As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the past few months socializing in-person has been put on hold, in lieu of virtual happy hours and Zoom chats with family. However, at some point, social distancing guidelines will be lifted, and people will be clamoring for ways to get together again. As a result, clubs with coworking and social spaces may have an edge up on the competition.
According to Bryan Dunkelberger, a principal for S3 Design, having a mix of social spaces and semi-social spaces are always valuable to members. “Social spaces are great because they promote community and build a lifestyle bond between both members and the club,” he said.
Coworking spaces have been in the fitness industry for years, for example, when rock climbing specialist Brooklyn Boulders introduced their coworking space in 2013 in their Somerville, Massachusetts, location, according to GQ. These spaces are gaining traction in the industry, but you may be wondering why your club should jump on the bandwagon.
Dunkelberger said coworking spaces are a great addition to health clubs because they can give a member space to do some quick work before or after a workout.
“Providing open social spaces is great, but designing spaces that allow a person to be semi-private is also good for quietly working or taking a phone call,” explained Dunkelberger. “If the club sells food and beverages, these spaces encourage people to stick around, and the longer they stick around the more likely they are to make purchases.”
A food and beverage area is just one amenity that should be featured in a coworking or social space. Other amenities that should be included in these spaces, according to Dunkelberger, are WiFi — if it’s not already included throughout the club — power and charging stations, and different types of seating such as a lounge area, a table, high tops or banquet-style high tops for six to eight people.
“The mix of seating is largely dependent on the amount of space you want to dedicate to the coworking or social space, but it is also influenced by where your club is located and your demographics,” said Dunkelberger. “Televisions are also sometimes used in these areas to let people know what’s going on in the outside world while they are in the club, but also to let them know what’s going on in the club from a messaging and marketing standpoint.”
Just like adding any other feature to your health club, adding a coworking or social space can come with challenges. “Space is always a concern,” said Dunkelberger. “Dedicating too much space to these areas takes away from the spaces people are actually coming to the club for.”
Regardless of what challenges arise while cultivating these spaces, the benefits of the addition could outweigh the setbacks. Having a coworking/social space allows your members and staff to have a place to connect, network and collaborate. You never know what can be created after two minds are put together. These spaces also allow design opportunities that can give your health club a more hospitality feel.
Not only do these spaces allow for networking, but they also allow for creating companionships. Dunkelberger said adding these spaces in your club allows for community building and brand allegiance. If this is an important box to check for the member, they will choose your club over a competitor at a similar price point.
Before immediately jumping into adding these spaces to your club, Dunkelberger suggested asking yourself what you hope to gain out of adding the space.
“You need to be really smart and understand what it is you hope to achieve for your members, or the reason your members are requesting these spaces,” said Dunkelberger. “You also want to understand how often they will get used.”
When asking your members if there is interest in adding a coworking/social space, it’s important to watch how you word the question.
“Similar to asking about adding a pool, if you ask members, ‘Would you like a coworking space?’ many would say yes, but may or may not use it,” said Dunkelberger. “The real question to ask is, ‘If we had a coworking space, how many times a week do you think you’d use it?’ Then the follow-up questions are, ‘How long do you see yourself using it?’ and ‘How would you use it? For work, to cool down or to just relax?’”
Asking your members these questions can give you an idea of the use, the number of users and what they need from you. This information can help you determine the size of the space, how the space should be furnished, what type of technology the space needs, etc. Your club may find you need the space to be flexible, so you can adapt it if you find something that is or isn’t working.
If you are still unsure of where to start with adding a coworking/social space to your health club, it starts with curiosity. “Like almost everything in a club, know your members and figure out what best serves their needs,” said Dunkelberger. “Let data drive decisions versus opinions whenever possible. This makes it easier to justify expenditures and space.”