One of the most cited benefits of coworking spaces is how easily it enables you to network in a more relaxed environment. Traditional networking often involves donning your best professional attire and attending conventions, seminars, and workshops, all while maintaining a polite, friendly, and professional demeanor while you mingle and introduce yourself to others. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with this method of networking, it can get exhausting always being on your best behavior and forcing yourself to shake hands and introduce yourself over and over again.
With coworking, however, people tend to be more relaxed and naturally strike up conversations with others around them as they go about their day. And while coworking spaces are undoubtedly full of hardworking professionals, it’s a much less “buttoned-up” environment where you don’t necessarily feel like you always have to be on your A-game to network and meet new people.
For this reason, many see coworking as the new networking, and there is likely no turning back. It essentially allows you to double your efficiency because you can work, socialize, and network all in the same space. Furthermore, coworking spaces often come with many benefits and features that you might not have access to if you worked from home or a coffee shop. It’s like getting to work in a cutting-edge office with the best perks, but in a more laid-back and social environment that inherently creates the perfect space for networking.
This article will further dive into the benefits of coworking spaces and how you can learn to network in a coworking environment, whether you are new to these kinds of spaces or are simply looking to better your networking skills.
Benefits of a Coworking Space
Coworking spaces have been steadily growing in popularity over the past few years, but recently, with such a significant shift to at-home and remote working, coworking spaces are booming more than ever. Though working from home might offer you comfort and cut down on your spending, it cuts out two of the most critical elements of working in an office environment—collaboration and socialization. If this isn’t convincing enough, take a look at these top benefits of working in a coworking space, aside from networking:
- It provides a sense of community and belonging. Working from home can get lonely, but in a coworking space, you get to work alongside diverse groups of people that work in a variety of different industries, giving you countless opportunities to connect and build relationships.
- It’s a supportive, collaborative culture. Each coworking space has its own vibe and “workplace culture,” but overall, these spaces are full of diverse individuals that are hardworking and looking to connect. And because everyone comes from various backgrounds of experience and industries, it’s less competitive and more supportive and collaborative.
- It allows you to be more efficient and productive. You might think that working from home allows you to put your head down and be more productive because there isn’t an office full of coworkers to distract you, but in many cases, it’s quite the opposite. There are so many more distractions in the home that can pull you away from your work, whereas, in a coworking space, surrounded by other hard workers, you will be more inspired to get your work done.
- It provides numerous perks and features. Coworking spaces offer you all things you would have access to in an office and more. These spaces often strive to emulate an office utopia with all the best features and perks to help you get through your day. This can include unlimited coffee, a variety of workstations (private desks, shared desks, meeting rooms, etc.), nap rooms, snacks, and food offerings, fitness and wellness amenities, happy hours, and more.
Tips for Networking in a Coworking Space
Whether you are new to coworking spaces or looking to expand your existing network, these tips can help you learn to make authentic and quality networking connections:
- Initiate friendly, casual conversations. Unlike traditional networking, networking in a coworking space is often best done more casually. Think of it as striking up a conversation with a new coworker or someone at a coffee shop. Keep it light and friendly to start instead of jumping right into professional networking mode.
- Share knowledge and offer trades: Think collaboration and support. If someone helps you with something you are working on, offer them something in return. This creates a more equitable environment and promotes collaboration.
- Participate in events. Many coworking spaces organize events for their members to help build a sense of community and offer more ways to network. So don’t just use the space for the desk and the coffee perks; make an effort to attend happy hours and other events to establish better connections and relationships.
- Seek out coworking spaces in tourist locations. Most locals try to avoid tourist traps in their own city, but this can actually be a great networking opportunity. Tourism actually offers many benefits, including creating more business opportunities. This is because coworking spaces in tourist areas are likely to get professionals that stop in for the day while they are just passing through, which allows you to expand your network to people who live and work in other major cities, like Houston, New York, or Chicago, for example.
How to Network When Working Virtually
While in-person networking is typically best, there will undoubtedly come times when you perhaps can’t leave home for the day. Or maybe there are slow days at the coworking space without many people to network and connect with there in person. Whatever the situation, virtual networking is always an option to keep those lines of communication open and to even help you expand your reach to other countries.
When networking virtually, keep in mind that you won’t naturally have as many opportunities to casually connect, so it’s helpful to make a plan and set a schedule for when you will network in your day. If you don’t set aside time, it can become easy to forget. It’s also essential to be more mindful of first impressions when networking virtually. As the person you’re talking to may have no sense of who you are and what you do, making a positive impression may not come as naturally as it can when networking in a coworking space.
When reaching out to someone new, try putting their needs first. While networking in a coworking space is often more of an equitable and collaborative mentality, virtual network connections will be less likely to work out if you always reach out to ask for something for yourself first—even if you intend to give something in return. Try making an effort to find out about their needs before asking for their help with yours.
When networking in a coworking space, just remember that everyone there is likely looking for connections like you—so don’t feel weird or awkward about reaching out and striking up a conversation! Try to keep it as friendly and casual as you can at first to simply establish a connection. Then, once a connection is made, you can start offering professional knowledge and making trades. Keep in mind that while there are tons of tips for successful networking, there is really no one right way to go about it. Just be social and have a good time, and the connections will come naturally.