Coworking in 2020 and Beyond: What really matters
Author: Kevin Giriunas, Founder of Advent Coworking
Is it time to celebrate?
2020 has been the hardest year yet for Advent. Through COVID-19, America’s inequalities, climate change, the slow crumble of democracy, and a relentless media cycle of dread, it was hard to not feel helpless and hopeless. Through all this, Advent Coworking still stands. Our amazing team has a level of grit and determination that inspires me every day. We tackled everything 2020 threw at us head on, and still celebrated our 5 year birthday...virtually.
2020’s onslaught of uncertainty and relevance for shared workspaces and offices continues to evolve. There are tons of articles doing their best to predict ‘the future of the workspace’. Rather than presenting a summarization of the crystal ball theories, I want to dive into what has mattered to our members and team over the last 5 years at our coworking space.
2020 has showcased how rampant racism still is throughout our country. Most coworking spaces have members from all different walks of life who each have their own beliefs and values. This is the beauty and the potential downside of a coworking space. People have a chance to interact with people they never would have met, and their lives could be changed forever. We’ve seen friendships made, business partnerships formed, collaborations evolved, and marriages occur. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen member and guest disputes driven from reasons our team can only speculate about.
If our members don’t feel welcome or valued for any reason, we are failing them. Coworking spaces have an opportunity to create a culture for its diverse member group by embodying its values and enforcing them. I feel coworking spaces should never force anyone to change their beliefs or values, but our spaces can provide an environment where members safely can question their biases and grow. A quote from Community Building Initiative (CBI) has stuck with me throughout the years: “It’s hard to hate up close”. Coworking spaces have an opportunity to foster a culture that allows diverse relationships to develop and flourish in genuine, organic ways. Doors open for people which may not exist in typical shared/office workspace environments that focus solely on profit.
Advent has always valued Being An Advocate for Diversity, but we are now taking a real stand on equality and becoming an anti-racist company. Our team is embarking on anti-racist quarterly trainings, surveying our members and the community for equity, reality checks, and evolving Advent’s voice to the world. It is a lifelong journey for us (individually and for Advent) to create a more equitable environment for our community.
Thriving communities need to feel safe, and 2020 made safety something humanity could not ignore (no matter how hard some continue to try). Enforcing COVID-19 safety precautions drove some of our members to leave. Although tough at the time, our community’s safety will always outweigh our bottom line.
But regardless of how many COVID safety precautions a coworking space takes (mandatory masks, temperature checks, touchless doors, HVAC upgrades, etc…), what’s the point if a member doesn’t feel safe because of their race, sexuality, religion, or gender?
I feel the responsibility of a coworking community is to create safe, equitable spaces where people can grow. A coworking space’s policies regarding equality do not always make it easy for members to know where they stand. Choosing to wear a mask (or not) is much easier than self-reflecting to question our racist tendencies and unconscious biases. I believe people inherently want to grow and evolve, but everyone does at different rates. In order to create a truly equitable environment, a coworking space may have to push people forward in their personal journey of growth. This responsibility requires patience, guidance, and empathy from the coworking team. Many coworking spaces will not do this, because it is difficult...feelings and revenue may be hurt.
Where does coworking fit in 2021? No one knows yet, but I believe in coworking spaces who care about equality. It matters more than anything else...yes, even more than wifi and free coffee.