The Wisdom of Coworking

24 SEPTEMBER 2013

Community, togetherness, sharing, borrowing instead of buying and open source. Society is looking for new ways of being and this is typified by the growth of coworking. But what makes one centre better than another? What are the keys to being loved by your members? Network organisation Gate Garching, from Cluster 2020, have visited fifteen leading coworking centres in Helsinki, Paris and London to find out.

Breakfast at Werk1 - Image by Martin Laarmann

Image: Coworkers having breakfast together at Werk1 in Munich

Gate Garching have just launched their own centre, Werk 1 in Munich, building on many of the ideas that inspired them during their tour.

Place. The environment needs to be zoned. A creative and welcoming reception, a café if critical mass allows it, plus a community kitchen. Comfortable seats, desks and great internet is a must, zoned in quiet and ‘not-so-quiet’ areas. Spaces for making phone calls or having brief meetings prevent quiet workers from being disturbed. Conference rooms should have glass doors or windows, so its easy to see if the room is occupied. Attention to detail is vital; lockers, coat racks, a members information area and photo board, so its easy to know who is who. The best centres combine functional excellence with a great feeling of excitement the moment you walk through the door.

Event space is crucial. Some centres have the luxury of dedicated space, others must re-arrange the coworking areas after hours. Each centres reputation is in part built on the quality and variety of its events, which should always be open to non-members. Many centres are very creative with their presentation spaces. Gate Garching built their own stage area for events, having been inspired by many of the ideas they saw in other centres.

Community Rituals. Each centre can mix it up, but needs to have enough regular stuff happening to keep the centre alive. Daily, includes forum messages and random snacks provided by members in the kitchen. Weekly, includes community lunches and new member welcomes. Monthly, includes show and tell, happy hour and attending external events together. Annually, could include bar camps, anniversary party and an office cleanup or rearrangement.

Hosts are important. Combining a friendly welcome for new members with a networking role amongst existing coworkers. It is the host who may see connections between members and can help to bring people together.

Lessons Learnt
So what are the over-riding lessons learnt from visiting fifteen coworking centres across Europe?

  • No 1. Building a strong community.
  • No 2. Give the members of that community an inviting, exciting and functionally excellent place to do business.

Cluster 2020 and Gate Garching will be publishing the full report and guide shortly. With over 200 photos and many fascinating insights, this is a must-read to any one setting up or running a coworking centre who wants to maximize their chances of success.

(Source: text and images by Martin Laarmann for Gate Garching (and Werk1). See also cluster2020live.eu)