First, we asked what coworking operators love to do in their job. Then we asked what they do most often. Spoiler alert: they are not the same thing.
The coworking space operator experience by the numbers: a survey
Coworking has seen quite the evolution over the last decade. But what's the experience actually like for those running these spaces day-to-day? How do these managers and directors spend their day within their communities — is it doing the things they want to do or that they have to do?
As the year wrapped up, the Coworks team surveyed dozens of coworking operators and community managers to get an inside perspective. Here’s what we wanted to know.
What are the top priorities and pain points for coworking operators and managers?
To start, when asked about their favorite aspects of the job, most respondents pointed to interacting with members. Whether it's onboarding new members, solving problems, or chatting over coffee, these personal connections seem to be the most rewarding. As one operator put it, "I love getting to know our members on a personal level and helping their businesses thrive." Community building is a top priority for many space managers.
After member relationships, marketing and operational tasks like billing and contracts took up large portions of the operators' time. Most found facility management like cleaning and maintenance to be fairly straightforward. Though juggling these varied responsibilities does lead to occasional frustrations — over half named issues with technology or budget limitations as their biggest pain points.
Lead generation and member engagement
To continually attract new members, free space tours and email marketing were considered the most effective tactics by respondents. Referrals from current members also went a long way. When it came to member engagement, facilitating personal introductions led to the most fruitful connections. Thoughtful spotlights on members via email or social media were also popular. These engagement efforts help coworking spaces stand out from traditional offices.
Exploring new amenities and offerings
The majority of spaces offered basic amenities like meeting rooms, dedicated desks, event venues, and business services like printing and WiFi. However, many operators hoped to add more integrated tech features like door access, digital mailboxes, and virtual offices in the future. More unique offerings like podcast studios, childcare, and wellness classes were further down on the wishlist.
While layouts and aesthetics varied, these operators worked hard to create welcoming, productive environments for their members. One manager summed it up: "I love that we give entrepreneurs an uplifting place to work and collaborate. We're so much more than just an office!"
Curating the coworking member experience
Of course, the coworking movement is focused around members and their experience. 93% of coworking members report improved productivity and creativity since joining a collaborative space (2). 70% also experience a sense of community in their workspace they didn't have previously (3).
What draws people to coworking ranges widely - from solopreneurs craving social connection to enterprise teams desiring a branded space without huge overhead costs. In fact, 29% of coworking members are independent freelancers or solopreneurs, while 26% are small teams from larger companies (4).
No matter their size or industry, members choose coworking for flexibility, networking, inspiration, and productivity they can't find in a traditional office setting. Coworking operators enable those benefits through thoughtful space design, community cultivation, and member experience orchestration.
Looking into the future of coworking
While recent years have seen plenty of coworking growth, COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 led to temporary space closures and dropdowns in occupancy globally. However, the flexible workspace model has proven resilient. Surveys show both operators and members see coworking playing an integral role in the post-pandemic workplace (5).
And by 2024, global coworking spaces are expected to serve 5 million members (6). More enterprises are exploring hybrid workplace models for their employees as well. Clearly, coworking remains a relevant and growing trend in the emerging landscape of work.
Behind the scenes, space operators and community managers will continue serving as gracious hosts to a diverse mix of companies and solopreneurs. And in turn, members will keep fueling innovative cultures of creativity and collaboration. It's these social connections that seem the most meaningful for both groups when it comes to the coworking experience.