Economic benefits of coworking

Looking for a great work environment to accelerate your business? All while preserving your ability to pivot quickly? Consider coworking spaces. Coworking spaces present a range of economic benefits for individuals and organizations. They range from affordability to service model efficiencies. Altogether, these benefits enable you to limit your costs, act with agility, and expand your business.


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This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Workbar’s blog.


Affordability

At the fundamental level, coworking spaces are significantly more affordable than renting your own office. Let’s look at some numbers. In prime real estate markets - think New York, Boston, Chicago - full-time memberships range from $300-600 per month. And that’s if you want to be there 24/7.

Coworking spaces offer a range of memberships to best fit your needs. They range from a few days a month to full-time access. At Workbar, memberships start at 5 days per month, and extend to 24/7 access to your favorite location. And you’re not just limited to one location.

A membership at a coworking space allows you to access a network of locations. This means you can vary where you work based on your schedule. With a full-time membership at one Workbar location, for example, you can work from any other network location for five days out of the month. This enables you to work across Massachusetts and Rhode Island for much less than renting multiple offices.

Flexibility

Thanks to their flexibility, coworking memberships offer a significant economic benefit. Rather than committing to a multi-year lease, you can sign up for much shorter periods of time. At Workbar, for example, memberships are month-to-month. You can choose to move on with just a 30-days notice. And there are additional benefits.

The advantages of flexibility extend to space. As your organization grows, a coworking space will allow you to easily expand into the space available. Similarly, it’s straightforward to reduce the amount of space you need. This means you won’t be stuck with unused space. Altogether, this flexibility allows you to be agile with your workplace needs.

Low startup costs

Many of the economic benefits of coworking spaces arise from the service model by which they operate. For one membership fee, coworking users can benefit from a range of services and amenities. This makes it easy for you to plan your costs, focus on your value-add work, and build your network.

Coworking spaces eliminate many startup costs traditionally associated with moving into a new space. You won’t have to hire an architect to design the space. You won’t have to buy furniture. You won’t even have to pick out artwork. Instead, you can focus on your core business right away, in a space that’s optimal for you.

Leading coworking spaces are designed to boost your productivity. With activity-based-designs, they ensure you’ll find the right space for your task at hand. At Workbar, the Neighborhoods concept offers you four different zones. You can choose the pin-drop silent Study for your focus work, or the lively Café to get creative. Prefer the comfort of your own spot? You can sign up for a dedicated desk too.

Takeaways

The economic benefits of coworking are plentiful for members. Among them are affordable, flexible memberships. These give you access a network of locations, and allow you to benefit from many service efficiencies. Altogether, coworking spaces enable you to limit costs, adapt quickly, and grow your business.


This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Workbar’s blog.

Friends at work boost productivity and well-being

The research is clear. Having friends at work boosts productivity, retention, and well-being. But making friends at work can be harder than it seems, especially in large, flexible workplaces. In this piece, I discuss how organizations can use technology to make it easier for new and existing employees to integrate socially.


This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Mapiq.




It’s no wonder that companies like Zappos, Google, and Dropbox work hard to create work environments that foster friendships. Friendships at work boost belonging and authenticity, which are both crucial contributors to psychological well-being. Furthermore, research shows that the most productive workgroups are those whose teammembers can identify a best friend at work. Fostering friendships at work, however, has its challenges, especially in large, flexible workplaces. Thankfully, localization and communication technology can help us shape accessible and inclusive social environments that foster friendships.

How to foster friendships at work?

As research shows, one key to fostering friendships at work is to increase the density of social interactions. There are several ways to do this. One way is through physical design. Companies like Pixar, for example, concentrate key amenities in central areas to foster spontaneous interactions. Yet even with such areas, it can be hard to join a spontaneous social moment. Let me explain why.

Let’s take a closer look at social interactions at work. They often take place in areas out of sight, like at the coffee machine or in the cafeteria. This can make it challenging for a person at their desk to see and join a social moment. What makes things even more difficult is that the timing of such social moments can be hard to predict. These circumstances are exacerbated in flexible workspace. With people sitting in different places every day, it can be even harder to arrange or join social moments. Thankfully, technology is here to help. Technology can help people form friendships at work by making social patterns more visible and accessible.

