What is Coworking? It Can Be “Experiential”

Ansel Liu writes about a current trend he calls “experiential coworking”: coworking spaces that offer “lifestyle-focused concepts”. This includes a variety of “experiences”, including “coliving”, travelling, and “Farmopolis”, “London’s first floating garden on Greenwich Peninsula by the Thames”

As Liu comments, this trend is partly a matter of competition, as operators of workspaces try to attract top-dollar members, and to differentiate themselves from the commodity “consumer coworking” available pretty much anywhere.

It is also a response to the need to inject/infuse/’sprinkle on’ “community”. It is widely agreed that coworking is all about “community”, and community is something that doesn’t just happen. So what do you need to do to create and sustain a vibrant community?

“Experiential” coworking applies the logic of resorts and cruise ships (in some cases, quite literally, resorts and cruises), in an effort to attract a community of workers who want to share that experience—and do a bit of work.

But Liu also points out that these approaches deliberately blur the lines between work, play, and down-time. These coworking spaces embody “a cultural shift”, the impact of which “going to be interesting”.

I have commented in the past about this blurring of work and life, which I think is profoundly destructive.  (I’m not the only one who thinks so.) I have also remarked on the implicit assumptions these spaces make about workers. As Liu says, these spaces aim to fit “the way we live now”, though the “experiences” are clearly designed for single twenty somethings employed in high paying industries.

The “we” in this case doesn’t seem to include older workers, parents, or poor people—which is the bulk of the workforce.

Finally, I note that many of the most successful (and beloved) organizers of coworking communities have substantially different views about how to create and sustain “community”. I have blogged about Tony Bacigalupo, [1], Alex Hillman [2], and Lori Kane [3], all of whom have a much more laid back notion of “community”. (Hillman explicitly condemns a “cruise director” mentality, which he believes does not work for very long.) For that matter, large chains such as NextSpace, WeWork, and Seats2Meet offer similar “experiences”, without the more exotic  “resort” features.

Of course, one of the main features of coworking is that it is very diverse, and the same basic idea can be realized in many ways. This means that workers can have an opportunity to choose their work environment, and can change workplaces as they prefer.

(Liu says there are over 1,000 coworking spaces in London alone, and he is actually in business to help workers select “their perfect coworking environment”.)

If the secret to coworking is that there is no one right way to do it, then these “experiential” places are a good idea, but scarcely the only good idea.

  1. Tony Bacigalupo, No More Sink Full of Mugs. 2015, No More Sink Full of Mugs: New York. https://sellfy.com/p/IBtB/
  2. Alex Hillman, To build a strong community, stop “community managing”, be a Tummler instead., in Alex Hillman. 2014. http://dangerouslyawesome.com/2014/04/community-management-tummling-a-tale-of-two-mindsets/
  3. Lori Kane, T. Borchardt, and B. de Baar, Reimagination Stations: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space, Lori Kane, 2015. https://books.google.com/books?id=ybFCrgEACAAJ
  4. Liu, Ansel (2016) Is experiential coworking the next big thing? New Worker Magazine,  http://newworker.co/mag/experiential-coworking-trend/


What is Coworking?

Note:  please stay tuned for my new ebook, “What is Coworking”, coming early in 2017.

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