Developing an Operations Manual for your coworking space?

My partner and I operate a small rural coworking place in Australia. After 2 and bit years we thought it may be a good idea to practice what we preach – life is not all work so we need to get out and smell the roses, or at least smell something other than coworking members! Maybe we could get someone in for a half or full day each week. Then we’d be able to do all those things we keep saying we ‘should’ do, like exercise, garden, fix this, clean up that, whatever.

So we sat down with a friend who was interested in our proposal to talk about each others expectations and logistics. After a little while she said “Do you an operations manual?” My partner and I looked at each other and burst out laughing! “Well that’s a novel idea” we thought.

It got us thinking about our coworking place. Sure there are doors to open, coffee machine to turn on and that sort of stuff, but we don’t want someone who only does that. That is only about 5% of the ‘tasks’ in our mental operations manual.

And the conversation flowed. We want you to be a member, to smile, to say hi, to listen, to join in serendipitous conversations and chats, to do your work, to enable the members to continually develop their coworking community. In other words to be a member who has a door key.

This all works well and our ‘Girl Friday’ has relaxed into her role. We do actually have a half A4 page of things to do to close the place (simply called ‘Shut Up’), which is the closest thing to an manual we have. A formal Ops Manual would be a bit like a joke without a punch line – sets the scene but doesn’t do the magic. The true manual is a guide to creating a vibe, or an understanding & awareness package. Something conversations can get to but printed words find it hard to capture. Coworking ‘operations’ is not about providing, more about being.

So what did I do with my new found freedom. Went for a long walk with the dog, rescued a friend who’s car had a flat battery, had a relaxed conversations with my partner, strolled into town (the beauty of small towns), got stopped twice by people to have a chat (shops are open & people are about & about), bought a couple of tickets to our upcoming arts festival, arrived at work in a relaxed buoyant mood at lunch time. I think our Girl Friday with our Ops Manual is a success.

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Castlemaine, Victoria

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