Localization technology can foster social interactions

Here’s how. Localization technology can be applied to determine when and where groups of people congregate, as is already done by companies like Humanyze. An intelligent system can then take this information to invite others to join these moments. For example, …

To read more about applications of technology to foster friendships at work, follow the full article at Mapiq.

How Coworking Boosts Belonging

Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely. This has led US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to state that we are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. One of the contributors to this phenomenon is the growth of the gig economy and remote work, which has reduced the opportunities for people to interact face-to-face while working. Thankfully, the global growth of coworking is helping professionals address this issue. By joining a coworking space, remote and independent professionals can reverse the loneliness epidemic by boosting their sense of belonging.


This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Workbar’s blog.


Why Belonging Matters

Belonging ranks highly among our universal psychological needs. It takes the second level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and masquerades as Relatedness in Ryan & Deci’s Self-Determination Theory. The key to fulfilling our need for belonging is to be part of a community and to experience meaningful relationships characterized by trust. Joining a coworking space is a great way to do so.

Coworking can go a long way to enhance belonging. Recent research has found that 83% of coworking users report feeling less lonely since joining a coworking space. The relationships people form in these spaces offer social and professional support, and are a clear part of the value proposition. “We offer a flexible workspace that also enables you to build relationships with fellow members,” states Devin Cole, Workbar’s Head of Partnerships.

At the base level, coworking spaces create belonging by hosting a consistent group of people in a shared space. The resulting social interactions lead to an initial sense of community. “It’s just nice to be around other people,” says Jamie, a software engineer who works remotely from Workbar*. “I felt very isolated if I was just by myself at home working all the time.” Bringing people together already offers value, but coworking spaces don’t stop there.

Displays showing which members are present builds familiarity within the coworking community.

Displays showing which members are present builds familiarity within the coworking community.

Trust Among Coworkers Enhances Belonging

The key to achieving the full sense of belonging is to build trust among members. This is best achieved when coworkers get to know each other at a personal level. A coworking space offers two types of occasions for members to build trust. The first includes planned events put on by the community management team, like happy hours and lunch excursions. The second includes spontaneous encounters, like crossing paths by the elevator or sharing lunch in the kitchen. Effective community managers and members will create additional occasions by intentionally introducing members to each other.

For these occasions to be effective, members need to show a genuine interest in getting to know each other. At planned and spontaneous moments, members are encouraged to introduce themselves to each other. It is then effective to share a personal detail, and to ask for one in return. Understandably, this is not obvious for everyone, so it is encouraged to use icebreakers to get things going, especially at group events.

Smart coworking spaces also nudge members to get to know each other in more subtle ways. Workbar, for example, features signs created by members with fun facts about themselves. Several coworking spaces also commonly display profiles of members that are currently present. While these may not necessarily lead to a conversation, they do increase the familiarity among members.

Name plates featuring fun facts about fellow members allow coworkers to get to know each other at a personal level.

Name plates featuring fun facts about fellow members allow coworkers to get to know each other at a personal level.

The Takeaways

Joining a coworking space is a great way for people who would otherwise work from home to satisfy the psychological need for belonging. Coworking spaces offer a range of memberships that allow members access anywhere from a few days a month to 24/7. At the space, coworkers will get the most value by introducing themselves to fellow members, both at events, and through spontaneous encounters. The community management can facilitate this connection-building through events, introductions, and icebreakers. Finally, the design of the space can ensure work still gets done through smart zoning.

Advantages of a Flexible Workspace for Large Organizations

IBM, Microsoft, PwC. Besides recognizable names, what do these organizations have in common? They are among a growing group of companies that work from flexible workspaces. And they are doing so for several reasons. Joining such spaces improves a company’s ability to be agile. It also provides the added benefits of fostering new ways of working, enhancing innovation, and increasing visibility.


This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Workbar’s blog.


