What Makes a Good Coworking Space?

How to be great in a world of sameness
By Kelly K
May 22, 2024
10 things every coworking space should have

Search for the phrase, what makes a good coworking space, and you’re likely to find an uninspiring list of amenities, meeting rooms, and…equipment?

Yes, these things are important. But every great operator knows that it takes a lot more than a few desks and free coffee to make a good coworking space.

After 10+ years in the coworking industry (and after speaking to hundreds of coworking owners and operators) we’ve seen firsthand what makes a good coworking space great – and we’re here to show you what it really takes to thrive in coworking.

In this article, we’ll share with you 12 things that we think make for a great coworking space. Our hope is that this list makes you stop and reconsider what it takes to be successful in the flex industry. 

What makes a good coworking space?

Below are 12 hard and soft qualities that we believe every coworking space should have, listed in the order of implementation.

  1. A great leader
  2. A clear mission
  3. A sustainable business model
  4. A clearly defined ICP
  5. A key differentiator
  6. A strong brand
  7. A human-centric approach
  8. A powerful tech stack
  9. A truly flexible workspace
  10. A connected community
  11. A plan to grow
  12. A fantastic team

Let’s go into more detail on each point below.

1. A great leader

Woman standing next to sign in KoWorks coworking space

Flexible workspace owners and operators are the connectors of the world.

They are the ones bringing people together and creating opportunities for people to build new connections. Great leaders set the tone for the environment, and they are an essential component of every good coworking space.

So what does it take to make a great leader?

One study from Harvard Business Review identified ten qualities that every leader should have, based on a survey administered to top leaders around the world. Those qualities were organized into the following themes:

  • Demonstrates strong ethics and provides a sense of safety
  • Empowers others to self-organize
  • Fosters a sense of connection and belonging
  • Shows openness to new ideas and fosters organizational learning
  • Nurtures growth

Jason Jet from Grindhaus Studios, Adam Hyman from KoWorks, and Megan Cyphers from Locally Known all embody these characteristics. They’re all great leaders, and they are all operating thriving, exceptional coworking communities around the world. 

Remember, you create the culture of your coworking space – and behind every great coworking space is a great leader.

“It’s pretty amazing that you can go out to a cafe in a local area away from KoWorks and bump into two people who are KoWorks members having coffee together that were strangers before. It’s saying that if we hadn’t created that environment or that community or that business, those two people would not have met.”
Adam Hyman, Founder at KoWorks

2. A clear mission

Grindhaus building community with Announcements and the Community Feed

A strong leader needs something to rally their team behind. This is where a shared mission or set of values comes into play.

Some people hear the word “mission” and think they need something grandiose or overly aspirational. However, a simple mission can be equally as impactful as something more complex.

Just take a look at the mission statement of some of the most recognizable brands in the world:

  • Walmart: We save people money so they can live better
  • Sony: To be a company that inspires and fulfills your creativity
  • TED: To spread ideas

The scale of your mission statement doesn’t matter. What’s important is aligning on something that resonates with you and your community, and then communicating it in a meaningful way.

Jason’s mission at Grindhaus Studios is to help artists be successful in a sustainable way. He uses this mission to guide every decision he makes, keeping his customer at the forefront of his business.

“Our mission is to give artists the tools and access they need to be able to scale what they do in an economical way. We want to help artists execute and finish projects and build community at the same time.”
Jason Jet, Founder at Grindhaus Studios

3. A sustainable business model

If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you may have heard whispers that coworking has a “profitability problem”. According to a 2023 DeskMag survey, just 52% of coworking spaces are profitable, and 27% of coworking spaces can cover their costs.

It’s not necessarily that the cost of opening a coworking space is egregious, but rather that the high cost of real estate makes for tight margins in most markets. Couple that with the fact that most people don’t want to pay more than a few hundred dollars a month for a workspace, and the profitability problem becomes easier to understand.

However, it’s important to understand that many operators are able to run very successful, profitable coworking spaces today. This is largely because they’ve paid attention to their business model and exactly how they’re going to make money.

