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Why Incubators & Coworking Spaces Need an Employee Company Handbook

When we talk to business owners about coworking spaces or tech incubators, they tend to focus on the positives: amenities, learning from and networking with other business owners, and the opportunities to develop their business with help from experts.

One thing that doesn’t seem to come up much: house rules – the kinds of policies that would normally be outlined in a company handbook.

That’s a problem, not only for the organizations running these spaces but also for the businesses considering working in them. Without policies in place, there’s no clear protocol for how to behave if something goes wrong.

Here’s a look at why shared work spaces need HR policies and how you can put these policies into action if you’re in charge of running such a space.

Workplace Policies = Clear Plan of Action

To be prepared for the variety of unplanned situations that may arise take these steps as soon as possible:

  1. Connect with your leadership team and raise the alert (or restart the conversation) that you need workplace policies for the entire coworking space or incubator. If you already have policies, schedule a review session to make sure they’re up to date.
  2. Determine who needs to be part of the process of developing or reviewing workplace policies. Your executive team? Your board? Representatives of some of your member companies? An HR consultant? These teams are most effective when they include members with diverse viewpoints and stakes in the space.

  3. Set up time to start or restart the conversation. Expect it to take several sessions to have a “final product.” Once you’ve set policies you feel good about, consider holding a yearly check-in to update and modify these policies as needed.

Employee Handbook = Clear Communication

Once you’ve agreed on the policies for your incubator or coworking space, you’ll need to communicate them with your member companies. The most efficient way to do this is through a employee handbook or more specifically a “coworking space employee handbook”

We get it: an employee handbook or manual as they’re often called is not exactly a hot trend but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. It offers many benefits:

  • You send the message to tenants that you care about creating a fair, productive, and supportive environment.
  • You get to take your time to decide how to handle various situations in the best interest of your business, your member organizations, and their employees, rather than making case-by-case decisions when you’re under pressure.
  • In avoiding case-by-case decisions, you also avoid setting precedents that can work against you in the long term.
  • Member companies and their employees know where to go when they have questions. They have a clear understanding of what to expect, which can increase peace of mind, minimize worry, and boost productivity and growth.
  • In the event that the employee of a member company misbehaves, you have a clear case for when and how to discipline them, which can minimize the damage and disruption their behavior causes. You also have a smaller chance of being named in a lawsuit or being found liable of wrongdoing.

In other words, the policies you create offer a roadmap for how you'll respond in various situations, and your handbook communicates that plan to every person sharing your space.

Save Time by Outsourcing Your Handbook

One reason business owners don’t bother creating a handbook is that they don’t realize they need one until a problem or question arises. And by then, it's often too late. 

Unless you're an experienced HR professional, laying out policies and putting them in a handbook can seem daunting. You may not even be sure aren’t sure what kinds of things need to include. Luckily, you don’t have to do it on your own.

Part of what we do at Cognos HR is help companies put together customized employee handbooks. This includes developing these handbooks for coworking spaces and giving guidance on how to institute new policies and communicate them to employees to ensure they're received well.

Even if you’re not yet ready for a full-service HR partner, we’re happy to work with you on a handbook to make sure you’ve got your bases covered. If you’d like to hear more about how we work, give us a shout. We’d love to get to know your company.