I have been a vice president for human resources of a startup company. As a business who was starting small, we had to adapt to the situation by using coworking spaces as our offices. It was a bit hard for us since we can’t take advantage of the benefits of physical space in this setup. We were also worried that we wouldn’t be able to protect the company culture we want to foster if we continue with this kind of business approach.
So, how do you protect a corporate culture when using coworking offices? The first step in bringing about this goal is to set realistic goals for your company which will then be useful in creating a detailed plan in putting coworking spaces and corporate culture together. After countless meetings with the board, we were able to draft a plan which would help us maintain our corporate culture.
Although this topic might be a little bit complicated to handle, I still want to share to all of you the strategies which I have adapted to solve this work dilemma.
The Mix of coworking Offices and Corporate Culture
Some companies might be hesitant to try out this new office trend. The reason for this is that they often find it hard to find the perfect mix between the use of coworking offices and the concept of corporate culture. Companies think that it is impossible to maintain the company culture that you are trying to hold on to because this kind of setup involves the concept of shared workspaces.
However, as someone who has been in this dilemma before, there are still strategies which you can use to avoid this kind of disconnect between coworking offices and corporate culture. Here are some of the techniques your businesses can use to protect the corporate culture you are trying to maintain:
Define your company culture accurately. Make sure to apply a shared office space setting, not a regular office one. Define your vision and mission statements and determine your expected attitudes and behaviors from your employees. Write this down and discuss everything with your team so that they are also aware of these expectations. Remember: this will set the tone for your corporate culture.
Conduct regular meetings. In coworking spaces, there are meeting rooms and event spaces you can use to do this. It is the perfect opportunity to reinforce the company’s goals, keep track of the progress of each other, and establish stronger relationships with one another. With this, make sure to book a room at least twice a week for this.
Maintain constant communication within your team. If there are people who cannot attend your regular meetings, you can still contact them via Skype to ensure that they are still in the loop. If they can’t do this as well, you can send them the minutes of the meeting or even conduct one-on-one meetings with them. Remember: missing out just even one session can make an employee feel like an outcast.
Ask for feedback. It is not enough that you are the only one planning and putting out some effort to protect your corporate culture. Your employees might also have some out-of-the-box ideas which might help your company survive this setup.
Keep the dialogue going. What do we mean by this? Even though you are not with each other physically, it is vital to still open the communication within the team. One technique to achieve this is through the use of digital tools. Company blogs, online forums, collaboration tools, newsletters, and chat boxes can spark dialogue among individuals. Even though this interaction is only digital, it still maintains insider information which can be of help in keeping the company culture intact.
Who Uses coworking Spaces?
This concept might be a taboo for some companies because they feel like that this kind approach will not fit the nature of their business. Usually, the groups listed below are the usual suspects of this setup.
Start-up companies are the number one users of coworking spaces. They approve this kind of setup because it does not come along with high costs and rent commitments. It also fits them since they are only working with a small team, so this is crucial to make sure that they interact with one another.
What most people do not know is that founders of start-ups use these spaces to look for a joint venture partner should their start-up business thrive. For example, in our coworking space before, there were around four to five start-ups nesting in the area. Our founder made sure to interact and establish relationships with people outside our company. These connections can be beneficial for them in the future.
Instead of working alone at home, in a library, or a coffee shop, freelancers often find themselves more comfortable working in coworking spaces. The reason for this is that they also aim to connect with other freelancers in the metro. Having these relationships can help them in the success of their careers as freelancers.
Companies with a lot of remote workers also adopted this office setting. Their reasoning for that is that they do not need their own offices since remote workers seldom step on the premises of the office. What these companies usually do is that they assign free spaces in their coworking areas which can be accessed by remote workers should they have businesses inside the office.
Unknown to many, some larger organizations have recently adopted this setup. Companies which consider themselves as “forward-thinking” are already beginning to utilize coworking spaces. According to a study by Bloomberg, large companies such as Merck, General Electric, and KPMG started changing their management approach just a few months ago.
To illustrate, KPMG rented out 75 desks from a specific coworking firm, and they reported that this move was a strategic advantage for them. First, it lessened their real estate costs since they do not have to comply with longer leases. At the same time, they do not have to forecast the real estate needs since it’s not required anymore. Second, this shift also decreased their logistical costs since they did not have to pay for additional expenses such as water and electricity.
