Coworking is moving into the big leagues. The boom in the number of people sharing coworking spaces is a direct result of an increase in the number of temporary, independent and contingent workers in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009 to 2012 saw a 29 percent increase in the number of these types of employees. And that percentage continues to grow.
By 2020, projections are that contingent workers will make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce. Whether your business is a web design agency, digital marketing agency or online import store, the popularity of coworking spaces is on the move.
A coworking arrangement is one where individuals, entrepreneurs, and even small businesses share office space. The physical location is usually owned by a business or individual who then leases out the coworking space to “members.” It tends to be a more nontraditional, informal floor plan with a wide variety of possible features.
Some freelancers and independent workers lease coworking spaces on a daily basis, with others leasing on weekly or monthly plans. Others offer “memberships” that give the purchaser flexible use of the workspace and its accompanying amenities. The coworking space may rent out desk space, cubicles, or self-contained office and conference rooms. The space usually includes areas of open seating, with some even offering napping areas and game rooms.
Creating a Coworking Space
Coworking spaces should not only look cool and reduce operating costs but should also promote productivity, collaboration, flexibility, creativity and provide a calm, soothing atmosphere for the occupants. The design should emphasize these qualities and encourage those using it to give their work the best effort they can.
Toward that end, there are a few points that can help a coworking space flow while promoting harmony, creativity, and productivity.
- Divide the space into regions. Set up different areas as specific regions, such as privacy booths for activities such as phone calls or Skype sessions. Set aside a self-enclosed team room or two for scheduled meetings. Designate and equip a few brainstorming spots to stimulate collaboration and encourage interaction between users. You’ll also want areas designed specifically for taking a break, snacking and meals, coffee breaks, and simple downtime to rest.
- Green biophilia. Humans tend to be happier when we have our biophilia going on. We just feel good when exposed to greenery, life and a sense of Mother Nature around us. To give your coworking space a harmonious, tranquil feel, stock it up with a variety of plants. Not plastic renditions; get the real thing. Taking care of live plants is not time-consuming or expensive, yet the benefits to your space and tenants will more than offset any costs.
- Natural light is a must. Studies show that daylight in the workplace environment is one of the most wanted features in a working space. When designing your coworking space, be sure to incorporate as much natural lighting as possible. Whether you’re using windows or skylights, what makes the difference is sunlight entering the space by whatever means are available.
- Fun, functional furnishings. One thing you’ll find in any coworking space is desks and chairs. Maintaining certain norms will ensure that your coworking occupants are feeling good about the workspace you’re providing. The main point: the height of desks and chairs should meet standards. A trendy fashion desk that’s low to the floor may look cool but it isn’t terribly functional. If you can offer desks and chairs with adjustable heights, that’s your best option. It’s also a good idea to have some standing desks available, as some do prefer this style.
- Balance sounds. Getting the noise level balanced throughout the coworking space is crucial. Very few things are more distracting and annoying to people when they’re trying to work than noise. Because the basic premise of coworking space includes open spaces, noise management becomes an imperative. This is one reason for self-contained meeting and conference rooms, as well as phone call-friendly cubicles. Of course, a good set of earbuds or headphones is a must. The most basic noise management technique is, naturally, good manners. Be sure those using your coworking space know how to use them.
- Writing on the walls. In a word, whiteboards. You’ll want these in your designated brainstorming rooms or collaboration cubicles. This is a necessity in fostering creativity and productivity in your tenants. Provide markers that allow writing on glass partitions or paint the walls with a special paint that allows collaborators to write directly on the walls. Of course, you’ll want a rule that members should clean up after they’re done.
- From coffee to snacks to smoothies. Brainstorming can trigger the munchies. You’re sure to have content coworking tenants if you provide good, varied and healthy snacks in your break areas. You don’t have to roll out a full buffet but a nice selection of fruits, nuts, cookies, chips and other preferred munchies is always a plus. Make certain there’s a stocked selection of coffees to be had, as well as water and popular drinks. You may even consider providing a smoothie-making station or a sampling or two of wine.
Space as a Product
Whether you’re renting, leasing or selling memberships to your coworking space, the space itself is your product. An open space that flows from area to area in a balanced, harmonious manner will foster creativity, collaboration and improved productivity in those utilizing your product. A bit of planning is all it takes to get your coworking space up and running.