by Mara Savina Falstein
As the Content and Community Manager for ShareDesk, I have conversations with coworking space managers regularly. I particularly love talking to managers who’ve seen coworking transform from a fringe movement into a worldwide phenomenon. These broader conversations help remind me why we do what we do, and how. Because my company offers coworking management software, we often end up chatting about perceptions of software management tools. Over time, I’ve come to see a distinct divide regarding the adoption of technology specifically designed for coworking.
Last June, I was meeting with a coworking space founder for the first time. He runs a few different spaces and has been in the coworking world for several years. We spoke about the different software companies that serve coworking spaces. We discussed how each company looks to tackle the problems faced by coworking managers from a different angle. It surprised me to discover that he didn’t use any coworking software to help run his space. His mind was long made up. He was quick to assure me that just because it wasn’t right for him didn’t mean it wasn’t right for others. He’d decided that software just didn’t have a place in his particular business.
I’ve had many conversations with coworking managers who embrace technology designed for coworking. But there is a small, distinctive minority who stand out. This group often seems much more closed off to embracing this technology. Why?
It’s not that they have a problem with technology per se; they can see how these tools add value to coworking spaces. Many of their friends and fellow founders swear by the technology that helps them run their space and they respect that. But they don’t think they stand to gain enough to warrant transitioning to a new system. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze. Many have stuck with a management system they’ve cobbled together themselves over the years. And heck, starting a coworking space back when coworking was but a fringe movement, that was the only option. But now times have changed. We are in a golden age of coworking, and a plethora of tools exist to make it easier.
This resistance to tech surprises me. These community-first managers are early adopters. They helped build this movement from scratch with no template. Traditional workspaces didn’t serve them, so they started their own. They recognized that just because it had always been done a certain way, didn’t mean that that way was right. And yet they seem uninterested in incorporating coworking management software into their space.
They’ve spent years working out a system that lets them run their space. They have a process for onboarding their members. They have a different system for tracking their invoices for new and ongoing clients. They have a process for how to use their shared meeting spaces. Their systems might be spread across multiple platforms, but at the end of the day it works for them.
But for a moment, consider a desk. This desk is covered in papers. A handful of post-it notes sits nearby, so overused they’ve lost their stickiness. You open the drawers to discover jumbles of tools, yet more papers, some file folders. This desk is a mess, right? But wait! The owner of the desk appears, and he insists that if you ask him where something is, he’ll be able to produce it for you instantly. And he’s right. It’s like a magic trick. To the naked eye, it’s a pile of chaotic disrepair, but to the desk owner, it’s a system. He knows where everything is because it’s right where he left it. You might not understand the system, but it works for him and that’s all that matters.
Now consider that our “organized chaos” desk owner has to step away from his desk. Perhaps he needs to handle a family emergency or is scheduled to attend a conference out of town. What then? His complex system has him tethered to his desk because his system is just that – his.
The great irony is that coworking began as a quest for freedom from the shackles of the traditional office. However, many managers leave themselves almost literally chained to their space. They become a slave to the proverbial messy desk while they work to provide location independence for their members.
In an industry raised on bucking the status quo, we should all be searching for ways to work better. Why not let technology take care of the automation-friendly aspects of coworking management? Technology lets business leaders balance their life, helps them focus more on their people. It allows them to regain the work/life balance they sacrificed while getting their business off the ground. Creating a new system does mean changing old habits, learning something new. But you’ll still know where everything is. The difference is that now others will, too. Suddenly, delegating will become easier as you have a language to train others to help you.
When you have a language, you can teach your process to others. Then you free up the mental energy needed to be an active listener in your community without the buzzing of menial tasks crowding your brain.
Building a strong, thriving community only happens when you have the time and mental energy to listen. Technology is a thriving industry because it’s created to serve a need. Do you run your space without management technology? I’d love to hear how and why in the comments. Let’s start a dialogue. At the end of the day, we have the same goal. Let’s elevate coworking together.