Do you ever get a feeling that something is off where you work?
Whether it’s at a coworking space, traditional office, shared office space, etc, there is always an energy or lack of energy in a workplace.
The community of people, physical space, management, and many other factors ultimately make up what we call culture. People are the most powerful force for improvement or detraction from the development of great culture. Each person can either help it or hurt it. So what are some common signs that your office culture needs work?
Interaction is key to the culture of a coworking space.
1. Do the community members introduce themselves to new members or visitors?
Is the space open and inviting to everyone?
Read how Cowork22 started if you are unfamiliar. During 2016 – 2017, I traveled and worked in over 25 coworking spaces around the United States and Canada as a remote worker and digital nomad.
When I visited a space, I made a habit of saying hello to everyone (I mean everyone) the first time I locked eyes or passed a person. For someone more shy, this may have been daunting. However, I found it vital to connect with people quickly.
When I walked into a coworking space where people did not communicate, or were only interested in clocking in and out, it was always a limited experience for me and the rest of the members of the community.
Note: There is nothing wrong with a quiet space. I just find that a simple hello and small talk opens the door to the most wonderful of experiences and opportunities that can be found in a coworking space.
2. Is there a core group of members at the space?
I hesitated on this as I don’t feel like it is a requirement and can be either a good or a bad thing.
In my experience, a core group can help solidify what the space, community, and culture represents. Physical signs in a coworking space telling people how to behave is only part of what should be done. ie. Clean your dishes signs. Helping to develop a core group of members creates active and living examples of what should and should not be done.
This can be as simple as not being a slob, being friendly, cleaning a dish that isn’t yours, etc. The core members are not necessarily the favorites, but they are often the long-term and active members that support the culture and the leadership in their goals.
3. The Dirty Dish Problem (I even wrote an article about this)
Dirty Dishes do not always mean there are problems, however, they could be the beginning and lead to other problems.
As I mentioned in my other article, sometimes the culture of a space is for workers to wash the dishes and in others it is not. We even discussed this at the monthly Cowork University Meetup in May. For something so simple, there are way too many variables and reasons that dishes accumulate.
Here’s what I would pay attention to: is there a change in how people care about the space? There is a lot of downside to having a careless community that needs to be watched and monitored. However, some spaces may succeed as only providing space to work. Even so, you still need processes to control carelessness.
I always fall into this debate.
4. Has event attendance been lacking?
Events are incredibly important for the culture of coworking space.
Ask this question:
Why has attendance at events been lackluster? If you don’t know, ask the community.
Some event types or topics won’t be popular in the space. Or maybe the event might just take time to gain momentum.
Not everyone will be interested in every event. That is a fact. As with other issues in a community, ask the right questions to determine if that is the problem.
Is the event a good fit for the community?
Do the coworkers get value in attending?
Are the coworkers aware of the event?
What can the coworkers tell me that could help?
There is no silver bullet or magic solution. Events take work, promotion, and time to get right. Some of the best events I’ve attended at coworking spaces took months to get moving smoothly and get people attending.
Every event that a coworker attends is, after all, time away from growing their business, being a remote worker, or digital nomad.
The dates and times could be wrong or make it challenging to be present.
In the case of happy hours, I have seen a number of coworking spaces change the time from 5 in the afternoon to 3:30 or 4 PM so that people could unwind and still leave at the normal time. Many people have families and other things they need to do at the end of each day. This earlier start time improves participation.
Have any of the coworkers in the space taken initiative and started their own event?
I was in Rapid City, South Dakota at The Garage a few months ago. One of the coworkers there took the time to create an event that brought in fantastic music acts (often from outside South Dakota) that played in their intimate space. The event was started and managed by coworkers who brought in people in the area around Rapid City and even outside the state.
A coworker-created event has the benefit of immediate by-in from portions of the community. The people they work with want to support them and will be more likely to try it out.
This type of event also displays their interest in building the community. They don’t necessarily do it for themselves. They might have a personal interest or incentive for creating this type of event, but ultimately the time and energy involved benefits everyone in the coworking space and the community.
What do you think? Are there any other common ways to determine that a culture could be changing or needs some love?
Coworker, Remote Worker, Traveler
In July of 2016, I left Tampa, Florida, to go on a life journey exploring coworking spaces around the world. I started this coworking exploration to experience, first hand, the management and culture variations in different offices and to learn how each community’s culture is created and maintained. So far I have worked remotely in 16 states, 2 provinces, 3 countries, and over 30 coworking spaces. My mission is to help people understand that coworking is more than a desk; it is the future of work.