Human beings crave much more than just a comfortable space and hearty meals to stay happy; a lot of it has to do with our nature of being social creatures. After all, society gives us purpose and identity, and engaging with others is a constant reminder of how we want to develop as a person.
A community, then, is the abode that allows human beings to flourish and expand in the small ways that contribute significantly to how we feel about ourselves, our daily lives, and the people we want to become.
In a space that encourages singularity and individuality, finding a purpose can seem hard for some people. It is not only the individual purpose that one seeks but also the encouragement, daily reminders, and gentle support of this kind that lead one on to the path of their own personal growth and development.
In times like these, it is no surprise that more and more young people are opting for community living where they can strike a balance between their personal space and the emotional well-being of a cooperative environment.
This need of the current times, like many others, has been the catalyst for a new industry: The industry of coliving.
The Coliving Industry
Coliving spaces started out as a cheap means because rent split amongst people is always lower, making it ideal for those on a budget such as students or backpacking travellers. This was assumed to be a temporary arrangement for those who were on the lookout, and hence community building was never paid much heed to.
Now things are very different as it is becoming more and more obvious that people want to live in a space where other people can be seen and interacted with. This has to do with the innate need of human beings to just bond with others. In the increasingly lonely times, such a set up is a means for hope and keeps one going through the struggles of the everyday.
The coliving industry works on these basic principles and caters to the needs of the globalised world where people are moving cities leaving behind their friends and families. They can find the same comfort of group activities and make new friends in a new place, a minimum denominator that is provided to them by this industry.
In the year 2019, the industry grew by 20% globally. The more nuanced trends of the same were observed by TheHouseMonk in its Global Coliving Report. We observed that across the world, the trend of coliving is on the rise. And it seems it is not going to slump for a while.
We have also covered the correct marketing model for any coliving space in our in-depth session with Christine McDannell who is an expert on the topic, with over two decades worth of experience. The piece explains how coliving advertising should be undertaken, as that can also influence a coliving financial model heavily.
But getting the word out is merely one side of the coin: you have to ensure that those who come also stay. Coliving services are based on customer satisfaction. To make your clients stay with you, you must offer an experience that is thoroughly satisfactory.
It sounds like a no brainer but several times people miss it: coliving is synonymous with community living because it is supposed to offer meaningful interactions and strong associations.
If the success of a coliving model depends on it, how do operators build a community then? A community has some crucial aspects which make individuals want to belong, and to successfully build a community and sustain it, you as an operator must understand what you are trying to deliver.
The Objectives of Community Building
The process of community building requires people to first unite and come together. As a coliving space, you have already brought people together so the first step is successfully completed.
But then you must also gain their trust, and that does not happen magically. You have to give people a reason to trust you. You should be available for queries and extend your support when your tenants need it. Trust building is an ongoing process that requires vigilance and transparency.
To feel involved within the community is what will perpetuate the sense of belongingness and identity. Which is why it is important for you to encourage participation in all ways possible, as we will discuss later as well.
Most importantly, people shouldn’t lose interest but should feel rewarded and valued. If people don’t feel like they matter, they will not feel the need to participate, lose trust in you, and not identify with your community. You should extend warmth to every member, and make them realise that there is value in being part of this community. How to do this will be covered extensively further.
To learn how you can practise these objectives during the times, you should take a look at these tips on how to safeguard your business during the coronavirus pandemic.
So what can you do to ensure your community is strong? Here are the steps to follow!
Everyone should know everyone
In a community, everyone knows everyone. This means that you as an operator have to take the onus to introduce everyone to everyone and allow them a starting point for many future interactions.
The community in a coliving space is built upon the pillars of the staff that keeps the facility running, and then the tenants who give it life by simply being a part of it. It is important to have everyone know everyone, from staff members to tenants and everyone who is joining.
Unless you build a thriving relationship amongst the people, the coliving space you run is the same as an apartment complex where neighbours don’t know each other or the staff that facilitates everyday activities without interacting with anyone on the premises.
So how do you make sure everyone knows everyone? Introduce them! You can choose to do it in person, or simply send out an update on your community app with the new person joining the community. You could send out an email as well if your community is active on the platform.
When everyone knows each other’s name, you can expect them to drop a hi casually. How is a tenant supposed to introduce themselves to a new member if they don’t even know who has joined recently and who has been around for a while?
By introducing people virtually, you are creating a space where everyone is already over the initial awkwardness. Then they can jump straight to interacting further.
Take this time to also talk about people’s interests, their hobbies, and formal and informal personalities so people can quickly spot things they are all interested in and share.
So now that everyone knows everyone, they should have an opportunity to interact with them too! Residents just might have completely different schedules, and may never run into each other in common areas. Hence, you should create a space where they can physically see each other and say hello.
This can be done in the form of a weekly event over the weekend which may be a movie night, or a community dinner, or something related to your tenants’ shared interests. This will obviously depend on the coliving business model that you adapt to as students may have more time during breaks, but working professionals may only have time on the weekends.
The official communication channel of your business should always have a directory where people can also interact, approach each other personally, and exchange contacts if they wish to.
Having a platform where they can ask questions from the community, seek advice or recommendations, or make plans is really beneficial as residents can themselves take initiatives and plan events.
A community is built automatically when people enjoy each other’s company, and for that to happen it is imperative that you connect them and allow them the space to make moves on their own.
Keep tenants interested
Imagine if you liked playing football but your circle of friends only ever wanted to play cricket. They would only talk about cricket and cricketers, and only watch cricket matches when you hung out with them.
You eventually would get bored with their company because it wouldn’t appeal to you. So if your community events don’t appeal to the interests of your tenants, they would also get bored and eventually stop joining you.
