The worldwide boom in coworking spaces has been fueled by many factors ranging from the increase in portable technology to the rise of the gig economy, to enterprise companies seeking space for their satellite offices and remote workers. Another trend includes more and more large companies building out their own internal coworking office area for the deliberate design that enables easy collaboration.
Coworking spaces of all kinds benefit from thinking very carefully about the designs of their offices. While some people think trendy, quirky offices might be what people want, quirky offices only work if, well, they actually work. Function matters, and it is well worth taking the time to consider good design and working with a design professional, as these factors can make or break the success of a flex office location.
When it comes to flexible office space, giving members the option to choose their workspace is absolutely vital. Variety is essential to providing for the needs of different kinds of members. Some members will want space at a collaborative table, while others will need a dedicated desk or even an isolated office. Even just one member may have different needs throughout the day. Millennials, in particular, appreciate the opportunity to move around during the workday.
A great coworking space will have many of the following:
A member might start their day at a library table, powering through writing an article or another high-priority task. After an hour or two, they move to the standing tables, inviting a few others to join them. Together, they end up brainstorming a solution to a problem one of them has been having while joking around. After lunch, the member attends a workshop on marketing and then meets with a colleague in one of the small offices.
Of course, it is important for any location to think of their audience when designing spaces. If a location’s goal is to attract primarily artists, studio space might be more important than offices. On the other hand, a location catering to medical personnel may require exam rooms. In an existing space, evaluating what members are using - determining which areas are in high or low demand – might help an owner understand that the beanbag chairs need to go, while more standing-height cafe tables are needed.
Light and sound design are critical to making a space feel warm, welcoming and functional.
When it comes to light, getting natural light into as many spaces as possible should be a top priority. Access to natural light is one of the most important things a person can have to boost their well-being, while the absence of natural light can severely hurt energy levels and mood.
If a space is being designed from the ground up, this can be considered from the beginning. Retrofitting an existing space, however, may require some creativity. Offices and conference rooms containing windows should have glass walls so light can filter into adjoining spaces. To increase privacy, install textured or frosted glass in at least some spaces. Consider adding skylights or clerestory windows where appropriate.
In addition to natural light, rooms and offices need adequate task lighting to be able to write at desks, see whiteboards, and hold meetings. This is especially critical if members work well into the night, or if your space doesn’t provide adequate natural light to all areas. Some lighting to consider includes:
Like lighting, designing a space for appropriate acoustical noise and sound transference can make a terrific difference in how functional a space is. Flex offices need to design and designate noisy areas, quiet areas and soundproof areas.
Of course, other ideas should be considered based on its audience. Musicians might need soundproof studios and lights that attach to music stands. Architects might need drafting tables with attached lamps.
In this mobile world, access to power, WiFi and technology are absolutely essential. Many freelancers, remote workers and consultants rely heavily on access to the internet and cloud-based storage in order for their businesses to function. Without it, they may as well be dead in the water.
Precisely because the internet has become the hub of activity and business, the internet in a coworking space needs to be fast, reliable and everywhere. If there is a place someone can sit down within the boundaries of the space, there had better be WiFi, and even better, power. We need to recharge our laptops and smartphones even more often than we need to recharge our bodies with a good night’s sleep.
What does this mean when designing a space?
Other technology, while perhaps less essential to day-to-day individual businesses, can greatly streamline the process of working in a coworking space.
When designing a flex workspace, it is important not to forget some of the extra – and maybe necessary – amenities that members are going to want or need. We’re talking about the extra touches and items that make working in a serviced office almost as convenient as working from home. (Let’s face it, staying home in PJs is probably more convenient, but the whole point of coworking is to find a social, professional place to work.)
While some amenities are basic needs and need not be luxurious, the sky is the limit when it comes to amenities that could be built-in to the design of the space. Here are a few luxury ideas:
In the end, no one wants to work in a sterile environment (except perhaps surgeons). Once the framework and needs are considered and on the list of things to include, it is time to make the space reflect its character. Is the space quirky and fun, or professional and poised?
The design of the space, like the design of any great business space, should indicate its brand. Colors should be repeated throughout the location. Furniture should be chosen with care, both for ergonomic design and for visual appeal. The artwork on the walls, on the floors, on the shelves should be consistent and reflective of the vision of the space.
A space specifically for women could feature huge portraits of influential women on the walls. A space for entrepreneurs might reflect their spirit with bright colors and bold statement pieces. A space with a focus on the environment might choose earthy tones in greens, blues and browns, as well as useful pieces with natural materials, like wood and stone.
In the end, when it comes to designing for an executive suites space, the function is of the utmost importance. If the space doesn’t work for the people it is meant to serve, then something is lacking in the design. Multiple types of seating and workstations, adequate light, appropriate sound levels, technology and access to it are all absolute necessities for those working in a flex office space. Other amenities, like coffee and kitchenettes, make the place pleasant and convenient. The character of the space is the icing on the cake that brings it all together.
Your coworking location should meet the business needs of its members while providing that unique place where multiple business people can come together to bounce ideas around, create a social network, and get important work done.