I spent Tuesday night at a Greenpoint housewarming party full of coworkers. Wait, this story gets better.
A Long-Lasting Community Grows in Williamsburg
What made this party different is that none of these coworkers have the same boss or even work for the same company. In fact, we all work for different companies, even different industries. And none of us knew each other a year ago. We came together because we work at the same coworking space, The Yard Williamsburg, of which I’m the manager. What up? The two hosts of the housewarming party met at The Yard, and although one got a job at a larger company and moved out of the space, he remains a friend and continues to attend our events.
Coworking spaces (and anyone anywhere in marketing) talk a lot about community. Our tangible value proposition for small companies is a professional space in which to work, with shared amenities that wouldn’t be economically available at a comparable price point in commercial real estate. That’s easy enough for The Yard and a lot of other spaces to design and provide. But what everyone wants to offer is the hardest thing to actually achieve. You can buy a sink or a coffee maker or art for the walls, but an actual community of people who create a social network and business network can’t be forced, it requires buy-in from interested parties.
Balancing a Professional and Social Life for Coworkers
There are ways to facilitate the growth of a community. You can hold events and happy hours where people get to meet each other. You can also not hold events that don’t provide real value for your members or waste their time. You can design a space with a layout that leads people to congregate in common spaces and bump into each other in the kitchen. You can go out of your way to connect people who are in similar industries.
One of the things I’ve found most effective is to encourage and support members in taking the initiative to plan their own events and parties. Our Christmas party was English and German-themed and all of the food and drink was picked out by our resident German and Brit. They were so excited that they talked it up more than any of my emails or flyers could have.
All of this helps but none of it guarantees building a real community. It is, after all, a workspace. People come to the office in the morning and do their day’s work, and sometimes they head straight home.
But sitting in the warm living room off Greenpoint Avenue, surrounded by people from all over (Mexico, Germany, Russia, Long Island), who have become real friends with each other, several of us talking over each other about jobs and relationships and New York City rents, I was happy that we seem to have found whatever combination it takes to create an actual community. It was nice.