Freelancers, startups and SMEs are increasingly choosing to base their business in a coworking space, which gives them access to everything they might need to carry out their work, such as furniture, WiFi, meeting rooms - even a kitchen or cafeteria in many instances - without having to deal with the overheads involved in renting an entire office. Coworking also gives them a chance to be part of a community of restless minds in which business collaborations are forged and one’s contact network can expand.
Coworking is even a growing trend among employees of large multinationals who only require a laptop and a decent Internet connection for their job. After all, what "eats" a worker’s time and money more than anything else? The commute to the office of course, and what’s the incentive to do that if you can work from a coworking space that is just 5 minutes’ away from your home?
For reasons like this, working in shared offices is trendier than ever, and the demand for this kind of places has skyrocketed globally. Naturally, this impacts on how these spaces are run - and there is potential for things to get complicated. To discover the best practices and management tools of these new workspaces, we interviewed 7 of the best coworking spaces in Barcelona: Betahaus, MOB, Cloud Coworking, HUB50, atta33, itnig y Talent Garden.
This post is also available in Spanish.
How to best manage a coworking space?
Opened in 2012, betahaus can be considered one of the oldest and seasoned coworking spaces in Barcelona, and is one of the city’s leading examples of this type of arrangement. According to founder Edu Forte, the future of coworking is twofold: some spaces will evolve toward being more of a 'open space' model, focused on "the self-employed, small teams and entrepreneurs with strong added value in the community." However, other spaces are becoming more informal, but "focused on the 'private, individual workspace' with shared common areas for SMEs with a slightly more corporate profile."
The top 3 management practices that Forte would recommend to anyone wanting to embark on the adventure of opening a coworking space are:
- Prioritize what is vital for your user.
- Evaluate services offered and constantly improve them.
- Identify and focus on the added value of your space.
MOB is another benchmark coworking space, whose members are identified with the maker movement (hence its name - Makers Of Barcelona). Operations manager Olga Permanyer believes that coworking spaces have already shown their potential to be "a giant talent pool without labels," making it possible for professionals from different disciplines to share their skills, fostering creativity and co-creation at the same time.. According to Olga, "these spaces are a reflection of a reality that is both multidisciplinary and discontinuous.”
Olga lists the following top 3 management practices of a coworking space as the following:
- Simplify and facilitate access to meeting rooms.
- Create a safe environment because "many spaces allow people to casually drop in and out on a daily basis."
- Try to maintain a balance between professionalism and friendship among users and staff.
As management tools, MOB uses Cobot for the booking and charging of rooms, Slack for internal communications and Trello for organizing tasks.
Located in an attic with spectacular terrace, Cloud Coworking offers desks as well as private offices for up to 8 people. Co-founder Sergi Tarragona believes that coworking reflects a new viable approach to working which not only saves money, but also offers amenities that until recently were only enjoyed by large companies. According to Tarragona, "the success story here is the powerful entrepreneurs and freelancers that rise up in these very spaces."
He lists the top 3 management practices of a coworking space as:
- Creating value: whether by offering a light and airy environment or by creating a strong community within the space.
- Being different: such as through the incorporation of special machines and 3D printers that attract architects, designers, engineers, etc.
- Carefully design all internal processes from the very start: select which tools make your day easier.
Regarding the management tools currently used by Cloud Coworking, Tarragona uses Nexudus for bookkeeping, reserving rooms and intranet; Signaturit, which "allows us to expedite each coworker’s contract, thus facilitating the signing process and ensuring the sale"; and Kisi, to manage each coworker’s access to the space by fingerprint.
One coworking space that has recently opened in Barcelona is HUB50 with perhaps one of the best locations of all: right in front of the Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia. According to one of its founders, Pablo Mancía, coworking spaces are becoming "increasingly versatile and, at the same time, more personalized." Mancía emphasizes the importance of combining the comfort of home with the functionality of a traditional office, including spaces for meeting and events.
The top 3 management practices he recommends are:
- Design the space right. It is essential to create common spaces that promote a sense of community and offer added value.
- Encourage synergies between coworkers through organizing events.
- Opt for convenient and comfortable furnishings.
Among its management tools, HUB50 uses a CRM that have developed in-house, as well as Dropbox and Google email service Gmail.
This particular coworking space defines itself as a "colony of ants working and growing together." It is frequented mainly by architects, designers and related to digital manufacturing professionals. In short, a percentage of the maker movement. Ariadna Scaparone, architect and co-founder, says that the great virtue of these spaces is that they help many professionals "get rid of their anxiety at the idea of being self-sufficient.” Scaparone is convinced that the coworking trend will continue to grow and increasingly influence life in the workplace to the point that "large companies will need to adapt to this trend."
Atta33’s top 3 management practices are the following:
- Understand how the members of a group who do not work together can coexist harmoniously in the same space.
- Understand how the space should evolve based on user’s needs.
- Clearly define what decisions will affect users and which will not.
When talking about management tools, according to Ariadna it is imperative to have a good management team and a good software for recording information in accordance with the profile of each member. Furthermore, it is essential to have good working tools, which in Atta's case are digital manufacturing machines.
Although itnig is strictly speaking an accelerator for startups, their offices are also kitted out with a coworking space to attract talent from the tech sector, not only those based in Barcelona, but any digital nomad who happens to be passing through the city. According to office manager Txell Viladomat, the coworking space as a concept has already evolved a lot. "It was initially created during the financial crisis as a means of sharing overheads and saving money, but coworking spaces now provide so much more additional value." According to Txell, "the exchange of ideas, skills, practices and contacts flow very naturally in a coworking space - and this simply does not occur in the offices of larger companies."
To Txell, the good management of a coworking space involves:
- Being in constant contact with coworkers, meeting their requirements and encouraging collaboration.
- Organizing events, both internal and external, to help energize the space.
- Having good management tools at one’s disposal.
Management tools are essential to itnig: they use a self-developed CRM to manage their own contracts and meeting rooms’ bookings; Quipu for their accounting and financial management; and Meetup, "an essential means of organizing events and creating a community that exists well beyond the physical space."
Talent Garden is a global network of coworking spaces that landed in Barcelona just over a year ago, on March 11th 2015. According to Andrea García, Head of the Barcelona Campus, the evolution of these businesses resembles that of "hybrid spaces where it is essential to provide services aimed at contributing to the integral development of people, not only professionally but also personally, such as gyms and nurseries."
3 management practices recommended by Talent Garden for anyone wishing to set up a coworking space are:
- Invest in creating the community even before developing a business plan, "because it is essential to know the needs of your future customers."
- Encourage your community to create a sense of belonging and encourage everyone to contribute naturally to energize the space.
- Organize activities and exclusive events for the community.
As for management tools, Garcia explains that Talent Garden uses a centralized system to manage billing; Basecamp to share information and projects with all Talent Garden Campuses in Europe; and Google Drive to store and share documents with all members.
We hope that these tips serve as a useful guide to anyone considering thinking about setting up a coworking business. If you wish to know more how our advanced electronic signature solution can help to expedite the signing of any contract in your future (or current) coworking space, please download the following free whitepaper.
This post is also available in Spanish.