Coworking FAQ, Essays

Who handles HR issues at a coworking space?

Coworking HR

Our community is harmonious… but what happens when there’s a problem?

As the owner of a small and locally run coworking space, I’m pretty lucky. Our community is tight-knit, respectful, and open-minded. For the most part people magically get along, and the kitchen even stays relatively clean.

During a recent discussion, one of our members posed the question:

Who handles HR issues in a coworking space?

Like, what if a member was sexually harassed or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable by another member?

In my case, because our space is small and I’m the owner,  that’s clearly my responsibility. But it got me thinking. (It also got me googling, which led to this interesting read on the sexual harassment issue.)

As more and more companies employ a remote workforce and outsource their office management to coworking spaces, where does the HR responsibility fall? The lines get blurry pretty fast.

In a coworking space, our members are customers, not employees. But a coworking space customer is different from a coffee shop customer. Space owners and managers have a responsibility to ensure a productive, happy, and safe work environment for our people.

At the same time, the beauty and richness of coworking spaces is that they are NOT a traditional top-down office with procedures, policy, and, well, HR. The best spaces are community-driven, with lots of member-led initiatives that are supported by the staff and infrastructure.  Coworking is a rich experience precisely because it encompasses employees of many different companies, industries, and cultures.

In fact, I recently wrote a post about breaking out of social circles and embracing disagreements in communities like ours.

Coworking community

It’s especially cool when coworking brings people who are NOT like-minded together.

Moving towards Community-driven policy

Here at Groundwork, we are drafting a manifesto that outlines who we are and how we behave as a community. It started off as a collection of “norms,” or guidelines. It was circulated through the community as a google doc and a hard copy on the kitchen counter, and now thanks to member input it is evolving into a manifesto.

I’m really excited about our manifesto as it is a community-driven approach to tackling workplace issues that are not going away anytime soon. I’ll be sure to share it on our website when the draft is done.

In the meantime, I’m curious to pose this question to other coworking space owners and operators. How do you handle HR issues in your spaces? As our industry grows, our spaces may not remain tight-knit and quirky forever. How do we take responsibility and implement policy without killing our communities?

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Sarah

Co-founder at Groundwork!
Sarah lived all over South America, produced a documentary about Patagonia, and worked in digital marketing for a decade before settling in New Bedford to start Groundwork! She loves running a coworking space because she gets to meet the coolest people in the world.
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