Strategic benefits to joining a flexible space

Adopting New ways of working

A flexible space can operate as a stage for organizations to pilot new ways of working. An immediately obvious trial is that of a new layout. Flexible spaces like Workbar have embraced the activity-based-working model, which provides different zones for different types of work. This model has been shown to improve health and job satisfaction. Beyond the benefits to those working in the space, offering modern layouts can also attract talent.

In addition, flexible spaces can give rise to organizational change. Physically separated from the rest of an organization, they provide a great setting to intentionally design and pilot a new culture. This culture can then be disseminated back to the parent organization, especially through practices like rotating teams.

Accelerating innovation

Flexible spaces are a great setting for stimulating innovation within an organization. Sharing the space with startups, freelancers, and other companies enables organizations to increase exposure to different ideas and ways of thinking. An organization can maximize the potential for such cross-pollination by intentionally selecting a flexible space based on the current occupants.

So how can such cross-pollination take place? One way is through serendipitous encounters in kitchen and coffee areas. Organizations should not leave it only up to chance, however. There are intentional ways to foster exchange of ideas. One way is to organize hackathons with occupants. Another is for community managers to connect related occupants.

Increasing Visibility

Working from a flexible space increases the visibility of an organization. This can have several benefits. Within the same space itself, it creates networking benefits. It can lead to meeting and hiring freelancers. It can be a way to meet candidates for hiring. It can also lead to new customers and collaborators. Here again, considering the other occupants when choosing a space can maximize the opportunities to benefit.

At Workbar, there are a variety of companies that work out of multiple locations in and around Greater Boston. At Back Bay, TravelPirates curates vacation deals, Univision creates spanish-language television programming, and Atiim develops a goal management tool. At Burlington, MongoDB offers data management solutions, and Neuro-Flash provides an AI marketing insights platform. And it doesn’t stop there.

Workbar also plays host to a range of freelance individuals and small companies. In Cambridge, I work next to writers, immigration lawyers, and sustainability consultants. Beyond Cambridge, there are graphic designers, marketing constants, and academic researchers. These can be valuable resources for a variety of objectives. Writers, for example, can be tapped to help build content. Similarly, graphic designers can be hired to build a visual identity.

Looking beyond collaboration, joining a flexible space is also an opportunity for brand-building. This can take place through several media. On the visual end, organizations have an opportunity to place branding materials inside the space. On the face-to-face end, companies can spread the word through informal conversations in shared areas, and by hosting events. The buzz created as a result is sure to make it out.

 

Reviving community at Workbar Cambridge

Two people

That’s how few attended the most recent community event at Workbar Cambridge. It’s indicative of the recent lull in community engagement we’ve been experiencing at our coworking space. I can’t point to exact causes, but there are several recent developments that have correlated. We’ve had turnover in organizational occupants, the arrival of a new community manager, and the departure of a few well-connected members (myself included). Now that I’m back at Workbar though, I’m invested in turning things around!

This spring, I’m advising the community management team at Workbar Cambridge on its event offering. We’re aiming to provide value along two key areas. On one side, we’re looking to boost community engagement. On the other, we’re looking to provide professional value. Read on to learn more about our objectives, challenges, and the methods we plan to use along the way.

Objectives: Increase engagement and deliver professional value

Our main driver behind increasing attendance at socially-minded events is to enhance social cohesion among our members. There is a clear rationale for this. Feeling part of a community is one of the main elements that enable coworking users to thrive. At our coworking space, the social ties can be placed in two categories. In the first are social ties among people who work for the same company. These ties are quite strong and are formed overwhelmingly by working together. In the second category are ties between people who work independently, think freelancers and remote workers. These ties have formed organically and exist in a loose network. Through our events, we are striving to connect more independents to each other, and to build bridges between independents and those who work for companies.

Another key value we can provide is the opportunity to grow professionally. Research has shown that professional ties within a coworking space are a significant source of help and guidance, and of valuable business referrals. At our space, members are already unlocking this value through serendipitous encounters and informal connections. Our space has also hosted formal events that have been good opportunities to learn. We are aiming to take it to the next level by better targeting our professional events for our community.

