Conferences and Events

GCUC NA 2021 - The Bounce Back!

Sam Bender
Oct 19, 2021
GCUC NA 2021 - The Bounce Back!

Hello again! The Global Coworking Unconference Community (more commonly known as GCUC) has rung in the next era of coworking by loudly proclaiming that in-person community events are back. Not the same as they were before, but building on what we’ve learned works effectively over the past 18 months.

A bold vision is nothing without action. Liz Elam and Stormy McBride deserve enormous credit for putting an entire hybrid conference together despite the foggy uncertainty of public health restrictions, travel advisories, and public interest in in-person gatherings. With a clear vaccination policy, the stage was set for our grand reunion in New York City with a coworking community feeling rejuvenated and ready for the next leap!

Coworking is better when there are more of us
- Garett from Hygge Coworking

We met new and old friends, heard from some of the leaders in flexible work, and interacted with brands working to help adapt to the new realities of coworking. We’re sharing some of our biggest takeaways from three days at GCUC NA.

New growth

Across all of the talks, one clear through line was that after 18 months of mixed signals, growth is back! The thing is, growth today looks a lot different than it did pre-pandemic. Nowadays, coworkers have different expectations and a different awareness of the meaning of coworking.

To prepare your own operations for growth, there are a few tips that speakers suggested:

  • Make a very low bar to get people in the door. Many new coworkers may understand what you offer but feel that the cost is too high. Getting them, and even their guests, into your space is crucial because community is hard to appreciate without experiencing it. Offer no-commitment space tours and host free community events that draw people in without asking anything of them. Once someone has seen what you have to offer and knows they want to be a part of your community, they will want to become a member no matter the cost. Which leads to point #2...
  • The industry has reached a maturation point where pricing is based on value, not cost. You don’t need to justify your industry, you just need to get the people who need you into your space.
  • Overinvest in communications to achieve the above.
  • Figure out what you have to lose (not rhetorically). Can you afford to lose big on a risk? If yes, try to branch out. If no, double down on what’s working.
We’re going to burn it all down and do things like we did six years ago
- Garett from Hygge Coworking
Garett from Hygge Coworking

Changing Design

By now we’re all aware of just how much air quality matters. But what has the pandemic taught us about productive workplaces?

In his talk on Activated Design, Vince Pan elaborated on how coworking spaces must promote health through community, humanity, and performance.

Public understanding of the role our workplaces play in our overall health has never been higher. And the worst offender—poor air quality—is now top-of-mind for workers returning to the office. Before the pandemic, workers were already growing weary of open spaces styled with  concrete and glass. Now our appreciation for biophilic design has pushed us far into the realm of plants, outdoor spaces, and natural materials.

Our relationship with our workplaces has become complicated. We want connection, we want natural light and airflow, we want safety and we don’t want a rigid structure. Everything that the new workforce wants comes down to your design and how well you can adapt.

Vince Pan from Analogue Studio

Shifting attitudes

How do you engage with your community?

That question was at the heart of Christine Andrews’ talk Community: Member Experience Matters.

FOMO (fear of missing out) is driving the mass return to the office. Individuals are feeling isolated and have developed a greater understanding of why they liked going to an office. It’s not the commute and it’s not the amenities. It’s the people.

Your Community Manager is your brand
- Christine Andrews

You’re not going to differentiate yourself with material objects. They’re expensive and someone else can always outspend you. You need to focus on your hospitality to get workers excited, not to return to the office, but to return to your office.

And remember: it’s far, far easier to retain a current member than to find a new one. Ask them what they want and make it happen.

A decade ago, coworking spaces made a name for themselves with freewheeling community managers and never-ending beer on tap. There are still places that cater to this buttoned-down (or t-shirted) office culture, but your members may be coming from more traditional industries and expecting tax help workshops or family-friendly events. Don’t try and force something on your community: recognize what they want and offer it.

Christine Andrews from Deco Group

Corporate (and government) coworking

Government employees have begun their own exodus. As publicly announced recently, the GSA has entered into contracts with several providers of on-demand flexible desks, LiquidSpace, Deskpass, The Yard, Expansive, and WeWork. This is earthshaking news for the flex industry as it means there will be movement in some of the most change-resistant areas of the economy.

As a bellwether for the entire industry, this is an enormous step toward the mainstream acceptance of coworking. It’s also a leading indicator of other large entities that are positioning themselves to save money and improve employee happiness by moving to a hybrid or flexible work model.

What’s next?

While it’s clear that workers across industries are moving towards coworking, what’s less clear is whether they’ll be calling it coworking. Flex work has proven resilient and capable of adapting to many diverse industries. We heard from a panel that included workspace providers specializing in babysitting services, shipping logistics, and the media industry. Everyone is realizing the power of flexibility and it is going to continue to be remodelled as more traditional companies move their workforces out of traditional offices. Now it’s up to everyone in the industry to shape the next era of collaborative communities worldwide.

Liz Elam from GCUC!
There is a tidal wave of growth coming for you
- Liz Elam

If you aren’t already using Cobot as your coworking management software, give it a go! You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. Just sign up for a free trial or a live demo session. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!

Happy Coworking!

Sam Bender

Senior Communications Specialist at Cobot and all-around connoisseur of useless trivia, reading on airplanes, sleeping in late - and working from interesting places!