What are the benefits of coworking aside from free coffee, fast wifi, and a desk? Those of us who cowork sense that there are immense benefits to being part of a coworking community. It’s the person who offers an email introduction; or the dude sitting next to you who knows the best software for a particular task; or the random conversation that sparks an idea—or even a partnership. These connections help us, but by how much?
According to a new study by Associate Professor Vareska Van de Vrande and Assistant Professor Michiel Tempelaar from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), entrepreneurs can benefit significantly from membership at a coworking space.
In a survey of different Seats2meet coworking locations in the Netherlands, 34 percent of 500 respondents said they had been able to improve their own products and services thanks to other people’s input. Another 38 percent said that coworking peers helped them develop business skills such as book-keeping or website building, and 30 percent have been able to tap into new customer networks.
All this knowledge, resource, and time sharing results from reciprocity. As Van de Vrande explains, “If you feel you’ve been given something valuable, you will be subconsciously inclined to return the favour. In this case, entrepreneurs will pay back people they have met at a coworking space by providing them with social capital: their knowledge, expertise and networks.”
To make the most of this social capital, Van de Vrande and her team advise striking up conversations; getting to know people, their strengths, and their needs; go to your coworking space regularly; show up for social events; and become part of the community.
Inspired by the arrangement at Seats2meet where, in exchange for free coworking and even a free lunch, people are asked to share their skills and knowledge, Van de Vrande wondered if this model could truly be successful at supporting entrepreneurial careers. What she found was that yes—the more you give, the more benefits there are.
"As an entrepreneur,” she says, “your best chance of benefiting from a coworking space is by showing a willingness to listen to others and share your own knowledge."
For more information, check out the new report Creating Communities of Innovation.