There’s interesting data about how coworking makes members happier, more social, and more successful.
But what about the people who run coworking spaces?
Their jobs are fast-paced and require a skill set that ranges from being tech-savvy, responsive and organized, to having high emotional intelligence. Space operators and community managers have to handle a lot on a day-to-day basis, and they have to do it while running a space, making sure members have what they need, and staying calm.
It’s not an easy job.
As workspace owners and operators, it’s important to create a positive work culture for the people running your space and business. Coworking is an exciting field to work in, but it has small profit margins and requires flexibility, both personal and professional.
As Tracy Wilson, managing partner at Pacific Workplaces explains, “Our business is not a high paying business. No one will get rich, and there aren’t a lot of layers when it comes to climbing a career ladder.”
For Wilson and the Pacific Workplaces team, creating a positive culture is vital to attracting and retaining talented, engaged people.
“The culture does matter,” Wilson says. “It’s worth something, and that’s one of the things we can provide.”
She offers the following tips on creating a positive culture for workspace teams of all sizes.
Be of Service to Your Team
Perhaps the most important thing for a workspace owner or operator is to be of service to your team. It goes hand-in-hand with running a sustainable business. This is something that is woven into the cultural fabric of Pacific Workplace and CloudVO.
“Our management and employment style is to be of service to our employees,” says Wilson. “We’re here to hopefully make their day-to-day job as happy as it can be, within the context of work. When issues come up, we do everything we can to accommodate and to help them. We are here to help them do a better job.”
Train People to Go On to Bigger and Better
Challenge people to bring their best to work, both intellectually and emotionally. And give them your best so they can go on to bigger and better things.
“I believe the best thing is to give people whatever skills we can give them while tuning into their passions, and helping them build a repertoire to leave us,” says Wilson. “We like it when people stay, but it’s always a little bit happy when they go, because they always go onto something bigger, and, hopefully, better.”
She adds, “We do have people leave and come back though.”
Establish Caring as a Company Value
One of the sayings at Pacific Workplaces is, “We care.” The leadership team sets a tone that the company cares for its clients, its investors, its vendors but, as Wilson says, “Mostly we care for each other.”
She stresses that the ownership group is “very tight around this topic” saying that it’s probably the only thing they’ve never had a disagreement about. Whatever is going on in the company and in individual spaces, a sense of caring and mitigating frustrations and challenges is always top of mind for the team.
At Pacific Workplaces and CloudVO, any employee is free to go to the top with questions, challenges, or concerns.
Wilson explains that the top “isn’t very high in our small company,” but says if anybody in the company wants to talk to her or COO Scott Chambers, or managing partner Keith Warner, or CEO Laurent Dhollande, it’s just a matter of sending an email.
It’s important for members of a team to meet in real life and get to know each other—even when that team is distributed across cities or regions. Plan regular in-person gatherings that go beyond business meetings.
Create fun opportunities for your team to connect, get some work done, and celebrate together.
“It’s important,” says Wilson, “to give people the one-on-one experience of getting to know one another.”
When someone makes a mistake, acknowledge the humanness of imperfection, whenever possible, and find the best solution. This approach to problem-solving is contagious and can be found throughout a workspace once the tone is established.
Empower Community Managers to Empower their Members
Find ways where members can help themselves and take a load off of your team. For instance, empower members to install their own print drivers and to make coffee when they take the last of it.
As Wilson explains, “We’re here to help, but we don’t need to do everything. Having the technology and norms to take some things off their to-do list is important.”
Give All Employees Ownership of the Space
Support team members in the day-to-day running of the workspace. If something needs to be done, find ways for people to help, regardless of what their role in the company is.
“There is no job that an owner is too big to do,” says Wilson. “If you walk into a center and there’s a copier jam, and it requires being on the floor finding the problem, that’s what’s required. Or there’s no coffee, or the sink is full, you deal with it. It’s everybody’s job to help with whatever needs to be done.”
She adds that, “It’s all hand on deck, so these jobs don’t always fall on one person.”
Get to Know Your Team (and Their Goals)
Take the time to get to know your team members. This includes having a clear understanding of their career goals. For instance, if a team member plans to be a CPA when they finish school, find finance-related jobs for them to do.
As Wilson advises, “Help them start building a repertoire of skills they’ll use later on.”
For instance, Pacific Workplaces has one staffer who wants to be a corporate health and wellness professional, so Wilson gave her a regular column in the company newsletter called “Health Corner.”
“By the time she goes into job interviews,” says Wilson, “she can show them this column as an example of what she did in her last job.”
It’s not always possible to align people’s passions and work goals with their job duties, but be creative about finding ways to engage people’s whole selves. One Pacific Workplaces team member is a horse lover. She and Wilson are looking for ways to potentially align these seemingly disparate interests.
“I asked her to help me identify how to bring her passion into the office,” says Wilson. “Maybe we do a fundraiser. We make a concerted effort. It doesn’t always work. If it really is just horses, I might not be able to, but I’d like to try.”
The Benefit of a Positive Work Culture on the Bottom Line
In addition to providing an enjoyable workspace experience, positive work culture is also good for business.
“We’re in a tight job market,” says Wilson. “For all the workspace operators, their employees have a lot of other options right now. There is certainly a practical reason for being the employer of choice. And, even in not-so-tight job markets, being the employer of choice in our industry gives you all sorts of advantages.”
Wilson says that a positive work culture should “always be what you strive for, for practical business reasons.” In addition to that, she adds that “there’s more joy when you’re surrounded by people who are happy, and you can contribute to their happiness. That’s a reason in and of itself to keep coming to work and keep doing what you’re doing.”
She adds, “If you’re somebody who is motivated by a large paycheck, then you’re probably not for us. But, if a pleasant place to work, with a lot of unique people and a lot of different things to do, and no day being the same, and having part of your job being chatting and getting to know people is your thing, then we’re for you.”
by Cat Johnson, storyteller and content strategist for the coworking movement.