The coworking industry is taking off because entrepreneurship is booming. Growing companies and solopreneurs need a comfortable work space, without all the overhead and commitment traditional offices offer.
With so many new options available to companies, it’s a challenge for coworking spaces to separate themselves from competitors. Aside from price, one area that coworking spaces can differentiate themselves from the competition is the design of the space; ranging from the size of its desks, to the number of conference rooms.
Just like a single company office, the design and ambiance of a coworking environment has a huge impact on productivity and success. It’s imperative that owners and managers of these coworking spaces create an environment that fosters a culture of creativity, communication, and productivity.
Let’s take a look at the elements of the perfect coworking space and how coworking spots can break free from the rest of the pack.
Spacious Working Areas
Open work spaces are popular among coworking spaces because it’s the “anti-corporation” design. Instead of stuffy cubicles, with everyone working silently, open work spaces offer a more relaxed work environment and invite conversation.
Having spacious working areas, whether it’s communal tables or private work desks, is key to the comfort of coworking members. Designing work spaces like a cramped university library won’t win you many customers. No one wants to feel like they’re writing a philosophy paper every day. If entrepreneurs wanted to work in a cramped space, they’d save money and work from home.
During your design process, make sure you’re giving your members enough room. Don’t make them feel like they’re jostling for space at a coffee shop. Communal desks and tables, conference rooms, offices should all be spacious enough that members can work comfortably and effectively.
Coworking members need to be comfortable while they work, so in addition to space, the furniture is another basic, but important feature. This doesn’t mean every coworking space has to have Herman Miller chairs for everyone, but they do need to give members comfortable and functional furniture. No abstract chairs that double as art, just comfortable chairs.
Don’t underestimate the value of sturdy furniture. It’s comforting to work at a solid table with a secure chair. Poorly designed furniture, like a wobbly table or chairs that rock unevenly, are going to add an unnecessary distraction. If it’s a persisting problem, eventually members will lose confidence in the space and find another spot.
Offering alternative furniture, like couches or bean bag chairs, are a great touch to coworking space design. This options gives members the feeling that they’re not tied to their desk or communal table. They’ll feel like they have the freedom to move about. Different seating arrangements can be used for different kinds of work. For example, some use their regular sitting/standing desks for checking off tasks. Then they might move to a couch or bean bag chair for more creative work.
Your coworking space can’t remind members of their Starbucks work experiences. Members can’t be spending time hunting down an outlet or wondering if the internet is spotty.The technological amenities offered must work and be accessible.
There should be plenty of outlets around all the tables. When you’re choosing your communal tables, consider options with outlets built into the surface areas, so members don’t have to get on their hands and knees to plug in a laptop. Interrupting a fellow member to ask and share an outlet does not reflect well on your coworking space.
The internet is the life-blood of any company these days. Coworking spaces must have high quality WiFi. Make sure your router is in a central location and it’s in an elevated location. The radio waves coming from your router transmit out and down, so a higher placement is optimal. Nothing will frustrate members as quickly as less than reliable WiFi.
Suitable Conference Rooms
Offering suitable conference room options are vital for coworking spaces. The conference room experience can’t be replicated sitting around at home or at a coffee shop.
Quickly and easily booking a conference room is something many businesses people value. If they have a meeting and can sit everyone down in a proper conference room, members will be lining up to impress clients. A simple meeting room app makes conference room management painless for members and staff.
Conference rooms are an invaluable tool to entrepreneurs. Give your coworking space an advantage by offering members alternatives to the Corner Bakery with meeting rooms of different sizes.
Open offices with communal tables and desks are great for group work and collaborating with coworkers, but they can be distracting and noisy. They can also make it difficult to take a call from a client. Background noise and asking the client to constantly repeat themselves can be embarrassing, and can disrupt the members around you. Dedicated quiet rooms eliminate this scenario.
Not quite the size of a conference room or an individual office, quiet rooms offer members a slice of peace and quiet. They can easily step out from the day-to-day buzz of the coworking space and take a call in peace.
We recommend having more than one call room, depending on the size of the coworking space. At any given time, more than one person is bound to have a call. If members start to complain about availability, setting up meeting room scheduling software is a breeze. Just set it up in each quiet room so members can manage themselves without fuss.
Kitchen and Complimentary Beverages
The real value of designing a coworking space is the potential serendipity a kitchen can create. It’s awkward to go up to someone while they’re working and get to know them. But it’s far easier to have casual conversation in the kitchen, while pouring your coffee. A kitchen is a great way to break the ice and start building community within your members.
To spark these spontaneous interactions, coworking spaces can offer free coffee and tea to its members. These freebies are a nice perk that members will appreciate, but what it really does is bring foot traffic to the kitchen. If people are bringing their Starbucks into the office and leaving for lunch, they never have a need to visit the kitchen. On the other hand, free coffee and tea will give more members reason to stop by and increase the opportunity for engagement among members. For a more complete list of our recommendations, check out our blog post on essential products you should stock in the office kitchen.
Bonus Element: Community
A community isn’t a physical element like we’ve discussed, but it’s an equally important aspect of a coworking space. The members of a coworking space are an essential part of the space. The community can set the tone for the work space and can single handedly set one coworking spot apart from any other coworking spot.
If prospective members can sense a vibe of excitement from like-minded individuals, that’s an invaluable resource. People like coming into work and if the people around them are a part of that joy, they’re more willing to sign up. It’s important to consider community building when designing a coworking space.
For example, the Venture Cafe started in the Cambridge Innovation Center. The cafe (i) connects Boston area entrepreneurs and the innovation community. The cafe is looking to nurture the innovation process and build the innovation economy through conversations and storytelling, and accelerate this process with its workspace and programs. They’re building a very specific niche community within the entrepreneurial community.
Whether you’re opening up a coworking space or trying to upgrade your current location, follow these elements of an ideal coworking office space.
You will create an environment that’s physically comfortable, highly functional, and valuable beyond a desk.