What my 2 month trip around Europe taught me about coworking and coliving
During the last 2 months, I have been living the location independant lifestyle wandering around Europe (and even more), hopping from coworking to coliving spaces.
I thought that would be of a great inspiration before working on my own coworking and coliving space project in the French Alps. And it was!
Here is what I learnt from this experience.
1. Every space is (very) different
That is the beauty of it! Whoever you are and whatever you like, there will be a space for you. Say you absolutely need to have great views over the ocean to be inspired, you could not work in a place where you can’t walk barefoot, you must switch from a standard desk to a standing desk regularly (and vice-versa), you like to have your dog nearby, you want an ideal environment to meet a lot of people or a space just 1 minute away from the beach or the ski slopes? These criteria are met in very different spaces, and you will hardy find a very personal mandatory condition which none of the coworking or coliving spaces matches.
2. Coworking is not just working in the same place and coliving is not just sharing a flat
Well, if it is, I really wonder about the experience people get… What really makes people want to use coworking or coliving spaces is the community around them. Creating and keeping this community alive is definitely the role of the coworking or coliving space manager, as a community will hardly be self managed. This involves welcoming people the right way, planning social or business related events, making sure nobody is set aside and more generally trying to make people give the best of themselves and enjoy the best experience they could get. Yes, that’s a tough job!
3. Working and living in the same building makes all the difference
There is a huge difference in terms of community where the coworking and coliving space are in the same building compared to where they are not. Working and living in the same place make anybody know the people around quicker and better. It usually implies sharing a bigger and nicer space than being in a separate appartment with 2 or 3 other people, and the group dynamics are also very different.
4. There is a market for premium coliving
There are many different profiles of people who are looking for coliving spaces. Yes, there are students on a tight budget, people just seizing the digital nomad trend as well as others in a transition between two different careers. And these people may look for basic options or cheap destinations. But there are also established freelancers or remote workers for big companies who may need higher standards, better quality or top-end destinations. And very few options are available for them in Europe at the moment.
5. The more options, the more people
Having many similar coworking or coliving spaces in a specific area might be an issue if they answer the exact same needs and don’t differ from one another. Instead of that, having spaces providing different options may attract various kind of people, which also means more people. Competition turns into complementarity and the whole area benefits from the collaboration between the spaces.
6. It is not worth saving on basic needs
There are a few basic requirements in a coworking and coliving space, which absolutely need to be addressed. The internet connection is probably the most important of them, but comfortable chairs and beds, coffee quality and cleanliness are also very important to many people. Investing in quality hardware to make sure people can count on reliable equipment regarding these essential features is absolutely mandatory. Having to buy a 4G sim card to overcome an unstable wifi connection or having to come early to pick up one of the non broken chairs is definitely not an option.
7. Community is what makes people want to come back
It is already very good if location independant workers come to a coworking or coliving space. But that is even better if they come back again! Yes, they enjoyed the weather, the small village atmosphere, the surfing or the skiing, but they could also get that somewhere else. They will come back if they had a blast, and this usually comes from the people they met. Building a community of like-minded people is hard, but it is the key to a sustainable coworking or coliving space!
8. Clear rules have to be defined
Living with other people can become a nightmare if everybody applies their own rules. Bringing a pet in a coworking or coliving space is a real problem for those who are allergic and spending the whole morning on a skype call or forgeting dirty mugs in the sink may bother other coworkers. Rules have to be clear at the time people book, and reminded when they arrive to avoid unnecessary friction.
9. Short term and long term stays
Keeping a communiy of people sharing a similar lifestyle also means making sure that some of them are not just on holidays while others are working very hard. Sharing a coliving makes sense if everybody wants to be involved in the community. On the other hand, it is nice to have people pushing for social events but partying everyday is not possible when you need to wake up early in the mornings… Sometimes, people staying for a few days are more likely to enjoy the area and the activities around and tend not to work too much. On the contrary, people staying for a month or more are usually mainly working, and have no rush in enjoying the local activities. Mixing both kind of stays and people is fine as long as the group atmosphere remains.