Methods: Optimizing timing & targeting content

As I mentioned, we are aiming to better target our events to our community. There are two key event components we want to optimize: timing and content. In terms of timing, most Workbar members work on completely independent schedules, which makes it challenging to find suitable times for events. This is especially important for social events.

Social events can conflict with the ability of our members to get work done. I’ve experienced this myself. There have been several 4pm happy hours that I have passed on because I hadn’t yet completed my work for the day. To reduce this conflict, we plan to test out later start times.

For our professionally-minded events, there are a couple key methods we plan to use to offer more relevant content. The first is to review our communication history. Currently, members actively send emails to the community when in need of expertise, e.g. for PR or web design. These provide hints as to the content that would be of interest. We can build these suggestions into our second method.

The second method we plan to use is a questionnaire. It will ask members about the content they would be interested to learn. We can pre-populate this list with hints from the community emails mentioned above, and with additional topics we identify as relevant to our members, e.g. SEO. We plan to include a fill-in field for members to suggest their own learning topics, which future visitors can vote on. The questionnaire also allows us to ask for optimal times for our workshops.

In addition to well-worded prompts, we’ll need many responses to make our questionnaire successful. The key will be to maximize its visibility. We know from experience that our internal social network Wobbe is not the most active, so in addition to posting it there, we plan to host the questionnaire on a kiosk at the entrance to our space. This makes it visible to all passersby, and gives our community manager the opportunity to nudge members to respond. With a high response rate, we can get a better sense for the desirability of different types of professional events.

Let’s do this!

With our objectives and methods well outlined, I’m looking forward to further partnering with the community managers at Workbar Cambridge to shape the Spring events calendar. And guess what, we have a great opportunity to test our assumptions coming up: our community manager Sam is hosting a sushi-rolling workshop. It’s starting later than usual, at 5pm, and a good number of members have already signed up! Stay tuned to see how it goes :)., which

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Foster positive relationships to enhance well-being

Optimizing a work environment to enhance well-being can yield many rewards. Among the benefits are increased engagement and improved collaboration. One key way to enhance well-being in the workplace is to foster positive relationship…

Curious to learn more about the benefits of positive relationships at work? For the full article, visit Mapiq.

Reflections on Workbar Central Square

Takeaways from a workplace specialist’s experience

The first time I walked in, I knew this place would work for me. Now eight months in, I can confirm that my feeling about Workbar in Central Square was right. Since I joined in June 2018, I’ve made significant progress building my business, and have made great personal connections. Sadly, it’s time for me to take a hiatus, but not before sharing what I liked about this Workbar location and what can be improved.


What I liked

  • Office-like aesthetic & feel

  • Activity-based neighborhoods

  • Behavioral guidelines & great adherence

  • Balanced utilization

  • External monitors & standing desks

  • Ample daylight & outdoor space

  • Community of friendly members with similar personalities/character

  • Density of local eateries, drug stores, & art/office supply shops

  • Great location for accessing Greater Boston

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What can be improved

  • Lack of visual privacy for focus work

  • Occasional disruptive behavior by members & guests

  • Few profession-specific groups/events

  • Lack of personal storage

  • Dropping air quality on busy days

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This post is an excerpt from the full article, available at Workbar.

*Disclosure: I have not been compensated by Workbar for this review

 

Five best practices for coworking spaces

40, that’s the number of coworking spaces in Greater Boston today.

And the number is only growing. With so much competition in the space, how can a coworking space set itself apart to attract and retain members? Based on my experience at my own coworking space, I have identified five best practices to follow.

Best practices

· Ensure a desirable physical environment

· Create activity-based zones & matching behavioral guidelines

· Foster social cohesion & trust

· Cater to specific professions

· Ensure behavioral & cultural fit

In terms of space, it is important to allow plenty of natural light, to offer standing and sitting options, and to create spaces for people to socialize. For more depth on such physical elements, including personal storage, I recommend Usher’s The Elemental Workplace. Another key to success is to create activity-based-zones, each optimized for different types of work (e.g. focus, collaboration). Hand-in-hand with creating such zones is to create matching behavioral guidelines, and to actively ensure compliance. Such explicit guidelines help establish behavioral predictability, making it easier for members to choose a space that will maximize their productivity.

