Mastermind #5: Onboarding & Wellbeing / Living well reimagined

In the 5th edition of our Community Mastermind series we are taking the concept of well-being in coliving communities to the next level together with Silvia Grattieri from B-Hive Living, a coliving space with a wellness-led approach and with the expertise of Kalen Hayman, a community specialist at Neighbourhood. We have been talking about self-sustaining comunities and how to create a higher social value within communities in our 3rd edition: The potential of self-sustaining communities with Jonathan and Gui Perdrix. Within this article we’ll be taking a closer look at coliving communities that benefit from a high social value due to a stronger focus on a community’s well-being.

Laura Henke
Coliving Events Insights

Silvia is a COO at B-Hive Living and a passionate leader and entrepreneur with a clear purpose of seeding change in the industries where she operates and inspires individuals and businesses to "do great by doing good". With a profile of FMCG Business/Brand Leader, Systematic and Creative, Futurist starting today, commercially and socially driven, she is always putting community and people at the heart of what she does. So, what does living well mean at B-Hive Living? 

“A rental experience designed to enable a healthier, more flexible and authentic lifestyle” - Silvia Grattieri

While beliefs, needs and tools in order to create this kind of experience might differ from location to location and community to community, at B-Hive Living there are four important pillars to the concept of living well in a coliving experience:

  • Biophilic Design
    Spaces proactively designed to support the holistic health of residents.

  • Wellness-Led Experiences
    A program of activities to connect, educate and boost wellbeing.

  • Flexibility
    1 to 12 months lease ensures a flexible solution for everyone.

  • Vetted Community
    Meaningful relationships, knowledge on demand and safety.

Let’s take a closer look at the actual B-Hive Living community in Oxford in the UK: George Hive is a space created from redevelopment with around 15 residents. The place is sourced with a wellness-led intent, which aims to reconnect people with nature and themselves. So biophilic design, i.e. by finding a good balance between built space and natural space (ratio 2:1), was one of the most important things in the process of creating B-Hive Living. George Hive has a lot of natural space where people can unwind, relax and gather during their stay. 

“We really believe that if we give people the opportunity to reconnect with nature and to live in a natural environment, places that are designed to engage with it, are really at the heart of our wellness experience.” - Silvia Grattieri

H2: The secret to a happy lifestyle and a flourishing community

While the built space is split in two purpose-built buildings that each provide living units, a shared kitchen, living room and dining area, both “communities” also share almost 600m2 of external communal amenities, going by the name of Secret Garden. “Leading a happy and fulfilling lifestyle is an important but often overlooked part of our lives. In designing this scheme we endeavoured to bring together built and design elements able to boost the physical and mental health of our residents.” - Silvia Grattieri

H3: Biophilic Design and Wellness-Led Experience

B-Hive is all about empowering connection and a healthier lifestyle. Nature is the best medicine. So, to unleash its power B-Hive Living paid a lot more attention and care to functionality, lighting and accessories in the shared natural space than to the interiors of the units in order to create an inspiring space for residents to relax, dine, talk and socialise, read or simply enjoy nature. The outdoor space also hosts B-Hive Living’s program of wellness-led events for the community, such as open air fitness and yoga or group gardening and paint therapy. After the pandemic the plan is to also open these kinds of sessions to the local community in order to foster connection and exchange between them and the residents as well. 

“Secret Garden at George Hive is a place to foster community, wellbeing and creativity by using nature to educate, engage and involve.” - Silvia Grattieri

H3: Curation and Vetted Community

At B-Hive Living the intention is to empower connections and a healthier lifestyle through their wellness-led design and creation of the space, as well as the people living there and the curation process. 

“Curation is really the heart of delivering a wellness-lead experience. I believe you cannot live well if you are surrounded by people who do not share your values. I think defining the values of our community space is really the heart of what we do.” - Silvia Grattieri

B-Hive living is a very democratic community – being open to both the local and the international community and to what brings both together is the idea of being able to share an experience, to bring in creativity, but also to bring integrity and accountability inside the Hive. So their vetting / onboarding process is pretty much based on that.

