Coworking spaces: creating engagement and community

Coworking spaces: creating engagement and community

There is more to coworking than
just a nice space.

On my podcast, Work Life By Design, I recently caught up with Jonathan O’Byrne who founded the Collective Works coworking spaces in Singapore.


To declare my bias early on: I’m a huge fan of coworking spaces and I’d love to design one someday (it’s on my to-do list). I’ve chosen Hub Brisbane as the home for COMUNiTI because I love its heritage features, its light-filled spaces and the way Hub incorporates elements of domestic design.

I talked to Jonathan about how coworking spaces are putting people at the forefront of design; something we at COMUNiTI are passionate about. The win-win nature of customer-centric design meant that when Johnathan began designing spaces that people loved working in, their businesses thrived and so did his. I’ve gathered together some important points from my chat with Johnathan about designing a space with people in mind and the benefits of the coworking environment.

It’s all about flexibility and user experience

Coworking spaces emerged with the rise of the freelancer, the fledgling startup, the solopreneur; agile groups for whom a standard commercial lease didn’t make sense. When you can’t predict with any certainty what your business will look like in 12 months, let alone 5 years, you need a high level of flexibility when it comes to your workspace and costs.

Jonathan saw this trend emerging in Singapore and sought to fill the gap in the market for workspaces to focus on flexibility and user experience.

For many businesses renting a coworking space is the perfect solution because it gives them access to everything they need, without a large capital outlay- it’s the sweet spot between cost, inclusions and commitment.

Taking a coworking space is more than just renting a couple of offices or desks in an open workspace; it’s access to several hundred square metres of common spaces, lounge areas, a kitchen or café space, a mailbox, bathrooms, various sized meeting rooms, state of the art technology, and sometimes flashy extras like an on-site gym and wellness rooms. It’s this, the full workplace experience, that gets people through the doors.

More than this, for those with future growth goals, coworking provides flexibility. A business has the option to scale up and down their lease arrangement month by month,or get better rates with longer term leases, something that just isn’t possible by the nature of a traditional lease agreement.

Image: Hub Australia

What are the benefits of coworking?

Once reserved for the creative industries, coworking is now the domain of the even the most traditional of industries; resources, law, accounting, you name it. The benefits are many, and not all commercial.

Coworking = networking

There’s a certain energy about the workspace that fosters interactions between people. Think of the chance encounter while waiting for a coffee that turns into a new referral or a business collaboration. Those discussions don’t happen as naturally when we’re isolated from other businesses, but in a coworking space it’s all part of the experience.

Property management is all taken care of

Maintenance, Wi-Fi networks and IT infrastructure, cleaning services, a receptionist, and even stocking the fridge with milk is all taken care of and included in one regular, predictable fee.

High end fit outs and stunning interior design (without the capital outlay)

This is the best bit. Considered design is essential for employee satisfaction, happiness, health and morale. Coworking allows everyone to access beautiful, collaborative and activity-based design, which has a real impact on employee outcomes and the bottom line. Your clients will be impressed too; no more coffee shop meetings.

You belong

It can get lonely building a business at the kitchen table. Where you decide to establish your workspace can say a lot about who you are as a business; who you are now, and who you want to be in the future. A community of like-minded people working alongside each other makes for an enjoyable workplace experience. It’s a place to be social (when you want to) and to find a community that’s supportive of your goals.

When you choose a coworking space, you are joining a community
How to decide which coworking space is right for you – Jonathan’s Tips

First, it’s important to visit a few coworking spaces to see which one feels like you.

A coworking space needs to capture the combination of the culture that you feel, and the image that you want your business to project.

Your venue host should be aiming to establish:

>> Who you are
>> What you do
>> How you work
>> About your company culture
>> What your team needs now, and in the future

Coworking spaces can accommodate the entire customer life cycle, from sole-trader to a company of 100 people or more, your business can grow rapidly without having to move offices.; you can simply take on more space as you grow.

You also need to feel a connection to the people and the space so you should be asking your host:
>> Who works here?
>> How long have they been here?
>> What events do you run?
>> And even – why did they, the host, decide to work for the coworking company (this says a lot about workplace culture)

Don’t be afraid of being in a coworking space with other businesses in your field. Most likely, they’ll be a similar business with their own niche, separate from yours. In fact, they’re likely to refer clients to each other when a lead isn’t the right fit.

A community of thriving small businesses

Jonathan built a multi-million dollar coworking business by understanding what his customers needed, and giving them what they want. A significant part of the service was making sure people felt engaged with their work community. Relationships, referrals and collaborations evolved naturally.

It just goes to show, when you put people at the forefront of a workspace design, their businesses thrive.

Work Life By Design Podcast_Melissa Marsden


There’s so much more to this story;  listen to the full podcast episode here, or search for Work Life By Design on your favourite podcast app.

About Jonathan O’Byrne

Jonathan O’Byrne is the founder and CEO of the Collective Works coworking space in Singapore . Jonathan’s book, Coworking Inc. is about how coworking has grown and disrupted our relationships with our built environment. It’s a great read – check it out.

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