Should You Rent Your Own Space or Shift to coworking Spaces?
There are several aspects to scrutinize when deciding whether your business should rent your own space or shift to coworking spaces. Remember that these factors are also prerequisites to maintaining the culture of your corporation.
The Benefits of Renting Your Own Office Compared to Coworking Space
According to statistics, 98 percent of the commercial real estates are for traditional offices. During the management teams’ interview on why they opt to lease their own offices, they have answered the following reasons:
Having a corporate office enables your team to focus. Compared to being in a coworking space, they won’t be distracted by other businesses and companies, over which you do not have the authority to control noise and interruption. Several studies have identified that focus is essential if you want your employees to be both productive and happy. If their emotions are not optimal, there is a significant tendency that they won’t be that open with their colleagues. It can detrimentally impact the company’s culture.
If a team needs to discuss some kinds of sensitive information, they might have privacy concerns. Privacy is also not only limited to work-related things, but it is also applicable to privacy in their personal lives and personal relationships. If the employees feel that they won’t be able to achieve the level of privacy they ought to have, this might lead to miscommunication and inhibition, which then can affect the corporate culture afterward.
3. Reflection of Brand and Culture
The modern office design of having your own company space reflects both your brand and culture. Since you are liable for this area, you have complete control over what to do with regards to the design and physical setup that you want to show. You can decorate it depending on your company’s brand. If the nature of your business is more on the creative side of marketing, you can design your place with a playful aura. But if your company is more inclined towards technical jobs, you might want to give your office a more professional look.
The Benefits of Shifting to coworking Spaces
There had been much deliberation regarding this setup because the concept of coworking spaces is becoming a fast-rising trend. With that, what aspects in coworking spaces help the corporate cultures of companies?
Working in coworking spaces help you surround yourself with a newfound community. Those in this kind of setup get to network with the other companies occupying the same area. This way, it will be more conducive for individuals to learn from other businesses, stay on top of the different industry news, and even have a chance to find a mentor outside your organization.
Once you have established this kind of relationship with other companies, you can then observe and analyze some of the techniques they use to maintain their corporate culture as well. You can then get a number of ideas which you can use for the team you are leading.
According to a study in New York City, getting a coworking space is more cost-effective and affordable than renting a corporate office. Plus, coworking contracts are much shorter and flexible than a traditional lease. They’re just often tied on a monthly basis as compared to having a contract which binds the company for a year at a minimum.
JLL, a consulting agency, decided to review 2,800 data from both the US and Canada in 2017. They studied this to put a real value on how much a company can save if they choose a coworking space. From their study, they were able to save around $120 to $216 per sq. ft. on fit-out costs.
Organizations say that the money saved from this kind of setup can be then used to other initiatives which can be of help to improve the company’s culture. Some of these activities may include team building activities, training and seminars, and other bonding activities which will solidify the bond of the whole team, department, and company.
Creating the Best Office Experience in Coworking Spaces
Should your company decide to shift into a modern office approach, it is essential to know what things to consider so that you can give your employees the best office experience. Giving them this kind of privilege is a need since this will result in a number of positive outcomes such as increased productivity, a better relationship with work colleagues, and low turnover. This kind of favorable mix will protect and even improve your company culture.
In an interview with Lauren Rottet of Rottet Studios regarding bringing hospitality in the office setting, she said, “There’s a cycle that is now occurring, with residential design taking inspiration from hospitality, hospitality taking from residential, and now throwing offices into the mix. The office is becoming more casual, and that is what people are looking for. (Team members) want a live-work-play environment feeling within their workspace.”
She even illustrated this kind of thinking in a hotel setup. Hotels provide their guests with different types of services and access to amenities such as the privilege to use the gym, laundry services, complimentary meals, the use of swimming pools, and wine tastings. People spend nearly the entirety of their waking hours at work, and various companies compete for the best talent to fill their company roles; thus, offices should also provide the best hospitality treatment just like what the hotel does.