Curation at B-Hive Living is a 3 step process, based on the following value led questions:

  • What attracts you to community living?
  • What's your experience with it?
  • What's your talent and gift to bring to the community?

Silvia explains that at B-Hive Living they focus on a vetted community for several reasons: “Our values define who we are, but we know that focussing on wellness and a vetted community really drives brand loyalty. This is one of our key KPIs. We have residents still living with us from the moment we launched the first Hive. Good customer/resident satisfaction results in good ROI, because you can lower operating costs and you have better renewal rates. So obviously we drive brand loyalty,  because it is purpose-led but also if you stay true to your purpose and your values this also results in good business KPIs.” 

H3: Wellness-Led Experience

A good example for bringing together B-Hive Living’s values and purpose of the place is a specific part of their onboarding process. The hive offers their residents to think about their life, their value and their purpose. The first slight confrontation with these questions happens during the curation process (see questions above). Upon entering the community, personal guidance from a wellness team is provided to the residents along with an on-going mix of classes, content and events designed to look after their mind, body and soul. In order to do so they also bring in experts that share their values and enrich the experience. Currently there are three long-term coaches working at B-Hive Living: 

  • A Personal Life Coach (Goals, Mindset and Productivity)
  • A Health Coach (Nutrition, Holistic Health & Resilience)
  • A Fitness Coach (Training, Strength and Mobility)

This is a great way to focus on the whole mindset and productivity. Life coaching, fitness and health are very personal areas, but can make a huge difference in the personal well-being of the residents, which contributes to the overall well-being of the whole community.

H3: Flexibility and Local Exchange

“It’s about building coliving spaces where we enable connections for people who are moving to our places for professional and work-related reasons. But we want them to feel grounded and connected with a local community. So one of the things we’re proud of is, we’re covering both for locals as well as internationals that are moving to the area. But we have quite the democratic community setting, so we are more a long term residential operator and developer.” - Silvia Grattieri 

Even though there is quite some flexibility provided regarding the duration of the stay at B-Hive Living, they don’t really cover for a short stay. The reasons are simple: the democratic community setting (making decisions together etc) is easily executed with a more stable (long-term) group of residents. Secondly the wellness-led approach usually motivates people to stay longer, learning new ways of healthy communal living and reconnecting with themselves and nature. That sure sounds like a promising combination, which makes people want to stay put in this place. Silvia mentioned that not more than 5% of their portfolio are short stays. 

And the impact? Feedback is a big part of all community and coliving spaces and helps to grow and learn from mistakes and improve the experience of the residents. So a well-built, well-used feedback loop is a very important tool at B-Hive Living. Here is a small glimpse on the impact B-Hive Livings wellness-led experience has on their residents: 

H2: Identifying your target group and catering to them based on your location

Kalen Hayman. Kalen is a community specialist at Neighbourhood with a background as a media maverick and content creator. He is a true cheerleader for building healthy and striving communities and coliving spaces and challenges himself by harnessing truth, voice and honesty in his work. This also reflects in the coliving spaces he currently builds in Cape Town. 

Kalen gives clear advice on how to approach the first phase of community building. Before starting a place a few things need to be clear and thought-through: 

  • The purpose of the community
  • The operator’s and manager’s passions and talents
  • Figuring out potential weaknesses 
  • Defining a customer profile

First of all it is really important to figure out what the community to be built would be all about. What are values and the purpose of it? Once that is clear, identifying strengths and passions of the team of operator’s and community manager’s, later on also the resident’s talents. This goes hand in hand with also learning about weaknesses or simply identifying parts of the experience that can’t be delivered nor fulfilled through the management team themselves. Instead of viewing this as something negative, it actually offers a lot of chances. “We are focussing on the things and processes we are good at and employ and outsource our ‘weaknesses’ to partners that can deliver the needed goods or services” - Kalen Hayman

Defining a target group and setting up a curation process in order to attract people that match the purpose and values of the community is the next step that often still gets neglected or isn’t entirely clear: “It is easy to come up with a product or service and say, it's for everybody, we need to make money. But it’s a little bit loosey-goosey and you’re kind of firing all over the place.” - Kalen Hayman

Ask yourself the question: Do we cater the coliving space to a different demographic, because of the price points and the rooms in spaces that we are offering based on the different locations or do we set the same values, prices and services everywhere? Kalen gives an interesting example in order to answer that question: “So in Greenpoint we adopted a backpacker’s [hostel] which originally catered to 60 beds. We reduced it to 20 units and 20 members and are still flexible, but we are catering to locals, regionals and nationals now, to South-Africans that never thought they'd be sharing space like this before. It’s a whole new experience.