Before starting your coworking space, run your numbers. Make sure you understand how your business is going to make money, and build a sustainable business model that you can optimize accordingly. HINT: When it comes to making money, your real estate deal structure matters.

4. A clearly defined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Elevate Coworking Members and Community Wall

Who you serve sets the direction of everything in your business, period. Every good coworking space and great coworking business has a clearly defined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) at the center of their business strategy.

We wrote an entire article on how to discover your coworking ICP that you should definitely read. We’ll sum up the key steps below.

  1. Analyze your existing members and look for patterns 
  2. Define your unique value proposition (more on this below!)
  3. Consider who would be interested in what you have to offer

Defining your ICP is simple in theory and harder in practice. Once you do it however, it opens you up to better messaging and a better marketing strategy for your coworking business.

Maggie Blackham, Founder at Elevate Coworking, met with a coach to help her figure out who her ICP was and how she could serve them better. This process opened her eyes to the fact that she was actually offering resource intensive amenities that didn’t align with who she served. Once she figured that out, she was able to optimize her ICP substantially. 

Learn more about Maggie’s journey to elevate women in business.

“First we had to figure out who our ideal client was. Then, it was about diving in and serving them exactly what they need.”
Maggie Blackham, Founder at Elevate Coworking

5. A key differentiator

Your members are faced with a multitude of choices every single day. If you don’t have something that sets you apart, it’s going to be difficult for the average person to determine what makes your coworking space unique compared to the seven others in your city.

That’s why you need a strong differentiator or unique value proposition that can be communicated everywhere in your market. Differentiators include things like:

Your key differentiator and your mission statement should align with your ICP and who you serve.

Still not convinced? This guide will help you gain a better understanding of just how important differentiation is for your coworking space.

Book an Optix Demo

6. A strong brand

Brand is defined as “an intangible marketing or business concept that helps people identify a company, product, or individual”. One way to think about it is, brand is the feeling someone has when they think of your business.

A common misconception is that brand is just the aesthetics, like logos, colors, or website design. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your coworking brand is everything about your business, from the way you make your members feel to the events you host in your coworking space. Therefore, the key to strengthening your brand is to provide a consistent experience across all channels and touchpoints.

  • Design: an impeccable design that reflects your mission and speaks to your target market
  • Marketing: a marketing strategy that aligns with what you value
  • Culture: a culture that is indicative of how you feel about your community
  • Member experience: a curated experience that values your members

In our eBook, 10 Secrets to Go From Coworking Newcomer to Expansion Master, we talk about the value of creating a lasting brand for your business. Learn more about it in the link above.

7. A human-centric approach

Dustin from Highland City Club Coworking

The modern workplace experience is about people. And a large part of adopting a human-centric approach is creating an exceptional user experience.

The problem is, most workspace operators view experience as something to think about at the end (or not at all). In fact, it would be most wise to think about the user experience, or the experience that your members have in your space, from the very beginning.

  • Start with the areas that are most important to your members: Think about what your members care most about, or the areas of your business that are most frequented by your members. This could be payments, check-ins, or onboarding.
  • Determine how you can best serve them there: Brainstorm ways that you can provide your members with the absolute best experience in that specific area. What does a seamless check-in experience look like? How can you make payments easier?
  • Use this as a jumping off point to the rest of your strategy: Create a plan to address these high-traffic touch points and create a wonderful experience from beginning to end.

A wonderful user experience is about creating something delightful, memorable, and impactful from beginning to end. Think about how to make every step of the user experience as wonderful as possible, and implement it to the best of your ability.

Dustin Simantob from Highland City Club takes a hospitality-driven, human-centric approach to coworking. For him, user experience is everything. It means providing outstanding service, enabling members to seamlessly interact with the space, and empowering them to get all of the information they need right on their mobile device. 

“We spent 43 years renovating this place inch by inch, and we still work on that every week.”
Dustin Simantob, Highland City Club

8. A powerful tech stack

Every top coworking company, from the big names to the mom and pop shops, run their space with the help of technology.