With this in mind, it is vital to carefully plan which services to offer your employees to create a company culture that is responsive and supports the needs of its workers. Here are some things that you need to consider when choosing the best coworking space:
Understand How Your People Use Your Space
Designing the best office experience is not a one-size-fits-all kind of approach. As the leader of the business, you should be able to customize your plans depending on the behaviors, needs, and schedule of your team. Listed below are seven questions you can ask while you are in this stage:
1. What time do your employees go to the coworking space? Is your work culture strict on the 9-to-5 work hours or are there employees who prefer to go to work late and end late as well?
2. Does your company have regular meetings with external clients and prospects? Do the clients prefer a more formal or informal meeting? How deep is your work relationship with these groups of people?
3. What is the employee-to-desk ratio? Does everyone have their desks and spaces or do you rely on a communal and floating work setting?
4. Are there remote employees who do not need a permanent space? How often do they go to the office to visit?
5. Will the company of the coworking space you are renting allow you to tweak your areas a little bit or are they only open to minimal changes? Is there a way for you to convince them that you will be responsible for designing changes for those under your care?
6. What’s the office foundation decoration like? Is it covered with metal or are there hardwood floors instead?
7. Are there enough meeting rooms or large spaces in which you can conduct your regular meetings? Are there also spaces where you can implement some of the company’s projects?
Remember: your office space reinforces the work culture that you have inside. Understanding how your employees use your area is critical so that you can provide them with the best services and let them feel that they are adequately taken care of in the company.
Consider the Additional Amenities
It is also vital to consider the additional amenities and “cultural perks” your team can use. Having this in a work setting is critical so that they can feel that they still have their “work–life balance.” With that, here are some of the amenities you should look for when choosing the best coworking space:
– Is there a pantry there where snacks are offered and are there appliances which can make mealtime easier for the employees? There are coworking spaces which offer free breakfast at the office. What they do is that they schedule a day porter who will stock cereals, milk, and orange juice the night before so that when the employees arrive in the morning, everything is just up for grabs.
– Having a coffee maker in the office is a “must-have” for most employees. A number of coworking companies also have their staff which is in charge of coffee service. They are responsible for restocking, cleaning, and maintaining the materials needed for making coffee.
– Kitchen duties are also a headache for most employees. For them, it is a little bit stressful to clean their utensils after eating. For most coworking spaces, their solution to this dilemma is to hire a cleaner who can lend a hand when cleaning the sink, restocking snacks during the day, loading the dishwasher, and washing the utensils.
– Believe it or not, some coworking spaces also have their gyms. Their rationale for this is that they do not want to hassle their clients anymore by going back and forth from the office to the gym. They even have showers inside so they can freshen up after their workout sessions.
– One of the coworking spaces I have come across before also offers massage services. No, they do not have rooms where a massage therapist is waiting for you. What they have are three massage chairs on the corner of their space so that people can relieve themselves a little bit in between work.
– Another example must-haves of companies is a meeting room. They prefer meeting rooms which have boards on which they can write or even some technologically advanced instruments such as speakers and projectors just in case they have online meetings.
The best coworking space should have these amenities so that you can provide the best office experience.
Working in a shared space can be an avenue for the team to be inspired and be more proud of their accomplishments. How can you do this? If you are sharing a space with some neighboring companies, what you can do is to take advantage of technology. It can serve as a business tool or an extension of your business brand.
For example, you can install a television monitor on your coworking space. You can display your weekly accomplishments and work highlights here. This way, your neighboring company, along with your employees, can celebrate your wins and milestones. This extra colleague support will impact your workers and keep their confidence and morale high.
Hence, when choosing the best coworking space, make sure that they are open to ideas like these.
The layout of Your Office Space
When I say lay out your space properly, it does not mean to place different types of furniture and other kinds of services around the office. What I’m talking about is to have a creative seating arrangement and give your workers the freedom to decorate their desks at their own will.
The seating arrangement should enable your employees to collaborate and form a personal and professional bond. You can also take advantage of the open floor plan by putting their desks in a configuration to ensure that communication will thrive between them.
Make sure to tell them to decorate their desks depending on their taste and style. They have to make sure that their decorations won’t disrupt any of their co-workers and neighboring companies.
Remember: the workplace atmosphere is essential when establishing and maintaining the company culture. Therefore, when choosing the best coworking space, ensure that they will give you the freedom to at least tweak some of the layout and design of the office for you to be able to provide your workers the best working experience.