However, in other locations, Neighbourhood offers fully furnished, inclusive units that are at a higher price point. They are beautiful and more modern which cater more to people in their thirties and forties, who are a little more advanced in their career. So identifying who your customers are based on the property is also essential to your growth and development. 

H2: Don’t be afraid to work with partners

Many community builders and managers, especially in smaller coliving spaces, lead their experience by wanting to take all matters into their own hands and basically build community by themselves. As honorable as this is, there is nothing wrong with admitting your weaknesses and getting help and support from partners outside the coliving space.

“We can’t do without partnerships. We rather focus on the things and services we are good at. That gives us energy and also enhances the quality of those services we can deliver by ourselves. We outsource services to partners we simply can’t or don't want to manage by ourselves. It is much easier to let our partners deal with certain challenges or maintenance issues, so we create more space for our team to focus on actual community building and engagement.” - Kalen Hayman 

How does Neighbourhood work with local suppliers? Are there contracts, are they attached to their concept or are they resellers?

“My goal is to offer members subscription services from local suppliers. So whether that will be transportation, entertainment, health & wellness or nutrition, I think there's a great opportunity to build a business within a business. There can be partners and there are suppliers, but I prefer partners. We found it difficult just offering discounts without the gates. We tried to list them in our The House Monk, but communicating that back to our members isn't the most obvious thing. That’s why trying and bringing spokespeople from those brands or businesses in to help offer an experience, so that a relationship is born. We don't just go to a restaurant because it's there, but because someone told us about it or we know the operator etc.” - Kaylen Hayman

A good example is linen service, which is something that they wanted to outsource from the very first moment. While they do offer housekeeping services and laundry rooms, they did not want to become a laundry business. So they chose partners to deliver those services and deal with it instead. They actively decided to stir away from providing services like this themselves and just offer their customers a range of alternatives from preferred suppliers. In-house there is a community kitchen and a commercial kitchen. Within the commercial kitchen, a cafe partner, additional alternative meal plans will be provided by the cafe partner. Neighbourhood itself does not keep itself busy with their transactions or finances. The reason for that is simple: unless it's not built into the coliving spaces business plan, this would become a real headache. 

Looking at the wellness side of things, Kalen explains that they have been working a lot with breathwork, yoga and meditation at Neighbourhood lately, observing that it has a good influence on the communities individual well-being but also on the health of the community as a whole. This isn’t possible without great partners and professionals in crime, or maybe in wellness? “We want to empower our members and obviously work with local suppliers and local businesses as well.” - Kaylen Hayman

H2: Training, Onboarding and Technology in Coliving

In order to provide an authentic coliving experience that is centered around the well-being of the community, the working staff needs to be trained and educated with the values and the purpose the space is led by. They need to know how to guide (new) residents through the onboarding process and what to do in case problems and conflicts occur. So how does Neighbourhood hand off to community management?

Kalen states that you gotta hit the ground running and learn as you go, from your achievements as well as from your mistakes: “You gotta be willing to be vulnerable and admit when you’re wrong. Just as with your customers: people like to be seen and heard. If you don't respond to a problem, they're gonna get more upset.”  

However just being responsive and solving maintenance issues won’t do. There is also a way to ensure that residents and people don’t get as easily upset with smaller and bigger conflict situations within a community when they are in a good mind space to begin with. It is proven that people who meditate regularly and take care of themselves tend to be less stressed and more receptive and open to dialogue within not only conflicts but also within the whole community setting. So the maintenance of the place is just as important as maintaining a good headspace for the people residing in the coliving space. 