Great technology opens up so many opportunities when it comes to running and growing your coworking business as well as helping you execute on the above point – creating that delightful user experience. It can help you:

  • Streamline your operations with minimal overhead
  • Optimize your space usage so you can make more informed decisions
  • Grow your business with the help of automation
  • Elevate the experience of your users

If you’re looking to scale your business one day without necessarily scaling your costs, then technology is an absolute necessity. The earlier you can get it implemented in your space, the sooner it can start providing value and the less you’ll have to worry about migrating your members to a new technology down the road.

Deborah and Rachael from Brooklyn Hourly Offices were able to transform their entire business by switching to the right software partner. Optix and the rest of their tech stack now powers their incredible coworking space for therapists.  

Learn more about how we suggest setting up your coworking technology ecosystem in this helpful guide, or talk to a member of our team today.

9. A truly flexible workspace

There is no “right” way to create a coworking space or flexible workplace. But something that every great coworking business has is true flexibility.

This means a space that:

People want a coworking space that will fit their lifestyle, rather than the other way around. An easy way to do this is to be flexible in the services you provide, the memberships you offer, and the way you enable people to access your space and services.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an important reminder that you’re here to work with your members and their needs, not against them.

10. A connected community

Attracting members to your coworking space is not enough – you need to be able to keep them, too. One strategy for retaining members is to create a true sense of community.

Time and time again, we see the most successful independent coworking spaces have a strong sense of community. They are tied together by common interests and they receive value from each other when they come together.

Cultivating community begins with many of the foundational elements we’ve already talked about like presenting a clear mission statement and creating a delightful experience for your members.

We asked nine experts for their best advice for building a community in a coworking space. Here were a few of the common threads.

  • Start building community as soon as you can
  • Lean in to authenticity
  • Host events and workshops to bring people together
  • Make it effortless for members to connect

Keep it authentic and true to who you are, and you’ll be well on your way to cultivating a meaningful community.

Join the We Run Flex Community for Coworking and Flex Space Leaders

“My best piece of advice is for each community builder to focus on what they are personally passionate about. That passion is the secret sauce for true community engagement.”
Rebbeca Brian Pan, Co-founder at Trellis Coworking

11. A plan to grow

All of the best coworking spaces that we’ve seen have a plan to grow. Whether that’s a concrete expansion plan or just a general idea of where they’re headed, they’re always thinking about where they want to be and what they need to get there one day.

Create the best experience that you can today, but don’t forget about the future. Have an understanding of how your business can expand one day and grow into something really special.

And if you need support along the way, we have plenty of resources around how to scale a coworking business.

12. A fantastic team

Finally, you can do everything listed above, but you can’t do it alone.

The best coworking spaces all have a fantastic team of people behind them. These people are passionate, dedicated, enthusiastic, and 100% committed to creating something truly special for the people that walk through their doors.

Creating a fantastic team begins with you. Here are some best practices for hiring your coworking staff:

  • Write detailed and accurate job descriptions
  • Post jobs on prominent platforms and promote them to attract the best talent
  • Build a great candidate interview process
  • Use technology to enhance the experience, but solidify it with face-to-face interactions

Hiring a wonderful team is an exciting first step in developing strong company culture. Check out this guide for more information on how to hire an amazing coworking community manager. 

These 12 things make for a great coworking space

Creating an unforgettable coworking experience comes down to a few foundational elements.

Things like fostering a connected community, creating a great user experience across every touchpoint, and building a recognizable brand all contribute significantly to creating a wonderful coworking space for your members.

If we had to add one more thing, we would also say…you. Who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re passionate about all feed themselves into creating a fantastic coworking experience. 

Trust in yourself and what you are capable of, and a wonderful coworking space will follow.

Learn how Optix can help you create a great coworking space (it’s what we do best!).

Book a demo to learn how Optix can transform your business

Frequently asked questions

Every coworking space should have a great leader and mission, a sustainable business model, a key differentiator, a strong brand, and a commitment to community.

A coworking space can be unique in who they serve, what they offer, and where they’re located.

One way of standing out in coworking is with a niche offering, wherein you create your space to serve a specific niche or demographic in the community. This is a very popular coworking trend in 2024.