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Designing the perfect co-working environment

Posted by Richard Ferris on May 18, 2017 10:14:45 AM

MEC_dag3 (197o198) - merged.jpgMedia Evolution City: Malmö, Sweden. Photo credit: Media Evolution/Sebastian Borg

A co-work space is a shared working environment where people work, network, share ideas and collaborate on projects. Freelancers, start-ups and multinational employees alike are regular users of these spaces, with many workers rejecting typical working conditions for more comfort, flexibility and a different working experience. They are ideal for people who have to travel frequently, new companies who are not ready to rent (or buy!) a permanent office, or for anyone interested in finding creative and contemporary place to work from.  

How a co-working space is designed and furnished is fundamental, as it is these aspects which create the conditions which make co-work environments attractive in the first place. In today’s blog we will look at some key elements to consider when designing a successful co-work space.

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Since the phrase was coined in 2006, co-working spaces have sprung up across the globe at an unprecedented rate. Demand for co-working spaces is growing at an average of 10-15% a year across all regions, and statistics show that 976,000 people regularly used co working spaces in 2016, and this figure is set to rise to just over 3.8 million by 2020.

There are a myriad reasons behind this trend, and understanding why people are migrating from more traditional settings will be an important element to consider when designing a co-work space.

Flexibility

10207239135_5215983082_b.jpgMedia Evolution City: Malmö, Sweden. Photo credit: Media Evolution/Sebastian Borg

The desire for a more flexible work life is a major driving force behind the unstoppable rise of co-working and advancements in technology mean that remote working is now a real possibility for huge swathes of the population. This flexibility is also extended to the work place itself, with people looking for multi-environment settings and the ability to relocate depending on what tasks they are working on. Co-work spaces should also be flexible because you never know who your tenants may be, and what they require. Having the ability to sculpt environments to their needs will make your co-work space that much more attractive.

RBM_Noor_5[Newspaper].jpgStackable chairs enable you to be flexible to cater for varying numbers of clients, with the ability to store excess furniture with minimal space.

Design Tips:

  • Zone it: Co-work environments should be made up of a variety of zones for different tasks. Individual focused work, meetings, telephone conversations and collaborative joint work are just a few of the many ways people work. Ensuring your workspace is flexible enough to cater for all these needs is a must.
  • Whilst workers want different zones for different activities, two things are always a must – power & WiFi. Ensure your space has plenty of power sockets, and Wireless internet connections available in every corner of the building.
  • Flexibility also extends to furniture & fittings. Retractable walls, wheeled tables and versatile chairs will help make the most of your space, and allow people to adapt the spaces to their needs too.

Creativity

Businesswoman and colleague working at their desk in the office.jpeg

Co-work spaces traditionally attract creative types, looking for external inspiration and connections. Whilst some challenge this notion, it is still clear that artistic workers make up a big percentage of co-work tenants, and the environment plays a big role in fostering innovation. The different work zones as outlined above should be designed to encourage these networking interactions, and enable workers to chat, to share ideas, to create a community, and ultimately collaborate on projects they are working on.

_O8A4956_resize.jpgCowoki Coworking Plus: Köln, Germany

Design Tips:

  • ‘Collisionable’ Zones: Ensuring you have plenty of social areas, such as a games room or café, with plenty of seating and big tables, will help get people talking. "Collisionable hours’ ,a term coined by Zappos CEO Tony Hseih, refers to the moments in time when you are more likely to have random encounters with people, leading to productive collaborations and the sharing of ideas. Ensure your office is designed to inspire as many of these moments as possible.
  • Where you place your social areas is also important. Steve Jobs famously designed his Apple offices with the social areas in the centre, making it accessable to everyone and increasing the likelihood of bumping into people on your way to and from your desk.

_O8A5331-HDR_resize.jpgCowoki Coworking Plus: Köln, Germany

  • Quirky design: Interesting and unusual aesthetic elements help to get the brain thinking laterally. Installing quirky artwork or furnishings with distinct lines will help get the creative juices flowing, which is what a lot of co-working clients are looking for.
  • Creativity thrives in collaborative environments – check out our guide to creating successful collaborative spaceshere.
  • Personality: You can be quirky, you can be social, but if your space has no personality, it will fail. Make sure that your entire space is memorable, that it has an identity. Utilise the permanent features at your disposal, and make sure that your décor and fittings put across the identity you aim to achieve.

Concentration

MCE_dag4 (22)_resize.jpgMedia Evolution City: Malmö, Sweden. Photo credit: Media Evolution/Sebastian Borg

Whilst many seek co-work spaces to make new connections, and feed off the creative energy they house, we all need to get our head down and concentrate when necessary. Your co-work environment should cater for this, and include plenty of options for task based focused work. This means shutting off workstations from the open spaces, disrupting visual & audio lines, and providing solo desk space.

Design Tips:

  • Be creative in how you create privacy. Designed by Spanish studio SelgasCano, Second Home’s new Lisbon co-working centre is in an old market hall, and features a large open plan room at its centre. They use plats to create the privacy for focused work. “we decided to give privacy and at the same time a better quality of air, placing 1,000 plants on the top of that big table…actually the plants are the only thing that you notice when you enter the main space, even if 250 chairs, 100 lamps and 250 people are also hidden in between that densely occupied big 'greenhouse table'."
  • Interesting data from the Leesman Index highlights that desk based, individual focused work is still seen as the most important activity. It also highlights the chair as the 2nd most important physical feature, but only 67% of workers are satisfied with their seating. Installing quality furniture which cares for the comfort and wellbeing of the user, whilst also offering high performance, will help create a co-work space that maximises the tenants potential.
  • Install storage and lockers to keep confidential documents and personal effects safe whilst traversing the building.Phone booths for private conversations are brilliant additions, which not only help keep unwanted noise down (no one likes the super loud phone voice some people just have to use) but offers another chance to add a funky element to the environment.

ohoi - phonebooth.jpgOsla House of Innovation features several funky phonebooths for those private conversations


If you have are designing a co-working space, we’d love to help. Over the past year we have helped several co-working environments flourish across Europe. Check out some of our latest products in our brand new look book, which you can download for free in the link below.

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Topics: Design