At the end of April, our Founder & CEO Claire Carpenter was delighted to attend Europe’s first coworking conference since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Here, she gives us a round-up of the key themes and learnings that made an impression from this 2-day event.
Spain had only just opened up from all restrictions a few days before this conference, so it was very well timed! It felt exciting to be going, even with the early start, and being in a big queue at the airport was very novel! I loved being in a plane again – not for the face masks obviously, but to once again be able look out at the earth below and how that makes me think of places, and humans, and what’s happening…
Once there, it was surprisingly ‘normal’ to be back at an in-person event. I’d only just been to Spain earlier on in our winter (#vanlife, #remotework), so I felt very much ‘at home’ being in Spain, and enjoying visiting Valencia – a city I’d never been too.
It was truly lovely to see/smell/touch people I’ve known, in some cases, for well over 12 years. We’ve met online in different forums over these past 2 years and discussed the rollercoaster that is Covid lockdowns and coworking!
We were all excited and happy about being together in person, and were each touched by people’s willingness to travel again, to be ‘at risk’ for this event. It was a re-uniting. We were very open to share our own personal and professional stories of the past couple of years. I think understanding and doing business is a relational activity, and humans need time together to relate well. So, it meant a lot to give and receive attention.
It’s Spain – so you can imagine, it was all about the chat, the food, the socials. The Spanish really are a very warm and easy-going bunch. But at the end of each day, and the week, I/we were all knackered – unused to so much intense socialising!
I’ve now had a chance to reflect on all that I learnt over those brilliant, information-packed days, so here are the things that really stood out to me and I’ll be thinking about for The Melting Pot, and our consultancy offering, Coworking Accelerator.
What I learnt at Coworking Spain Conference 2022
1. Competition to provide ‘flex-workspaces’ is going to explode as businesses are hungry to get footfall back into ‘their space’ and ‘engage’ with them. This includes: banks, hotels, employers, retailers and commercial estate owners (landlords).
2. The rules of our engagement have changed. Yes, people have missed being with people. But we’re no longer willing to do what we used to do, and can’t cope with the human interactions. This is manifest in hybrid working becoming popularised, and folks being really picky about which in-person events get their attention. Quality not quantity is the way forwards.
3. Us old-timers may have heard it all before, but coworking is still in its infancy. Although I’ve spent over 18 years leading and engaging in the coworking scene, to others, it’s a new dawn and full of opportunity like in the early years of timeshare. There’s fresh blood – organisations, investors and people tuning into the established coworking scene looking for gold (and, “just how do you actually build community, please?”)
4. Size does matter. ‘Rural’ coworking (or just small-scale) hubs are never going to make any money! They’re a lifestyle business. Look instead for what’s in it for the local economy. For instance, make a ‘freelancers agency hub’ part of your offering by seeking members who can form a loose association of complementary talents that could pitch together for projects. That’s what we did in the early days of The Melting Pot.
5. Scaling is the Number 1 challenge for all businesses, including coworking businesses. Whether that’s going from 500 sq.m to 2000 sq.m, or going from 2 to 20 hubs in your own network. It’s how to get the right people involved that can together build your dreams. Luckily, there’s a heap of people now interested in working in this scene to help you do that.
If you’re a business or charity that wants to set up your own coworking hub, find out how we can support you – from designing a floorplan, to setting up operational systems, to creating community, we can help you figure everything out. Visit our consultancy site, Coworking Accelerator >>