Most of the Coherent team are based in the UK, where a state of national emergency has been declared, resulting in a countrywide lockdown for the next three weeks.
Employees have been instructed not to attend work if non-essential and this will include almost everyone who works in a coworking space.
Today, most coworking spaces in the UK, and many more around the world, will be shut. Now, we must search for new ways to create and maintain community. This is a time for innovation and it will define the industry for years to come.
This morning, I read a report on coworker.com that examined the effects of COVID-19 on the coworking industry. They have access to an enormous data pool and regularly conduct insightful surveys.
The following statistics show the very real impact COVID-19 is having on the industry.
- 71% of spaces said they have experienced a significant drop in attendance.
- 67% have seen a reduction in the number of new membership enquiries.
- 40% have seen a negative impact on membership and renewals.
These are alarming statistics, but we must not be paralysed by fear.
Let’s look at the actions we can take!
What can you do?
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to increase your member retention and even find new members who are seeking togetherness during this difficult time. You can also learn to create a community that stretches far beyond the usual geographical limitations.
1) Create an Online Community Membership
This is your first mission. Do it today. This will be a low-cost membership that has no limit to the number of members that can join. This is your chance to build an international community based on the personality of your space and the services you offer.
What could you include as benefits?
- Access to your digital community that you will be hosting on Slack or Facebook.
- Access to your video events that you will be using to connect people and ideas. You could also form partnerships with external services such as a yoga studio to offer remote sessions.
- Business perks and discounts for members of your space. I would recommend checking out the marketplace on included.co. With their support you are able to set up a free integration for your website or member portal with ease.
- Virtual office perks, i.e. a business address and mail service.
- Work buddy system for accountability and productivity.
- Future discount to full membership when the situation is resolved.
- Loyalty reward for those who stick with you. e.g. a membership card that will entitle them to exclusive benefits when you reopen for business as usual.
Creating this Community Membership is not just a reactionary step, this is a membership that you can continue to offer indefinitely to increase the value of your space.
* * If you would like to organise your Community Membership using Coherent, we would be happy to waive all fees for new spaces during this difficult period. Our support team will assist you in setting up the platform for your needs.
2) Using Virtual Channels
This is going to be a shock to the system for many people and learning new systems can be overwhelming. Don’t fret, you don’t have to become a computer whiz.
Before listing some useful apps to explore, it’s important to remember that the medium may change, but the way people connect does not. Be your usual self, be friendly, kind, thoughtful, engaging, dry, witty, and even grumpy when appropriate. We are all human and using technology does not change that.
Don’t overload on apps, realistically you only need a couple to get started.
- Slack is the most essential app in your toolset. This is where your members can chat, share articles and even call each other. We recommend Slack because of the ability to set up different Channels, which work like rooms, keeping different types of conversations separate.
Start by setting up three channels: General Chat, Skills Share, Events.
- Zoom is what you will use for video calls and webinars. You can host group events with ease and one-on-one calls when needed. You can sign up for free to explore how the platform works on a generous plan.
Zoom also provide a great selection of resources on working remotely – https://zoom.us/docs/en-us/covid19.html
We took a closer look at ways to connect members virtually in this blog.
To learn more about virtual coworking, I would recommend this article by Lucy Elkin, founder of myworkhive. They solely offer virtual coworking membership and Lucy gives a good account of how it works.
3) Provide Structure for your Members
Create a shared calendar on a weekly basis to provide structure for members. Everyone is going to have days where they feel lost, and when they do, they will value having a framework.
What should be on your calendar?
- Optional events; virtual lunches, group meditation, seminars, etc.
- Remember you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many of your regular events will work in an online format. e.g. book club, online boardgames, Friday drinks and coding challenges.
- Reminders to take a break to do some exercise, contact family/friends or just chill.
- Motivational time slots to encourage people to do tasks they have been putting off.
- Bookable sessions where you will be available for one-on-one calls.
Serene is the final app I will recommend because I’ve found it incredibly useful for preserving focus. It’s an all-in-one productivity app designed to get you in the zone and remove distractions. This may be something you use personally as a workspace host to supercharge your day, or you could share with coworkers and encourage them to sign up.
Serene is currently running a beta for teams, I’m not sure how this will work for coworking spaces, but it is worth signing up for more information. You could end up providing a unique service before everyone else. That is the beauty of virtual coworking, you can get ahead of the competition just by trying new technology.
4) Be a Source of Information, Ideas and Positivity
Become a rallying point for your members. This is going to be a very tough period for all of us, so now more than ever, we need positivity and connection.
One of the best ways to help your members is creating a shared document where people can list useful resources and news items related to the virus. This collective sense of responsibility and action will help people feel some control over the future.
We would also recommend sending regular correspondence to your members in a creative format. The traditional method is by newsletter, you can sign up to Mailchimp on a free plan, although make sure to check how many contacts/emails this includes.
You could also take this opportunity to explore exciting alternatives such as a podcast or YouTube channel. Video and audio have super high engagements rates and you could invite different members to join you for discussions, creating a stronger sense of community.
What to talk about?
- Talk about your coworking space. Don’t let people forget that it exists. One day you’ll be marching back in there. In the meantime, talk about any updates on the space, any additional services you’re considering, and share stories of people in your community.
You could even start increasing hype for your reopening. Plan a party, conduct a poll for people to choose new plants, run a competition with a membership prize.
- Beyond this, remember that we are all human. We aren’t all working 24/7 and many of us will be looking for ways to occupy our time. Share what you’ve been doing and encourage members to do the same.
What type of things? Albums, books, films, TV shows, memes, reddit threads, recipes, podcasts, hobbies, online learning courses
All storms pass.
The Coherent Team.
Reminder for any coworking spaces who would be interested in organising their Community Membership with the assistance of Coherent.
We will waive all platform fees for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.