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Guest contributor Lauren Rabindranath shares what she’s learned about creating a supportive coworking community through her time as a digital nomad and as a Community Manager.

Impact Hub Viadukt — Zürich, Switzerland

Being a Community Manager is no easy task. It requires connecting the basic concept of shared workspace to the varied interests and experiences of your members. One specific group many Community Managers find difficult to understand? Digital nomads. Establishing a space that supports these remote workers will allow your community to flourish. With a little understanding and some simple techniques, you can create a community that’s welcoming not only for long-term members but for digital nomads, too.

I understand the mindset of the remote worker because up until recently, I was one myself. If I had to put my last year in numbers, it would be something like this: 6.5 months, 10 countries, 19 flights, and over 800 blog posts, web pages, and eBooks. Last year was a personal experiment in adventure. It meant establishing a routine as a remote worker and getting clear on what made my ideal workspace. Of course, the answer to that question is different for everyone. I learned what that meant for me through paying attention to what worked and what didn’t for each of the many coworking spaces I visited. When I returned home, I became a Community Manager for a local coworking space, The Station. Managing a local community has given me a new appreciation for what it takes to foster a welcoming, supportive coworking community.

In my experiences as a digital nomad and a Community Manager, I’ve seen it from both sides. Here’s what I’ve discovered it takes to build a coworking community that supports the needs of a diverse group of individuals.

The Distillery — Brno, Czech Republic

Leave a great first impression

When you travel, you enter a lot of new spaces. Over time, you pick up an ability to quickly evaluate the energy and functionality of a space. And first impressions matter. I’ve found that natural light, cleanliness, comfortable chairs, and speedy wifi are some of the most important features. How else can your space reflect your members and support their work? Make it a point to wow new members with regular check-ins. This gives you an opportunity to ensure your shared office is working for them. It also gives you an opportunity to gather feedback on how to improve your space.

Finally, ensure the atmosphere is welcoming, clean, and functional. This will allow your community to focus on being productive. Smart interior design can be a catalyst for organic collaboration. It can also help balance work and play without causing disruption to busy workers.

Create flexible membership tiers

Making local connections is a huge draw as a digital nomad. But getting locked into a restrictive membership contract is a major turn-off. Freelancers value the choice and control afforded by their contract work. This means if you’re looking to appeal to this group, you’ll need to offer them flexibility. Explore new membership options that could open your doors to new visitors. Do you offer drop-in or one-week passes? Do out-of-towners visiting for meetings have an option to stay and work at a desk for the afternoon?

The Station — Toronto, Canada

What gets freedom-loving freelancers in the door is simple. You must provide a variety of access options and create solutions that meet your intended community’s needs. The right variety will not only add value for digital nomads. It will also help create a more dynamic space for regular members and guests to enjoy.

Offer opportunities for members to connect socially and professionally

One of the best things about coworking is the opportunity to make new contacts. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the reasons many people love traveling. If you’re hoping to develop a stronger reach and impact for your space, start by looking inward. Know your members’ roles, problems, and strengths so that you can connect like minds (or opposites) to create their own magic. Hosting events will bring a lot of new faces in the door, boost awareness, and create more services. Next, look outwards to find new opportunities, relevant events, and strong connections that will support your members’ growth. You can become a resource and should strive to connect others to maximize the impact of your community as a whole.

Infuse accountability into your culture

Disconnection, excuses, and distractions are easy to come by when you’re self-employed. This is especially true while traveling, as the wonders and flavors of a new place are at your beck and call. It can be hard to focus on work when your new friends are headed to the beach and you’re stuck seeking out strong wifi.

This is where coworking comes in. Offering regular events, braintrusts, and social events can create accountability through sharing. Asking someone what they’re working on is a natural way to create accountability between members.

The Hatch — Indianapolis, USA

At The Station, we host bi-weekly Design Discussions that often end with the question, “What do you want to accomplish by this time next week?” It can spark a little anxiety, but also results in honest sharing. This in turn leads to results, when it comes time to deliver on self-imposed deadlines.

Support mental health

Entrepreneurs are usually workaholics, plain and simple. Digital nomads are no different. There are always more places to visit and there is always more work to be done. Creating a space that encourages balance and making room for fun is important. It helps workaholics take better care of themselves, which is an essential component of avoiding burnout.

Integrate event programming and wellness experiences into the weekly schedule. Social potlucks or community yoga/meditation classes are simple ways to get people away from their computers. While individuals join a coworking space to get work done, the real value comes from building a connection to the community. Provide them those opportunities to unwind and connect.

SeekU — Los Angeles, USA

Above all else: listen, listen, listen

Sometimes, the best advice is the most simple. What’s the most important thing you can do? Pay attention. Being aware and taking note of what matters to your members goes a long way. It allows you to provide relevant services. This way, you can curate, grow, and foster a supportive, authentic coworking community. These types of communities are where ideas are born, businesses grow, and people come together in meaningful ways. And that’s powerful.

About the author

Lauren Rabindranath is a Community Manager and Freelance Copywriter who specializes in digital marketing content. She has worked remotely while travelling to over 20 countries. Currently, Lauren works from (and for) The Station, a coworking space for creative freelancers in Toronto, Canada. Her passions include arts and culture, placemaking, and developing strong local connections for a positive impact. Connect with her on Twitter @laurenxrab and be sure to read her previous ShareDesk article, Why Coworking “Works” for Digital Nomads.