Providing 24/7 access to a shared office or coworking space is a hot topic in industry circles. For some operators and members it’s an essential feature, while others debate whether it’s necessary and, if so, how to do it. What kind of entry system should you use? What about security? How do you monitor who’s in the space?
These were questions Satellite Deskworks founder and CEO Barbara Sprenger had when opening Satellite Workspaces. But Sprenger and her team knew that to maximize the usage they could get out of the spaces they needed to offer safe and secure 24/7 access, while only staffing the center during business hours—so they created a way to do it. Here are Sprenger’s best tips, insights and how-to’s.
How to Safely Offer 24/7 Access to Your Space
Set up a Camera System
If you have a camera system that covers any open space, front and back doors, and any hallways leading to private offices, you’re pretty well covered. Cameras can be linked to your access system, so every time a door is opened you can see what happens 10 seconds before that event to 10 seconds after it.
Set up an Access System
Satellite Workspaces uses access systems—typically radio-frequency identification (RFID) or bluetooth —on every door, including private offices, conference rooms and front and back doors. The initial capital costs may be higher, but you never need to deal with locksmiths and changing locks when someone leaves. You can also add or remove access for someone on the fly — and open a door remotely if someone locks their key inside. These systems allow you to use a card, a fob you can attach to a keychain, or your smartphone.
The software for running access systems has improved a lot in the last few years. Satellite Deskworks will soon be able to automatically push the name of a new member, along with their permissions, to your access system as soon as they join.
Every time someone scans at a door, their scan is logged in the access system software, so you have a real time record of activity.
Have Rock-Solid IT Infrastructure
As Sprenger says, “You have to have rock-solid, secure, business class IT infrastructure so your members have confidence that they can always get their work done efficiently. The infrastructure has to be transparent to them.” She adds, “Basically, the place has to be dead simple to run. Everything has to be obvious to operate.”
Your infrastructure should include:
- A business-quality, easy-to-use printer
- A simple access/camera system
- Top quality broadband
- A center that self-locks during non-staffed hours
- Motion sensors on your lights so you don’t waste energy
- Coffee makers that are easy to operate.
Encourage and Build Community
The Satellite Workspaces are, by design, in small towns or suburban areas. As Sprenger points out, when you run small, suburban centers, people know each other. Or, if they don’t know each other, they’re all connected in the same town. This community vibe creates a sense of neighborliness where people look out for each other and the space.
“We have seven centers and we’ve been running some of them for seven or eight years and we’ve never had a single theft,” says Sprenger. “We had one person who was certain that someone had stolen her 3×5 index cards, but that’s the only thing,” she adds with a laugh.
But 24/7 access isn’t limited to small towns and suburban communities. It can certainly work in urban settings, but you have to be sure you know your members and have a culture of support and community in-place. That, along with clear community norms and an access system tied to a security camera, makes this possible in towns and cities of any size.
Pros of Providing 24/7 Access to a Shared Office
At the top of the “pros” list is the fact that members want 24/7 access to their workspace. We work in a 24/7 world and people need to be able to work whenever it’s best for them. As Sprenger explains, “Your main competition is the choice to work from home. You have to be providing as much as you possibly can that is more desirable than that.”
The benefit to a space operator who offers 24/7 access is increased revenue as well as local positioning and differentiation. If a neighboring shared office or coworking space offers 24/7 access and you don’t, it doesn’t matter how nice your space is, people with that need will go elsewhere.
Another pro is the fact that a space can be opened to the larger community more easily if you can offer 24/7 access. For example, the Satellite Workspace in Felton, California has a busy after-hours schedule, including monthly meetings and events for the Valley Women’s Club; a Monday night zen meditation group that’s been meeting there for nearly seven years; a church group that hosts childcare in the event space; and regular therapeutic massage classes. Someone even booked a conference room for a middle-of-the-night virtual deposition because there was a timezone issue.
The people who use the Satellite after-hours are members. It’s their space, they clean up after themselves, and they’ve signed a contract stating that they’re responsible for their own insurance and any accidents that may occur to any of their guests. Combined, these members bring in people from a variety of walks of life and help position the Satellite as a local community hub.
Challenges of 24/7 Access (and How to Address Them)
The biggest challenge of 24/7 access is revenue leakage. You’re offering 24/7 access to provide a benefit to your members and to increase your revenue but, if you can’t track it, you’ve just given up that benefit.
To avoid this leakage, you need coworking space software that lets you track who is in the space and why they’re there.
Another challenge is tailgating—where a non-member comes into the space with a member. This happens frequently with spouses and significant others, where one person has a membership and the other assumes they can come work with their partner.
To work around this, you need a thorough orientation process, where you describe the norms. Have people sign them so you know they’ve understood them and agree to them.
With the Satellite Deskworks system, if someone tailgates with a friend, they can’t get online because they don’t have access to the network.
One final, common mistake people make when implementing a 24/7 system is not having a clear understanding of what an alarm system does, or relying on one the landlord already has on the building. This can be problematic if the alarm is going off every time someone goes in the door.
The fix for this is to have your own system and not rely on an existing one that isn’t compatible with the needs of your space and community.
Why Satellite Deskworks?
If you want to offer 24/7 access to your shared office or coworking space, Satellite Deskworks provides an all-in-one solution. Flexible and affordable, Satellite Deskworks can put the software to run your space, your security system, your after-hours reservations and your entry system into one easy-to-manage place.
Satellite Deskworks enables you to offer different types of membership plans where a member may only have access during working hours, or in the evenings, or on weekends, or for a set number of days each month. It also enables you to seamlessly monitor—from a remote location—who is in your workspace at any time.
People are charged automatically based on when they check in and out of the workspace or meeting rooms and you can break up day passes, giving members the option of working for half days or even quarter days.
Satellite Deskworks lets people make after-hours reservations and automatically sends a login password for the network that is good for 30 minutes before the reservation to 30 minutes after the reservation. It’s an affordable, flexible way to offer 24/7 access to your shared office or coworking space.