“Creating an engaging community is like being a good host at a party: You wanna make the introductions, you wanna make people feel at home, make sure they don't feel like they're alone. Especially if they're in a self-contained unit with a kitchen and everything, it doesn't feel as coliving. People need to know there is support there and that their requests or ideas will be addressed and adhered to.” - Kalen Hayman

B-Hive Living in example developed tools together, like a resident handbook, where the most important information on the space, maintenance, processes, rules and values can be found. Surely not everyone reads a handbook with several pieces of information, so it is very important to take enough time around the onboarding process. Obviously technology plays another part. So there is basic platform which is used to access information or important documents. 

Regarding a question from Matt Lesniak regarding the usage of Collaborative Decision Making tools in Tech, Kalen states clearly: 50% of a community will be engaged, no matter what, with or without Tech. Rick Schols, CEO of Sowebuild, a community proptech consultancy, management and SaaS provider, adds: “In the end it's all about engagement and activation. If you think about it from an operator’s perspective, you want to smoothen your operations, you want to get things done,  you want as little trouble as possible. So there is always this approach that says let's automize and make things more rational. But I think from the other side, the tenant side, it's much more about experience. So, if we could find a way - and this is still a challenge also for us building software - to incentivise people and  to make it interesting for people to go online and to be part of a decision making process, to really challenge each other, then there is a reason to use software instead of just software for the software’s sake? That’s gonna be the biggest challenge to find that. What is it that really makes a community engaged?” 

This is one of the main questions community managers and operators face on a daily basis. Within B-Hive Living there are several activities and the coachings that encourage tenants to engage. Within Neighbourhood there are regular, monthly events, such as a breakfast club, yoga classes on the rooftop etc. Kalen also advises to activate your surroundings to trigger and enhance engagement within a coliving space. So basically involving your surroundings. Supporting local businesses and local charities that you and your brand identify with helps a lot to also make residents feel more attached and engaged in a place, because they are able to strive and support businesses and purposes that are in line with their own values. 

“And then Tech, it’s ever evolving there is no all-in-one solution. Sowebuild obviously is one of the solutions that are out there and you gotta find out what works for you. It just takes 1 or 2 tools or features on a platform that work. Maintenance, ticketing it’s been huge for us, because we operate various locations. We had to push our members to file a ticket and then we could prioritize. If you’re doing everything via whatsapp and you’re very active and responsive there, it can quickly get very exhausting. You also gotta find new solutions based on your location’s currency and available service providers. I.e. the platform Slack, which is paid in US Dollars, isn't very convenient for operations in South Africa where the currency ZAR is used.” - Kalen Hayman

Furthermore marketing is important throughout the whole experience: until you're activating your members even if it's just 2 or 3 people, share your experience as best as you can. Which means getting the staff involved, collecting pictures and voices of partners and the community managers themselves. “Inquire and collect and then use that content material.” - Kalen Hayman 

H2: To scale or not to scale with a wellness-led approach?

In the previous Mastermind articles we have been discussing a lot around coliving as a business and whether to scale or not to scale up. The conclusion was: this is highly dependent on the business's purpose and its goals. Is there a good measure for scaling up a wellness-led coliving space? 

“What I learned is that there is a sweet spot: for us it is around max. 40-80 units. Because beyond that there is a lack of connection and common ground, because the community changes too much. We are also no big scale operators. We really want to offer people the opportunity to connect and grow within our spaces. With smaller places it is easier to create that feeling of community and connection than in bigger scale coliving places.” - Kalen Hayman


Sowebuild / Buildr Apps - We build thriving communities

Sowebuild is a community proptech consultancy, management and SaaS provider. We support building places where people live, work and play by developing a clear roadmap for our clients with our suite of products and partners. Get in touch to collaborate with us or request a demo version of our Buildr Apps.

More info on community building? Download our ebook ‘6 tips for building a thriving community’ to get started with the essentials for your place. 

Co-Liv - Global association of coliving professionals

Co-Liv is a non-profit think and do-tank focussed on creating valuable content, events and initiatives that help foster the coliving industry. With 300+ worldwide members and 35+ ambassadors in five continents, Co-Liv helps its members through networking events, educational tools and resources to achieve faster business growth. Join Co-Liv today!