Someone pinged me on LinkedIn the other day. It was a franchise owner of a large commercial real estate-based workspace company here in Dallas. He mentioned that he was working on converting an office building into a more flexible, functional coworking space.
I wrote back and said, “Well, hey! When it’s time to animate that space, I’m your gal.”
His response? “Animating a coworking space … I’m not familiar with this.”
“Animating” a Coworking Space?
What does animating a coworking or other community space look like?
Well, the LinkedIn exchange about this reminded me of the time I was asked by a consultant to meet with him at the Dallas Cowboys coworking space. This was pre-pandemic, so on the day of our appointment, I drove there for our meeting.
Right away, I ran into a little bit of a hurdle: I couldn’t figure out where to park.
Or how to get in.
All of it was very confusing. (Priya Parker would be appalled.)
But eventually I got my bearings and went in, and oh my wow, the space was just gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful. Fine finishings everywhere. A spectacular view.
There was a fancy coffee bar with dedicated barista, along with multiple staff members at a very large front reception desk.
The place was absolutely empty.
The consultant and I met for a little while, but the space where we sat had heavy metal music playing that was VERY LOUD. (So loud.) We had to move twice before landing in a spot that wasn’t right under a speaker with this banging music, and where we didn’t have to raise our voices to talk.
We’d been there for quite a while when I excused myself to go to the restroom. I walked past all the marble, all this beautiful glass and leather. And I walked into the bathroom, and sat down to take care of my business.
Lo and behold: NO toilet paper.
None on the wall within reach. None in a cabinet.
So I managed and eventually got out of there. Then I found one of the many, many staffers that had been around, and let them know about the lack of toilet paper. (They were very nice, and said thanks for letting them know.)
When Your Space Goes to Waste
The thing I noticed while I explored this gorgeous, finely-furnished space: none of the staff ever approached us to offer water or a yummy drinks from the fun coffee bar in the space. Nothing like that.
When I was ready to go no one in the reception area talked with me. I stood there for quite a while waiting for the elevator.
Three staffers were at their computers, right in front of me. I mean, not even six feet in front of me, staring into their computers, and not a single one of them acknowledged that I was hanging around, or that I was about to leave.
No “have a nice day,” or “here’s my business card, please let me know the next time you want to come in.”
As beautiful as the place was, there was no life to it.
That’s what I mean when we’re talking about animating a space. It’s putting as much of your budget, time, and attention into the people who are present in your space, as you do the furniture.
It’s More Than the Furniture
Community animation means noticing the most minute, mundane details that make people feel comfortable in a space. Especially the toilet paper.
Animating a coworking space is even more than greeting people at the door, although I recommend having at least one dedicated greeter to create an inviting experience.
Community animation is also about the events in a coworking space. It’s the intentionality around your programming, so that members can participate more fully. It’s creating opportunities for your coworkers: opportunities that accelerate serendipity and connection between community members.
Community animation helps to ensure we do our part, daily, in dismantling the loneliness that plagues so many people. Community animation is what elevates an executive office suite with sexy couches into a truly successful coworking space.
Because people are always more important than furniture.
Learn more about community animation and find resources over at Big Table.