Coworking and Company Culture: How We Forge and Identity Without Property
How to create a strong company culture without your own space
Coworking spaces might seem like they’re all fun and games, but there’s more to a startup’s culture than its ping-pong tables and office bar. In this interview with the Chicago Tribune, John Contreras, founder of a fitness platform called Matchup, said that his company “[has] an identity now,” but that their space “doesn’t reflect [that] identity.”
One of the most important features for a developing startup or company is to create a culture that is their very own. This leads to more dedicated, loyal workers, and creates a persona behind you which allows for better relations with your customers. Renting an office however, creates a serious problem; how do you forge your own company’s culture when you don’t control your own space?
The problem is with property: when you’re renting a small, temporary office, there’s rarely enough space to personalize your surroundings to suit your company culture; it feels like a poor investment to decorate what might be a short-term room. On the flip side, small startups benefit from the lavish amenities offered by some coworking spaces—amenities that wouldn’t be wise to invest in with their first couple rounds of funding.
So the challenge remains: how can you develop company culture when you can’t repaint the walls and you hardly have space for new furniture?
1. Embrace the features you already have
One way to look at it is that sharing fun, quirky amenities with other companies is a way of approximating the type of company culture you’d like to have, even if you don’t personally own them. After all, most coworking spaces are not dull, gray, cubicle-filled rooms. Many spaces offer the kind of amenities that startups would love to have—beer on tap, game consoles, or perhaps the infamous ping-pong tables.
Besides being fun, these amenities are important for maintaining a casual atmosphere between coworkers, which is helpful for communicating ideas. From that perspective, it hardly matters who owns the ping-pong tables: if they were going to be there anyway, better to share them than to burn through your funding just to build your own office. You’re sharing these amenities with like-minded entrepreneurs; it’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas and develop your company culture.
2. Cultivate your team’s interpersonal culture
Another perspective is that culture is more about people than space. An office or a meeting room might be a reflection of the people behind it, but that isn’t culture in itself. People create culture. If your company’s values are genuinely shared by your employees, you and your team will feel at home in virtually any space.
3. Lead your team, and shape your future
On top of that, energy and motivation are contagious. Not only do people create culture, but some people—usually those who are good leaders—can easily share their enthusiasm for that culture. With the right leaders paving the way, even new employees will feel inspired to think about how they fit in within the company’s ecosystem. Energy leads to more energy, and that’s great; if there’s one thing that can kill company culture, it’s lethargy.
In other words, developing your company culture in a coworking space isn’t too different from doing it in a traditional office. The key rests with the employees themselves. With enough enthusiasm, your team will feel tight-knit regardless of what’s on your walls.