal phone numbers, the picking of each other’s brains after hours. It’s the sense of unity and purpose that connects people within your coworking space.
How can coworking operators foster this third-party communication without being overbearing?
Best practices for improving member communication
1. Give ‘em something to talk about 🗣
Want members to connect? Give them some material to spark a conversation. Yes, a well-designed break room with gourmet coffee is nice, but your members will connect more deeply over ideas, goals, challenges, and inspiration. That’s why workshops, speaking events, tech talks, and other kinds of coworking events will give your members material to connect with organically.
If you’re not already doing this, you’re missing a big trick. Networking is essential for ensuring that everyone in your workspace knows everyone else. Whether as a formal bookable event or an informal gathering, it’s an excellent way for newcomers to be welcomed into the fold, while offering a chance for existing members to strengthen and deepen connections.Coworking Insights
Breaking the ice isn’t easy, particularly among strangers who are working on separate projects. Interesting subjects and challenges stimulate ideas, foster community, and keep members coming back.
- Share ideas and innovations produced within your workplace. Knowing what others are creating in your community is inspiring. When there are wins in your coworking space or flexible workplace, let people know!
- Host speakers, workshops, and other events that add value to the people you serve. If your space has a niche, offer professional development opportunities that enrich your members.
2. Incorporate elements of the traditional office 🏢
Coworking spaces offer newfound freedom and autonomy to workers. But some structure is a good thing in the workplace.
- Introduce new members. When a new member joins your space, let everyone know who the new face is! This could be as simple as posting a Slack message or as interactive as taking them from desk to desk.
- Try adding structure to the workday, like a daily stand-up meeting. Daily morning stand-ups, or scrums, can build routine and open channels of communication between workers. Structure can improve productivity and offer opportunities to partner with their coworkers.
3. Be relatable and social 🎵
Some of the best communication happens during social time. When you create an atmosphere for connection outside of the daily grind, you build bridges to communicate with your members, and for them to communicate with each other. Social events give people of all backgrounds and experiences a chance to connect on a deeper level. Your business can demonstrate relatability by creating space for communication outside of the work routine.
- Food brings people together. Sharing a meal, whether it’s a perk like a weekly breakfast or a food truck event for lunch, can get coworking members engaged, talking, and fed.
- Design for communication. A well-placed coffee machine can induce member interaction and encourage conversation. A lounge, kitchen, or lobby can be the place where members chat when they aren’t actively working.
Spaces designed to promote these activities increase the likelihood of collisions—and the data repeatedly demonstrate that more collisions create positive outcomes. We don’t measure the content of interactions, but that doesn’t matter. When collisions occur, regardless of their content, improvement typically follows.Harvard Business Review
Laying the foundation of a community that belongs
Community is everything in a coworking business. Because members always have the option to work elsewhere, creating an atmosphere that evokes a sense of belonging helps with retention — and your bottom line.
Best practices in communication are the foundation of community in a coworking space. Adopting a policy of transparency, engagement, and consistency will bolster your coworking business and set the stage for future growth. Once this foundation is laid, evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your strategy, but be sure to communicate along the way. Ultimately, the best communication strategy is the one that works for your business.
With the right communications, your community will begin to grow and self-propel. The hum of a self-sufficient workforce that inspires belonging is your goal. With the right communication strategy at all levels of your business, you can set the stage for organic growth at all levels of your coworking space.