Coworking spaces have emerged as one of the places where independent workers and small startups choose to work
Coworking is enabled by ubiquitous digital technology, which makes it possible for workers to “bring your own device”, and to work from pretty much anywhere.
The same technology has enabled office managers to operate not only anywhere, but at very small scales. From the point of view of the operator, the challenge of coworking is to be able to slice up workspace into one worker pieces, and very short time periods. Some coworking spaces are willing to rent a single desk for an hour at at time.
This granularity, and a desire to offer an array of packages, means that the office management must be extremely efficient and inexpensive. These processes have been automated for decades, of course, But now there are an increasing number of packages designed for the lowest budget operations, including coworking spaces.
Not only can workers work anywhere, it’s pretty easy to set up almost any space to be a rental workspace.
For example, Andy Alsop of “The Receptionist.com” (maker of office management products) wrote about the “5 Best Coworking Office Space Management Software Solutions”  .His list gives us an idea of the tasks that are commonly needed.
The five products listed may be a bit out of date, there will surely be many more entries in the intervening years.
But the important thing is, what do coworking space operators need?
The basic core is managing memberships and payments. The latter is a straightforward billing/invoicing task. The former combines elements of property leasing with customer relations, and different tools offer different features for this.
Nexudus (one of the biggest players) manages stuff like events, newsletters, and also printers and so on. Optix also has member-to-member messaging (redundant with Facebook etc.?) and a market for desk space. Coworkify has sales and marketing features (i.e., for recruiting members to fill the desks). Happy Desk has wifi network management and door access features.
All of the systems are designed to be sold or leased at low cost to even the smallest operator.
I note that this article is in the blog of The Receptionist, a company that makes “The Receptionist for iPad”, a “versatile, effective and easy-to-use visitor management system available”. This suite of features includes annoying stuff like logging visitors to your office, integrated with deeper annoying features that connect these logs with security or sales data bases. All on an iPad connected to cloud services.
Overall, it is clear that complex business office processes are available to pretty much anyone.
In the case of the products that are specialized for coworking, the business features are combined with social features (e.g., mail and chat groups), PR stuff (event management, “customer relationship” stuff), and technical managements (wifi, doors, printers).
This job is harder than I realized.
But the best thing about these products, to my mind, is that they enable a good community leader to provide professional quality business services with relatively little effort. This frees time and energy for the most important part, schmoozing, connecting, teaching, and listening.
- Andy Alsop, 5 Best Coworking Office Space Management Software Solutions, in The Receptionist – Blog. 2015. https://thereceptionist.com/5-best-coworking-space-management-software-solutions/
What is Coworking?
Note: please stay tuned for my new ebook, “What is Coworking”, coming in 2017.