8 Tips for Coworking Spaces in Covid Times

8 Tips for Coworking Spaces in Covid Times

1. Understand who your (new?) target audience is

In a matter of months, the pandemic created a situation that vastly changed our preferences on the spaces in which we live and work. Central locations within cities have traditionally appealed to coworkers due to the nature of the amenities around them - ease of travel, life after work, etc. Perceptions have now been shifted on what makes a good location for coworking; a smaller, flexible space in a less crowded location may be more attractive to those living close enough to get there by foot, by bike or electric scooter, as mobility and commuting have also changed, with people avoiding public transport as much as possible.

Will employees that are working remotely be interested in your space? Is local coworking the new “working from home”? Companies that have cancelled their leases and are thinking of safely returning to the office may be seduced by the flexibility in contact length and terms offered by coworking or flexwork.

2. Adapt your channels if you must - what attracts your users?

When you analyse the new leads you are getting, can you see that they are different from those gained in the pre-covid era? If that's the case, are your communications, platforms and channels appropriate for connecting with this audience? Where do these people spend their time online? Does your storytelling appeal to them? What kind of subjects are they interested in? Is your communication tone the best for engaging with your audience? Does it make them feel as if you are talking to them, or may they feel your current message is not addressed to them?

Make the necessary changes in order to broadcast your message in a way that tells the new public, who may be looking for a flexible workspace, that you are talking to them, and makes them feel welcome from the very beginning. But don’t forget your “traditional” public - keep on top of them, as they have been loyal customers and you should treat them accordingly.

Look after your social media channels too - small details such as tone of voice, style guidelines or even which platforms you communicate on can make a huge difference and significantly increase your reach.

3. Advertise locally or in their preferred channels

The pandemic catalysed a change in means of transport. Bike shops sold out all their catalogue in many countries and electric scooters are also being sold like crazy. People are avoiding crowds and public transport as much as they possibly can but we know that these methods have a shorter range than public transport. Are your users driving to your space? Your marketing should be more location-conscious than ever before. Make sure that all the people living around you know where you are and what kind of services you can provide for them.

The nature of the pandemic has made social meetings much more difficult. There’s less interaction in the streets and the local events and fairs, for example, look different than before, but look around your space for opportunities and find a clever way to have a presence there. Are there any Whatsapp, Telegram, Facebook groups which operate locally? Don’t act like the elephant in the room; enter the group in a gentle way and with a genuine interest in helping and learning more about the local community needs and worries. Learn about meetings, gatherings, markets etc. It may seem crazy depending on the situation of your country, but remember in a pandemic, situations evolve fast - keep connected to the relevant sources of information and check for opportunities at least once every 15 days.

4. Partner up with 3rd parties - hotels, nurseries, restaurants?

Are there any local stakeholders to work with? Can you find a way to work together, either establishing a mutually beneficial relationship (and) or treating them as a broker, offering a commission for every client they send to you or you send to them? Can they offer discounts for your members?

Getting people back to work in a safe manner, whilst keeping schools open is a priority for most countries at the moment. Talk to schools and after school clubs and offer them a promotion for parents who are working from home or who have to drive back and forth from home twice a day. With childcare being an issue, are there any nurseries or childcare services around you that your coworkers could use? Do you want to partner up with them? 

As we previously discussed, your surroundings are more important than ever before. Are you close to any hotels or nice restaurants? Do you want to explore a collaboration? You would be surprised how willing some local businesses are to offer discounts or perks to your coworkers. Supporting them will be a mutual benefit, as they’ll support you in return and you’ll be giving back to your local community. Win-win-win situation! 

By the way, when you talk to someone - especially potential local partners, but this applies to almost anyone - do not make a planned sales pitch, pretend to listen to them and leave as soon as possible: any interaction is a treasure, any extra piece of information you get is an extra piece of the puzzle. Show true interest in the people, business situation or problems, and ask them “what are the biggest problems you have to overcome in the next few months?" It’s not only human and polite, but it provides a better picture of the problems around you and creates the opportunity to figure out new services.

