A forensic worker picking up evidence around a body chalk line - workplace culture concept
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Companies have been increasingly turning towards shared coworking spaces over leasing dedicated office space. In fact, the demand for flexible workspace solutions by corporate clients increased by 21% in 2018 alone. Shared workspaces, however, have made building a distinct company culture more challenging.

We’ve asked business leaders of companies leveraging shared coworking spaces why company culture matters. They also shared their best advice for building company culture in shared spaces.

How Coworking Spaces Blur the Lines of Company Culture

“Working from home, or working solo when you're a remote employee can be highly challenging for a lot of people,” suggested Jackie Minchillo, co-founder & president of Pineapple Development. That’s why many employees or entire company teams turn to shared workspaces to improve productivity by leveraging a more formal work environment.

These workspaces — like traditional corporate offices — typically develop their own culture. “People want to feel like they are a part of something,” stated Casey McCarty, CEO of Idea Foundry. In many cases, however, employees feel more part of the culture of the coworking space than the company they work for.

Minchillo agreed, “Culture is important because if you go somewhere and are surrounded by people, but still feel like you're operating from a deserted island, it doesn't do anyone much good.” The problem is that there are many companies, teams and independent contractors at coworking spaces that have vastly different goals. There may be like-minded people there, but other coworkers are not trying to achieve the same company mission, which can still be isolating for remote employees.

“When in a coworking space,” said Kenny Trinh, CEO & managing editor of Netbook News, “it’s much more likely that your culture will be influenced by other companies as well.” And many times, these are negative influences that foster envy and annoyance rather than positive outcomes. Trinh says, for example, employees may become jealous that your company isn’t as fun as another company at the shared workspace, or your employees may struggle to concentrate if other teams are too loud. That’s why he believes that if you don’t fight to build a strong company culture from day one, the lack of unity will lower team morale and productivity in the long run.

This is mainly because managing projects can become more challenging if companies don’t have a unified company culture. “It can sometimes be harder to know what everyone is working on and can make communication more difficult, particularly between teams and if you have employees who hot-desk,” added Alex Dyer, CEO and founder of Tutor House.

Related Article: 8 Ways to Support a Customer-Obsessed Culture

How to Build a Coworking Space-Proof Company Culture

While the value of a company culture that’s distinct from the coworking culture may be obvious, building a remote company culture isn’t always straightforward. Here is some advice from business leaders currently using shared workspaces.

Plan Company Meetups

Dyer recommends you “make sure that everyone understands and is onboard with the company goals and ethos.” You can reinforce this with company meetings and social events separate from activities planned by the coworking space. “We’ve found that weekly stand ups, as well as daily check-ins, are really helpful,” he added, “and also give us the opportunity to reinforce company morals, aims and priorities — key components of the office culture.”

Provide Multiple Work Environments

Minchillo believes having a division of space works well. They have areas for collaboration, conversation, quiet, or phone calls. “Everyone has a space,” she said. And this makes remote employees more comfortable and productive because they have the freedom to work alone or together as a team whenever they want. You’re not forcing company culture like a traditional corporate setting, but letting it develop organically.

Have a Dedicated Company Workspace

While having many areas to work from is great, Trinh believes having a dedicated area for your specific company is also critical. He describes this dedicated workplace as “A place where everyone sits close to each other, ideally with a lower than eye-level wall (or glass) around so they can still see other companies, not too high that it makes your employees feel suffocated.” That way, employees can collaborate with each other without being influenced too heavily by other coworkers.

Strike a Balance Between Company and Coworking Culture

“If handled well, co-working allows for quick collaboration but also downtime and the opportunity to work individually on completing tasks which are rewarding and beneficial,” Dyer said. Building a distinct company culture is essential, but remote employees will value freedom and the local community as well. 

“Coworking spaces shouldn’t just be a place to put your computer,” said McCarty. These spaces can provide a network of like-minded workers, while still fostering collaboration toward achieving your company’s mission. That’s why it’s critical for companies that leverage a shared workspace to strike a good balance between the company and coworking space cultures.