Millions of humans are being given the opportunity to leverage access to flexible and coworking spaces. Many being given the choice of where to work from, for the very first time.
Access to these spaces are being woven into the workspace strategies of individuals, organizations, and governments all around the world.
However just last week, we saw a scenario play out that could send even the most seasoned flex-space advocate running ‘back to the (traditional) office’. Scenarios like this, if repeated one-too-many times for any particular individual, team or within an entire organization – could scorch all the ground that flex workspaces have rapidly gained towards becoming mainstream over the last 48 months.
So what happened (or didn't)?
So who's to blame?
There’s a few things that went wrong here, and we’ll dive into that in a bit, but the major issue here is actually that this isn’t an isolated incident, with just that specific space, an unfortunate circumstance of a staff member being stuck in traffic, or a particular booking platform/aggregator.
Scenarios similar to it are, and will continue to, play out as millions of humans try to encompass coworking or drop-in access into their work-near-home or remote work strategies.
The first reaction is to blame the aggregator through which the space was booked. Blame then usually shifts (or is shifted) towards the workspace’s operator or staff, especially if the booking platform isn’t a membership/pass system.
But what is critical to understand is that it does not matter who is to blame.
In this example, the disappointed potential customer is a seasoned workspace expert who empathetically understands how/why things may have gone wrong. Even so, they were still understandably disappointed.
However, what would have happened if a similar scenario had been experienced by an employee who was using an app their employer recommended to find & use space? Or even an executive who needed a quick private place to have an important call with a reporter? Or how about a freelancer who needed fast internet to send their client a video file before a tight deadline?
Would they opt for a coworking or drop-in space the next time they want somewhere reliable to work? No.
Would they recommend leveraging that flex space to colleagues, managers or other teams? I doubt it.
Would they complain to management (or actively seek alternatives like upgrading their home office)? Certainly.
So how do we fix this? Better tech?
Could the platform have done more? Maybe. But even if the platform did everything perfectly, a bunch of the issues arose from operational issues (for eg. alarm being set but no information being provided; no communication channel if the front-of-house was running late; etc).
To avoid human or operational errors, and enable truly on-demand access that scales into almost any workspace, operators need to plan for more than just their technology stack.
Operators need to take a wider view of their organization’s operational processes, and then augment those workflows with tightly integrated technology, not just blame and/or swap out technology or booking partners.
I often refer to this as “thinking about the Operational Stack” when exploring new revenue opportunities.
Now of course, each space is built and managed differently, and so each of their Operational Stacks would be different. They could even vary between different spaces within the same city, network, franchise or group.
In an ideal world, the booking platform would have notified the inventory management system. In turn the management system would have generated one-time access credentials, provisioned internet access, notified the front-of-house to ensure the room was prepped and ready. Once the customer arrived, access would have been granted, an onboarding sequence could be triggered, maybe even on-screen in the meeting room or via SMS to the customers’ phone.
But not everyone has the budget to implement all the best technology platforms (yet), and so some processes will still need to be manual, but can still be aided by tightening how different systems and processes ‘talk to each other’.
So what next?
If your workspace is exploring offering drop-in or on-demand access either directly or through booking platforms, I’d recommend writing out the operational processes – both your manual internal ones, and those enabled by your chosen technology platforms or partner services.
With those processes noted down, work on converting those into repeatable steps or ‘workflows’. Take special care to note where human intervention is currently necessary, and what exactly they need to do, by when and with who.
Then you can being working towards automating those workflows, deferring human intervention to only when they’d add exceptional value to customers, and preventing as many errors or issues as possible at the same time.
I for one am extremely excited at how rapidly these kinds of automations are shifting how humans find, acquire and then leverage flex workspaces in suburbs, towns and city centers across the world.