The Future of Work – What's next for purpose-driven values in coworking and flexible workspaces

The Future of Work – What's next for purpose-driven values in coworking and flexible workspaces

Just seven percent of Fortune 500 CEOs think their companies should “mainly focus on making profits and not be distracted by social goals.” 

We can’t say for certain, but we assume that number is even lower for coworking operators. People don’t start coworking businesses to make a quick buck.

For starters, it’s not an easy win. 

It can take years for a coworking space to become profitable, so it makes sense that the majority of coworking entrepreneurs aren’t just in it for the money.

They’re driven by a sense of purpose. 

Take a step back and revisit your purpose

Behind every business, venture is a motive, ambition, or vision. As a coworking operator, this is what drives you to put in all the hard work and keep pushing, even through difficult times.

If you’re planning to open a coworking space, you need to establish your vision first. As well as thinking about what you want to do, consider how you’ll do it. 

It’s not the same for everyone. 

Your goal might be to offer an alternative to stale office culture by building a space that’s ripe for collaboration between like-minded people. 

Or you might want to make coworking more accessible for working parents by offering flexible onsite childcare alongside desk memberships.

Maybe you're on a mission to bring diverse groups of people together under one roof by building an inclusive space. Variety is the spice of life, and the same goes for coworking. 

Man sitting next to chair. Photo by @josealjovin via Unsplash

Have your coworking values changed over the last 12 months?

Purpose-driven values for coworking

Here’s a handful of purpose-driven examples for coworking spaces. Which of these do you relate to most?

Value #1: A coworking space as a community

The coworking concept goes beyond renting out desks and offices for a profit. 

As an operator, you’re the architect of a community. You need to listen to the needs of your community and allow people to have a say in any big decisions your business makes. 

Remember that communities aren’t built overnight. 

It’ll take some time for yours to develop, so keep going. Nurture it: open days, networking events, socials, well-facilitated breakout areas, and introductions are a must. 

Value #2: A coworking space as a sustainable business

Sustainability is woven into the fabric of most coworking spaces. 

Some are economically sustainable in the sense that they run on the revenues generated by their members (as opposed to relying on outside funding). 

Others are sustainable in terms of revenue: they retain high occupancy levels and attract new members on a word of mouth basis without having to run expensive marketing campaigns on social media. 

(Not that there’s anything wrong with marketing to reach potential new members, especially if you want to diversify your coworking community.)

Aside from business models, there’s also environmental sustainability to think about. 

We’ve dedicated a whole article to sustainability and coworking trends. Here’s a quick recap of what you should contemplate:

  • Promoting recycling 

  • Leveraging local resources and suppliers

  • Sustainable coffee

  • Cycling over driving

  • Energy-efficient infrastructure 

  • Embracing the circular economy

  • Research by Dr. Fraser Torpy, director of the University of Technology Sydney Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Research Group, revealed that indoor plants can help reduce carbon dioxide levels by around 10% in air-conditioned offices and around 25% in buildings without air conditioning.

  • Switching to renewable energy

  • Joining an eco-friendly certification programme

Value #2: A coworking space as open and accessible

Being “open and accessible” is a purpose-driven value that many coworking operators strive to embrace. It’s not always easy, and as with building a community, it often requires dedication and thinking outside of the box. 

Ask yourself the following three questions:

1. How accessible is my building?

Think about the physicality of your coworking space first. For instance, can wheelchair users access the building and the spaces within it? What about the facilities – are there private spaces mothers can go to breastfeed or express milk? 

Brad McCannell has written a useful article on the five traits of a meaningfully accessible building. In it, he explores the following:

  • A warm and welcoming environment

  • An emergency evacuation plan which considers all users

  • Inclusive and comprehensive wayfinding

  • No barriers to employment

  • Circulation as barrier-free and safe

2. How accessible is my community?

Evaluate how inclusive your coworking community is. Is it reflective of the wider community, or does it lack representation in some way? Think about how to be more diverse and inclusive by reassessing how you promote your space and who you collaborate with.

3. How accessible are my services?

Who do your networking events cater to? Who runs your events? Who do you showcase and promote on social media? As a purpose-driven coworking operator, you need to think about accessibility in terms of your events as well as your desk memberships. 

Engaging communities in the discussion

The perspectives of your employees, members, and people from the surrounding area should inform your purpose-driven values. It shouldn’t just be up to you to define them. Find out what matters to them by simply asking them what they want your space to be! 

There are lots of ways you can do this. 

Firstly, you could ask people for their thoughts organically as and when you see them. 

Tell them that your space is in the process of redefining its values and you’d value their input. You could also survey people using an app like Survey Monkey, put a comments box in your space, or ask for people's thoughts over email or Slack. Nexudus also has its own in-built survey feature which you can discover more about by reading our dedicated Knowledge Base article.

Social media is a good medium for getting quick “soundbite” inputs, and a way of reaching non-members for their insights. You could start by asking your LinkedIn followers what means the most to them and get them to engage like so:

Community: LIKE

Sustainability: CLAP

Affordability: LIGHTBULB

Proximity to home: HEART

Man standing on arrow. Photo by @smartphotocourses via Unsplash

Your coworking manifesto – an evolving document

We’d recommend writing a coworking manifesto. If you already have one, now’s the perfect time to revisit it. Your members’ needs and the needs of the wider community may well have changed significantly over the last 12 months or so. 

Your manifesto should outline your space’s values and vision (in other words, what it stands for). It doesn’t have to be long – in fact, the more concise the better. 

You should write your manifesto with the aim of sharing it with your employees, partners, and members. See it as an opportunity to communicate your story, outline your goals, and set your expectations. And remember: nothing stays the same forever.

Let it evolve in line with your space. 

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