In terms of community, coworking spaces can drive retention by fostering social cohesion and trust. These desirable characteristics arise when coworkers get to know each other well. Hence, the key is to create moments to socialize. One way is to host social events, such as lunches and happy hours. The other is to create spaces away from workstations where people will spontaneously gather, e.g. kitchens and coffee machines. The effectiveness of such spaces grows as incentives to visit them arise. Hence, putting out snacks at specific times, or offering complimentary coffee goes a long way to foster social cohesion. Similarly, the effectiveness of social moments in creating trust can be increased by facilitating icebreaker activities.

Another key opportunity that coworking spaces should consider is to actively target specific user groups. Among several benefits, hosting a critical mass of a certain type of professional increases the viability of offering targeted services for a fee. We can imagine, for example, offering a workshop for copywriters on pitching content to prospective clients. Such content can be arranged by community managers, and delivered by external service providers, who are sure to be attracted by a group of target clients assembled together. The potential to make revenue is there. In my own efforts to launch a mastermind group at my coworking space, the majority of my participants were willing to pay a fee.

Another benefit of a coworking space tailored to certain professionals is member retention. Retention in this case is driven by multiple factors, one of which is a match in behavioral & cultural profiles. Hosting groups with similar working styles minimizes the potential for behavioral conflicts, in turn driving productivity. Another factor driving retention is the value of the community itself. As members of related professions get to know each other, they are highly likely to support each other. In my case, I have asked my fellow writers for advice on pricing a proposal, and have received help from visual designers on converting graphic files. Belonging to such a supportive group is a great incentive for members to stay at a coworking space.

Now, for many spaces it may not be financially viable to focus only on a specific type of professional. There may simply not be enough of such people to fill a space. Nevertheless, coworking spaces should actively build sub-communities of related professionals within their larger coworking ecosystem. Better not to leave this completely up to members. Not all people are naturally outgoing, neither will all immediately see the value of connecting. The true value of communities of professionals can be realized only when actively maintained, ideally by the community management team.

The best practices above have been identified through my experience coworking at Workbar, primarily from the Central Square location. In the eight months I have spent here, WorkBar has greatly contributed to my ability to get things done. Read more about my specific experience on Medium.

*This article was originally published on LinkedIn

BUILT, a new coworking space for growing firms

Are you a young firm outgrowing your first digs? I recommend you consider joining BUILT, a new coworking space in the Boston area. I had the chance to spend a couple days at BUILT, and it promises to be a good place to set anchor and develop the core of your business. Here’s how it lines up on my criteria for a great workplace.


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Positives

  • Physical environment

  • Ergonomics


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Room for improvement

  • Support for activity-based-working

  • Community & events

  • Location

  • Tools & amenities


Physical space

BUILT is an inviting space. It is well-lit and evokes the clean aesthetic of luxury retail. This white, black, and marble scene could leave some with a cold feeling, but BUILT is planning to bring in art to liven up the space. BUILT also has an outdoor space, which I love. It is well-shaded, providing a great place for eating lunch or having a chat in the warmer months.

BUILT provides some variety to support activity-based work, but can do more truly embrace it. There are effectively three types of workstations: white desks, kitchen tables, and phone booths. The many white desks are medium-sized, and provide ample space for a laptop and papers. I love that they are height-adjustable, although the slow manual crank presents somewhat of a barrier. The chairs at these desks are a solid rendition of the standard office chair, on wheels with several postural adjustments. The two phone booths are fantastic for placing calls. They provide good acoustic isolation, and despite being small, they don’t make me feel claustrophobic. The two round kitchen tables promise to be a good place to chat with a coworker, or to get some quick work done away from others.

BUILT’s two phone booths on the ground floor. Great acoustic isolation without claustrophobia.

BUILT’s two phone booths on the ground floor. Great acoustic isolation without claustrophobia.

What I feel is missing are places for collaborating informally with others. While BUILT has three formal conference rooms, there is not yet a whiteboard in the open area to work out problems. BUILT is also lacking lounge areas that support informal exchange or individual reflection & relaxation. Not to be outdone, BUILT is planning to add these areas in the future. Altogether this forms my evaluation that BUILT is best suited for focus work.

