One of the main reasons so many people are attracted to coworking is to be part of a community. Let’s face it, while the freedom to sit home in your pyjamas all day working from your laptop is amazing, it can get rather lonely. I discovered this myself when I caught myself explaining the intricacies of creating the perfect smoothie to a dog. While the smoothie was healthy, having a human conversation with a dog – not so much.
Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?
– Homer Simpson
When we cowork as remote employees or location independent business entrepreneurs or digital nomads, we can all be alone together. We come together with like-minded people to share not only space at a table, but also ideas, skills, conversation, and the ineffable human connection that makes a community.
A community can be defined as a united body of individuals, and, in the context of coworking, a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society. A secondary definition is the condition of this unification of individuals – as in, a sense of community in a coworking space.
But whose responsibility is it to provide community? Does it belong to the coworking space or the individuals within it? I believe the responsibility for community belongs to the coworkers themselves. My way of being responsible to this community – and more importantly, to creating this community – is to bring the donuts. Along with being a tasty excuse to eat cake for breakfast, donuts can be a powerful method to build and sustain a sense of community in your coworking space. Allow me to finish this Boston Creme donut and explain.
Coworking spaces come in all shapes and sizes today,
from the corporate behemoth of WeWork, to the carefully cultivated crew at places like Indy Hall in Philadelphia, to niche spaces for female entrepreneurs or makers. What they all have in common is community. The better spaces will offer events to help create the community, ranging from informative talks, skill shares, events like Startup Weekend, and fun activities like karaoke or even beer pong. But the space can only do so much.
In a vacuum, the events are what they are – opportunities for members to come together and create the community of the space. As individual coworkers, the opportunity and the mission are clear – create the ideal community that you want to be a part of, through your actions and words. This can be accomplished through sharing your skills with others, through hiring members with different skill sets to help with your business, through volunteering to help the space with its needs, and through participating in the events offered. There’s another way to create community in the coworking space that often goes under the radar – one with long-lasting positive effects. This “hidden way” is committing random acts of kindness for your fellow members. Which brings us back around to delicious donuts.
Last year, while living in Ubud, Bali and coworking at Hubud, I got a craving for Western food – particularly sweet, sugary donuts. I felt compelled to share my obsession with my coworkers. After an early morning finishing a project on a deadline, I found a bakery a short distance away that made fresh donuts. A short motorcycle trip later (that involved some particularly impressive donut-box balancing on my part), I arrived back at Hubud with 2 dozen donuts and began handing them out to any and all takers. As you might expect, handing out donuts to hungry coworkers was a smash hit.
In the process, I met a lot of new people. I learned about their personalities by watching what kind of donut they selected. Were they a pink icing or a glazed donut person? I watched as people shared different flavors with their neighbors and struck up conversations, and saw lots of smiles and felt lots of gratitude. I made new friends and helped give people not only an energy boost to go with their Kopi Bali, but a bit of unexpected joy in their day. The reaction was so positive that I began to randomly bring donuts to the space, usually when I was celebrating the completion of a job or the arrival of a copywriting fee to my account.
Donuts became a “thing” at Hubud.
Every day that I came to cowork without donuts, I would be asked without fail, “Hey, where are the donuts?”. I’d get thanked at random times by random people who had really gotten a lift from the donut, either physically (sugar high) or emotionally (they enjoyed the surprise). Other people began bringing in donuts from the same bakery and sharing them, inspired by my generosity. I’d inadvertently created a community of joyful donut fiends within the community at large, a community without a center – like a donut. Long after the original donuts were eaten and gone, I still get messages asking where I am and where are the donuts. Through donuts, a deeper sense of coworking community was born.
You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy donuts, and that’s kind of the same thing
– Internet Meme
Now, I’m fully aware that donuts are not the healthiest food to eat, but that’s not the point. Donuts have no point, because they are round. Random acts of kindness have no point, because they are random acts that exist to create joy, to share with others, and in a coworking space they create community and friendship. Think of donuts as a metaphor for an act of kindness and sharing, an act that brings happiness to others and creates the community that we want to have.
If you’re looking to create more community in your coworking space, ask yourself what can you do to create the community you want. What act of kindness could you do for others? What skill could you share? What activity could you organize? What can you give?
When will YOU bring the donuts?
Michael Burns is a Copywriter, Content Marketer, and Storyteller as CEO of Baydream Creative. Michael helps businesses grow through creative copywriting that increases sales and customer engagement, telling the story of a business with purpose. He has also published short fiction, written television scripts, and blogs on Medium.com. Michael is from California, and formerly worked as a television producer in Los Angeles. His favorite donut is bacon-maple-glazed, and if he wasn’t on a keto diet he’d be eating one right now. Mmmmm donuts….
p.s. here’s another article you may find relevant as to how others see the coworking communities.