5. Tidy up your reviews and existing examples of current clients to appeal to your new audience

Different public, different needs. Work is more flexible than ever before. Your plans may not fit the new public. Review your lost leads and find a pattern in what you may be failing to provide or, if you don’t have these leads, study your competitors’ services and client profiles and make some fancy maths to come up with new rates for those people who need a space for just a few days a week if you didn’t have this kind of rate before. Dig into your current database of members and see if you are offering anything that you are not advertising. Word of mouth, working online reviews and revisiting case studies will help you tweak your attractiveness to appeal to a slightly different audience.

An always successful strategy is to analyse the company and members you already have in the space: which of them are more profitable for you? Which are the ones you like the most? Talk to them and ask what they like about the space. What made them decide to sign up? Understand all the processes and learn what works best to get more members like them. And, of course, if they are satisfied and love the service you are offering them they will be more than happy to cooperate in your communication - ask them to appear in a video or post explaining how crucial it is for them to work from your space. Remember to talk to them, not to you: this is not about our ego it is about how we make their life easier. 

By the way, review your competitors’ services and rates, and compare them with your prices and services with a critical attitude. Ask a picky (and objective) friend to compare them and give honest (not kind) feedback to you.

6. Can you redistribute your space or common areas?

Space needs to be safe and feel safe. Rethink your workspace layout and common areas, decreasing the density. Provide enough distance between positions in the workspace and in the common areas to create separate clusters of seats where small groups can work safely together. Regulations are different in each country, but if in your region there are certain conditions you may reach to allow your members to work maskless, that's a hit, as some people will prefer to stay at home if it allows them to work without a mask. Again, speak to your community, find guidance from your local town hall, council or health service. Don’t be scared of sharing pictures or asking your members online. In pure coworking style, ask other spaces, other peers and industry experts. We are all on different boats but braving the same storm!

7. Make use of contactless interactions (contactless booking, contactless floorplans, messages, etc.)

The fewer surfaces members touch, the safer they are. Don’t go crazy with this: start with the items that they must touch before sanitising their hands. The perfect example of this is the front door - a contactless system should be your first priority.

After that, every contactless interaction is a bonus. If you are using coworking software, consider using the mobile phone app for booking, or any other interaction which the system accepts. there’s a good chance you are already doing this, if you don’t, I can’t think of a better moment to do it! 

8. Memberships, rates and plans

The public (may have) changed, and your rates may no longer be suitable for the new segment approaching your space. It’s difficult to generalise, but around the globe, a common trait we found is flexibility: employees that work full, or part-time from home may not need a full membership. Moreover, their company will not be willing to pay for full membership or maybe they are paying it from their own pockets and want to save money.

Listen to the requests you get for new kinds of usage: update your rates and/or provide new ones that make better sense for the service you are offering, but that also respect the members who are paying full memberships and the economics of your space.

During this process, you may be tempted to generate an extended bunch of different options and rates, and that’s always a bad idea - don’t you remember those years during which the phone companies offered you more than a dozen different rates? How did you feel about that? Most people felt like they were making the wrong choice no matter what, postponing the buying decision. Keep your options simple, have 3 or 4 options on the website (you can have a few more if you have a very ordered site which drives different audiences to different pages or extremely well-defined sections). This does not mean you are not providing enough options to potential customers, just have an internal price list and a clear method of creating new rates for special cases, but be sure to not show your internal complexity to your clients. And remember, never offer something to someone which will make another client feel as though they have been sold short, and ensure that you leave a visible line of communication on your website, in case your members or potential leads want to explore these options, or suggest new ones.

I am Marc Navarro, coworking consultant.

I am part of the creation of new coworking spaces, advising from the very beginning of the project, from the space layout to maximise the project turnover, to the sales policy modifying the selling strategy as needed considering the owners and managers' needs. I also work hand to hand with private corporations like Endesa which are willing to rethink their HQ to improve their workflows and work environment. I also work with public corporations to create new and more collaborative ways to add value to the citizens. I'm a speaker, content curator and coworking writer, whilst flying from one city to the next one.

Content Director of the CoworkingSpain Conference, Content Curator in the Coworking Unconference Asia and Advisor at the Latam Coworking Summit. Creator of the first coworking with social return, Sinèrgics and former Director of the first Utopicus coworking in Barcelona. Until February 2018 I was responsible for CREC coworking strategy.

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