One of BUILT’s three conference rooms.

One of BUILT’s three conference rooms.

Community & Events

As BUILT is still new, much of the feel of the community is yet to be determined. Current tenants at BUILT include an accounting firm, an architecture firm, and an urban planning firm. Freelancers and individuals form a negligible presence. As I observed, interactions between existing tenants are subdued. They work primarily silently, with some internal conversation here and there. When taking a phone call, people have been good at using the phone booths. This solidifies my judgment that BUILT is a good place to focus.

In contrast, BUILT’s events are much more lively. Every Tuesday, BUILT hosts a Founder’s Talk, focusing on a different topic relevant to entrepreneurs each week. I attended one of these talks in October, which focused on startup KPIs. The content was valuable, and the discussion was interactive and lively. This liveliness, however, has yet to carry into the day-to-day atmosphere.

This leads me to say that if you’re looking for a place to focus on building the core of your business, BUILT could be a great match. If, however, you’re looking a place to meet others, collaborate, and exchange ideas, I would look somewhere else. Note that this judgment is subject to change, since the culture will shift as more members join.

A Founder’s talk at BUILT. Bringing together a lively community of entrepreneurs over valuable content every Tuesday evening.

A Founder’s talk at BUILT. Bringing together a lively community of entrepreneurs over valuable content every Tuesday evening.

Location

BUILT’s location provides some advantages, but also presents challenges that cannot be overlooked. BUILT is located in Huron village, a primarily residential, well-to-do neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts. BUILT’s immediate neighbors include a few high end furniture and design stores, as well as a Chinese restaurant. Presence of others types of businesses, such as finance and technology, is negligible. Food offerings around BUILT exist, but are sparse. In short walking distance I found a couple sandwich places, one pizza shop, and one Chinese restaurant. I could not locate a grocery store nearby. Altogether, this makes getting a healthy, inexpensive lunch nearby challenging.

The BUILT space.

The BUILT space.

BUILT can be tedious to access by public transit. You should plan at least 20 minutes to walk from the nearest equidistant subway stations: Harvard and Porter Square. Another option is to take the bus; BUILT is served well by four bus routes running from Harvard Square. This location can also make it challenging to travel from BUILT to meet others closer into the city.

A high-end vintage home furnishing store across the street from BUILT.

A high-end vintage home furnishing store across the street from BUILT.

Parking around BUILT is available, although is not the most convenient. There are more than a dozen 1- and 2-hour parking spots within a block, which tend to be occupied. For clients and collaborators driving to visit you at BUILT, this could be plenty. But if you’re spending a whole day at BUILT, you will likely be spending 10-15 minutes every couple hours to move your car, or risk a $25 parking ticket. If, however, you have a Cambridge Resident parking sticker, you are in luck, since there is plenty resident parking nearby.

Equipment & Amenities

BUILT provides a satisfactory, though limited set of equipment & amenities. There is an enterprise printer and standard office supplies, such as post-its, paper and staples. BUILT provides coffee, hot water, and a limited selection of tea, though no major snacking options. Beyond these offerings, it is up to each member to supply their own. For example, if you like to work with a secondary monitor, as I do, you’ll need to supply your own. This can be worth it if you work from BUILT multiple days per week and elect for a dedicated desk.

Leaving your belongings at the space is possible and safe. This is primarily for members with dedicated desks, since personal storage options do not exist yet. All entrances to the space are card-access-only, making theft difficult. Moreover, the space is small and members know each other, making it even hard for a would-be thief to act inconspicuously.

Conclusion

BUILT has the potential to be a great workplace for young, growing firms looking for a place to call their own, a place where they can focus on building the core of their business. For freelancers and individuals looking for strong community and a well-connected location, though, I would recommend a different workplace. BUILT has that “make it your own” vibe. You’re invited to bring your own tools, your own snacks, and make suggestions to enhance the space. So have a look and consider making BUILT the permanent address for your growing business. The space would be happy to have you.


Photos courtesy of BUILT.