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Alex Hillman

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How to Automate your Coworking Space, and Why

3 minute read
by Alex Hillman

I’ve noticed an increase in interest in systems like “swipe card entry” for coworking spaces, both from the perspective of security and automated billing. In a recent thread on the coworking google group, I mused:

If we’ve learned anything from history, people just loved punching their timecards in factories. 😉 Even as we approach 150 active members, Indy Hall can’t be the only place that values a human interaction as the foundation of a transaction. Who else is actively avoiding swipe card systems and looking to introduce efficiency in other ways? Which has me realizing, perhaps I should share a couple of the alternative systems we’ve devised that have streamlined our days, and why we’ve prioritized them.

First and foremost, we’re an active community and making decisions for the community requires clarity – we approach this by investing time in coming up with core values, a set of ideas and ideals that we value above all, and every decision gets run through them. This means that we can make consistent decisions, and quick decisions, and even help others make the most effective decisions for themselves.

That’s actually automation step #1:

1. Make Others Autonomous

If you’re spending your days showing people how to do things, or worse, doing things for them, you’re missing out on one of the most unique aspects of coworking: it’s DIY! That’s not to say that the space manager isn’t there to help – but rather than answer an inquiry with “What can I do for you?”, answer, “How can I help you get __ done?”.

Working to training members to be autonomous, and make decisions and judgements that benefit the entire community pays off many-fold, especially the earlier you start. As you grow, existing members will lead by example, and new members will be inspired to “JFDI” themselves.

2. Automate the Amenities

I’ve said it many times before and I’m not the only one, but “stuff” is the most common distraction & timesink in coworking space operations. Apart from minimizing the amenities, automate them!

Look at the things you’re buying often – paper and cleaning supplies, coffee, snacks, etc. and find a way to automate their delivery. In the US, Amazon Prime is worth every penny. For $79 annually, you get free 2-day shipping and $3.99 per item next day shipping (for emergencies). On just about everything you could possibly want for your office. Better, Amazon offers the ability to “subscribe” to many household items, so you can get them delivered at a regular interval.

The amount of time this saves in thinking and even going to the store is able to be returned to humanizing transactions with the people who matter the most – your members.

That’s really the key.

“People first” is one of our most important values. While it places a burdon on business systems of a coworking space, prioritizing the ones that allow you to keep a “human touch” around the necessary transactional elements of a coworking space keeps it from becoming “just another place to work”.

Looking around for the other daily tasks that don’t result in an interaction with your members are the places to start looking for automation.

What else have you automated so you can spend more time interacting with your members?

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.