This blog is supported by Yardi.
At the same time, technology is advancing at superspeed. Organisations across every sector are looking to increase efficiency by embedding technology into their everyday practices.
So, how is tech sitting with those inside the coworking industry? Is there a place for modern technology in spaces designed to facilitate human connection?
With so many different needs and personalities coming together in one place, coworking spaces can be tricky to manage. Community managers are a special breed of human who can keep their cool while the fire alarms are being tested, the coffee machine is leaking and that enthusiastic new member, Jerry, is asking them to help book a meeting room.
Surely they could use a hand? We asked three community managers what kind of tech helps them to deliver the kind of experiences their members are looking for.
The coworking industry is designed to facilitate human connection, so it makes sense that community managers are focused on the experience they’re providing to their members. Flashy tech isn’t welcome in the majority of spaces – instead, community managers are looking for solutions that can support them to connect with their members on a human level.
“We’re a relatively small team running a big space,” Becky Thorn from Spacemade tells us. “It’s a challenge being everywhere all at once. We have iPads that check people in, so we can concentrate on providing that 1-1 experience they come to us for.”
Photo Credit – Spacemade
iPads are unobtrusive and intuitive to use, and it takes a job that can be pretty time consuming off the community manager’s hands. They’re part of many people’s everyday already – but what happens when a coworking space introduces something a bit different?
Equipment that integrates seamlessly into the space can allow the people running the space to shine. Equipment that doesn’t work as expected, though, can be incredibly stressful for community managers and coworkers alike.
Matt Miller from Projects found that out the hard way when Projects Lanes opened.
“It was a real challenge when our front door mechanism broke. It’s not like a normal door – you’ve got different control panels that enable different ways to access the building.” The glitch was something of a blessing in disguise, because it allowed the team to get to grips with the system early on. “You’ve got to push your tech to the limit in order to understand exactly how it works.”
Photo Credit – Projects
Projects is integrating technology with the clear intention of helping their members feel a sense of belonging – and making sure they can easily operate it without help is key.
“We know that being able to use our tech independently helps our members to feel a lot more at ease in our spaces,” says Matt. “If they’re struggling to do something that should be simple, like connect a computer to a TV, they tend to get frustrated and sometimes begin to question whether this is the right place for them.”
As well as making sure they’re installing the most user friendly tech on the market, Projects is creating easy to follow how-to guides for every tech-enabled room. “Our guides are all written by ad-hoc users rather than tech teams. That way they’re free of jargon and person-friendly.”
There’s also a place for fun, immersive tech when it comes to building a healthy sense of community in a coworking space.
“I’ll never forget our launch party, when we brought in a laser maze company to showcase the possibilities for our event space,” Matt reminisces. “The game had an unexpected side effect: it really brought people together. People were meeting in the queue and cheering each other on, and were genuinely happy for each other when they ‘won’. Everyone was part of the action.”
Trey Nelson-Campbell from X+Why knows that people join coworking spaces to be with other people, and believes that should remain the focus when it comes to embedding new technology.
“We have our own app which allows members to book meeting rooms, and also connect with each other when they’re not in the space.” Nothing can beat the magic of a real-life conversation, though. “We always promote organic relationships, where members meet at the coffee machine or at one of our breakfasts.”
Photo Credit – x+why
Trey finds job satisfaction in building meaningful connections with members. Often, that means being there to help solve their challenges as and when they come up. “I like being their go-to person. No need to ‘raise a ticket’. Let’s keep it old school – come and see me and we’ll get it sorted out!”
How could wellbeing be enhanced in coworking spaces? There are lots of big ideas being thrown about right now, but perhaps the most impactful could be made possible by detailed data capture and ambient tech.
“Imagine if you could personalise somebody’s office to exactly how they like it,” Becky muses. “If members walked into their office and it was the perfect temperature, and their favourite chocolate bar was waiting for them.”
Tech also has the potential to improve the work-life balance of community teams, by taking over out-of-hours service. “We don’t want to be working 24/7,” Becky tells us, “but we still want people to have a good experience when we’re not here.”
Lots of people are feeling anxious about losing their jobs to their robot counterparts in the future – but community managers in coworking spaces seem pretty confident that they can never be replaced.
“People buy from people, not robots,” Trey believes. “And community managers bring the vibes. No one can bottle a coworking space’s vibe – it’s unique and it’s really hard to replicate. You cannot fake it.”
They’re not even in a rush to get help with everyday tasks like emailing and social media posts from generative AI.
“I’m a people person,” emphasises Matt. “I want to be as personal and supportive as I can be. I’m worried I’d regress if I started relying on tech to help me interact with members.”
As the demographic of coworking changes, coworking spaces will inevitably become more tech enabled to meet the expectations of their members.
“Younger people are starting to join our spaces, and they’re very techie,” Becky tells us. “They expect a space to be tech enabled, because they’ve never known anything different.”
There’s one thing we’re hearing loud and clear from our community managers, though. Coworking is human, and always will be. Technology is welcome to play a supporting role.
This article was researched and written by humans Emilie Lashmar and Rose Radtke, with the help of AI. We interviewed all of the coworking managers on Zoom, and used Otter.ai to record and transcribe our conversations. We used Notion to capture our thinking.
Thank you to Yardi for sponsoring this article. Yardi is a software company that is passionate about creating engaging content whilst championing those working within this evolving industry. Their extensive range of software products and services is used by a variety of coworking and real estate companies and professionals.