That is an absolute no-no; it means you have failed to cultivate a healthy community at your coliving facility since members don’t enjoy the time they spend with peers and do not feel rewarded.
So how do you make sure everyone feels included? Talk to everyone and find out what they’re interested in. Even if very few members are personally interested in a certain topic, organise an event for them and the community.
Encourage everyone to participate regardless of their expertise, this opportunity is about having a good time and enjoying with the community, this is not the time to be competitive.
Your coliving business model should be founded on opportunities and true warmth, that is the only sustainable way to go about.
For instance, you can organise a Sunday meal cooking session with the community. Even if most people don’t know how to cook at all, they can help with simple acts like organising dishes and cutlery, giving everyone refreshments during the cooking, watch pots and pans while the food cooks as per their skill level and abilities.
The trick is to not do something that only a few people are interested in, but to do things which everyone can participate in no matter in what capacity. Moreover, when people try new things, more often than not it is an educational and fun experience as they see things aren’t all that hard, and they may develop new hobbies too!
Bond outside of the everyday space
Setting up bean bags, foosball tables, comfy couches and bright potted plants in the common area is a no brainer. It should be an inviting place for everyone to hang out. An added advantage is that the community would start bonding on its own as people who hang out in the same spaces are likely to get to know each other.
But is that enough? If you are just another coliving space this might seem apt, but to let your community bond and become really strong, you have to go the extra mile.
You have board games and indoor games at the coliving space, but how about going out for a picnic on a Sunday afternoon where you can play outdoor games? You can have a meal sitting on the grass at a park – something most people haven’t done since they were kids once upon a time ago.
Play catch, hide-n-seek, badminton, or any other games that let out the inner child in everyone. Before you know it, everyone will be making associations that are more than a neighbour or the-guy-who-lives-across-the-corridor.
You could organise field trips to any museum, theatre, or just go to watch a movie that people have shown interest in. Going outside and not staying inside the coliving space with the same people gives residents an idea that these people are not only people who live in the same building but have active and interesting lives that they can also participate in and add value to their lives.
You have to be a mere catalyst and people will find a hundred topics to share, several topics of interests, and exciting stories to connect over- all by themselves!
Empower residents to live like they’re home
Everyone talks about the simple advantage of a coliving space being the experience of being a part of the community. But as an operator of such a space, you also must understand that this isn’t all that residents need.
Every individual needs a certain space. Regardless of how introverted or extroverted a person is, everyone needs their own space, and the freedom to deal with it their own way.
Encourage your residents to always organise, decorate, and adapt to their environment. There are limits to that indeed, a resident cannot encroach upon other people’s space in the process or damage community furniture.
While painting the walls of their room might be a little extreme, they can always hang pictures and posters. They should be allowed to bring in these subtle, harmless elements into common spaces too. Someone wouldn’t have to think too much about hanging a picture of kittens in their living room, similarly, they should be able to add these personalised elements to the common areas as well.
This isn’t a compromise on house rules like not playing loud music, but a simple invitation to the residents to make themselves at home.
Just like they would do in their own house, they should be allowed to bring in guests and friends. If you think this would crowd your premises, you can cap the number of guests every resident can bring at a time, but they shouldn’t be restricted from treating the coliving space just like they would their own house.
The same warmth should also be extended to guests where they feel welcomed. And to further help expand the community, guests should be allowed to community events as well. Once they learn how vibrant and exciting your community is, they would be happy to be a part themselves!
Planned community activities
To touch upon a few things previously discussed, there is an endless array of options to choose from community cooking sessions to a picnic on a pleasant day. While these events are wonderful, there may be times when these aren’t possible.
Moreover, many of these plans can only be implemented in the short term, and many may not be available for a plan that’s made so quickly.
It isn’t fair to have members miss out on such exciting field trips, and if the turnout is low it may not be fun at all! So how do you make sure people actually attend the events you organise? You make sure they know about these events.
To do this, you must make sure that you have pre-scheduled events alongside the ones you plan on the spot so that people can clear their schedule and stay prepared for what’s coming.
If you have a game night every Tuesday, it will become instinctive for residents to come there every week as per their availability. If they know they have a talent hunt every quarter, they might actually practice their skills!
Do not forget to plan the events well with refreshments and prizes so as to incentivise attendance. Further, make sure the events are so well conducted that they come back next time regardless of the incentives.
These are just ideas, but you could also look into educational sessions and organise career-building sessions as well. The topics and agendas are all up to you and what is most appropriate for your coliving business model and the niche your business is intended for.
Finally, leverage your community to get reviews
Do not underestimate the power and influence of reviews on platforms like Yelp, Google Reviews, or any others. Millennials are your target audience, and they are heavily influenced by the reviews they see online.
When you know your target is only going to speak a certain language, have your community that speaks the same language be your advocate. Let them utilize their social media presence and leave the information on channels that your target audience is likely to stumble upon.
Your community is built from the first member that joins you, and while it becomes easier to perpetuate a culture once you have more people, you have to actively participate to make sure your brand values are upheld and you can provide a safe space in every aspect to your customers.
In the real estate business, coliving is hard to do right as it is fresh. To set a standard for yourself and the industry, you must deliver on your promises and attend to your clients, especially when you are starting out with your venture.
If you are looking for tips on how to keep your tenants safe during the times of pandemic or wondering how fellow coliving operators are handling the situation, you should check out TheHouseMonk Blog where you can find e-books, webinars, and other educational content.
Did we miss out something about coliving that you think people should know about? You should leave it in the comments so others can learn from you; if you’re building a community, why not start here?