The Role of Technology in Protecting Company Culture
Once a company adopts the setting of a coworking space, it will be harder for the management to protect their company culture. Maintaining the standards of your company culture is essential since it plays a huge role from the attraction phase of potential employees to the retention of the best talents of the company. The best way to protect your corporate culture is by embracing the power of technology.
With that, here are some ways on how technology can be of help in both maintaining and improving one’s company culture.
Technology Assists in Creating a Better Career Path
Researchers have observed that having a more precise and more flexible career path leads to motivated and productive employees. A number of companies have started integrating into their employee programs some internal recruiting tools which gives their workers a more defined look at what positions are best fit for their personality and skills.
To help the human resource department with this, there are some software which can facilitate the career movement of a particular individual, provide some personality tests and other job examinations, and, eventually, give a brief report on your potential career paths.
“Millennials seek jobs where they want to go to every day, not simply where they have to go to earn a paycheck,” mentions Seek Visibility Marketing Administrator Tiffany Rowe. “Development opportunities go a long way toward filling this need for meaning. Giving employees the chance to learn and grow ensures they feel like more than just a cog in the wheel, not to mention that they have the skills they need to make a positive contribution.”
Empowering your employees and bringing transparency on possible job positions inside the company can establish a culture of opportunity in your business. At the same time, when there is high employee retention, there is a significant possibility that your employees will be able to maintain the kind of culture that you want inside your company since there won’t be a massive inflow of outsiders who might break the established corporate culture.
Technology Connects People
According to various researches, those companies which adopted coworking spaces in their new work style often have a considerable amount of remote workers. It means that in most days, the employees of the companies are not physically with each other; this is where technology comes in.
Cloud-based technologies make it easier for both employees and employers to access projects wherever they are. They also have the power to collaborate in real time. This mobility still makes the workers productive without compromising their relationship with their other work colleagues.
Some of the applications which are handy when it comes to virtual meetings are Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime. There are also a number of productivity tools which can help in easier collaboration with workmates. Examples of this include Google Drive, Trello, Slack, OneDrive, Dropbox, and ShareFile. To top these off, these collaboration tools can provide a lot of space at a low cost, so you don’t have to worry about uploading many work files there.
Technology Also Serves as a Training Platform
Companies who do not have that much space for meetings in their coworking spaces should value the power technology. It can be their training platform for their employees. Many bosses say that a well-trained workforce is a foundation and cornerstone to every business success.
Access to various training has a relation to increased work productivity, higher employee morale, lower turnover, increased job satisfaction, and more opportunities for promotion. Because of this, companies should invest in virtual training programs to be able to provide their employees with helpful tools, support, and knowledge which further promote a more positive work culture.
Some companies even stream videos, post audios, and share online contents for easier accessibility.
I recommend that you visit Skillshare, Jigsaw, and Lynda.com for a variety of options on formal and informal training. You can even make your online training videos so that you can tailor and personalize it with your workforce.
Technology Provides Rewards and Recognition
Technology provides rewards and recognition through the help of performance recognition solutions. Through the use of data analytics, establishing a legacy rewards practice can now be attained in a faster and smarter way.
“From startups to Fortune 500 companies, like Microsoft, we are seeing companies make greater investments in culture and HR analytics,” says CEO and co-founder of Disco, Jeremy Vandehey. “We believe that Disco is helping bring culture online and helping companies build an environment of positivity, which will be reflected in employee happiness, and ultimately higher quality of work.”
When you use these digital innovations strategically and effectively, it will help create a kind of work environment where your employees will feel challenged, engaged, and motivated. Hence, it is essential that every company embrace this platform as a way to protect their corporate culture.
What are the disadvantages of coworking spaces?
The number one disadvantage of applying a coworking space setup is the lack of privacy. In a collaborating area, you have to adjust to the standard in that space alongside some neighboring companies. It won’t be much of an issue in a traditional office since you can set your rules and guidelines there.
Are there successful companies now which started their operations in coworking spaces?
Believe it or not, several large companies began in the small nesting of coworking spaces. One example is Uber, a worldwide transport services provider. This company started in 2011 with only a team of 8. Because of the small number of employees they have, they decided to rent a coworking space in San Francisco. As the company upgraded its operations, it decided then to open its office since it cannot house its increasing number of employees anymore. Aside from Uber, Spotify and Instagram also used coworking spaces before becoming a household name.