As part of an ongoing webinar series for our members, the Global Workspace Association hosted Jeff Joerling of Steelcase and Mara Hauser of Founder and CEO of 25N Coworking and Principal of Workplace Studio. These two dynamic speakers collaborated in a 75-minute webinar discussing workspace design strategies for coworking businesses of all kinds. If you’re not already a Global Workspace Association member, sign up here to get access to the full webinar recording as well as the other webinars in this series.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of what Mara and Jeff had to share with our members.

The State of Work

Jeff’s work with Steelcase centers on furniture for collaborative workspaces, which means he follows the research and theory surrounding work trends closely. He discussed varying trends affecting the coworking industry, including that many previously non-traditional companies are reining in their remote or work at home employees. At the same time, more traditional “in the office” companies are moving more toward remote—or coworking-friendly models.

Regardless of how these trends continue to flux, Jeff explained the important thing for coworking space business owners to remember is that if people are going to pay to “go to work” in a coworking space rather than an office or their home (which are both free for the employee), then they need a good reason to go.

He said many people struggle working from home or an office because they struggle to feel creative, connected and focused in these environments. Well-designed coworking spaces can alleviate these problems and give workers an incentive to use a coworking space rather than a cubicle or their couch.

Workplace Culture and Trends

Employees across the nation are searching for several attributes in their workplace. First, diversity—generational, cultural and geographic. Second, biophilia, which is bringing nature into the workplace environment. This can look like everything from more windows and natural light to having plants in the workspace. Third, modern workers are looking for the ability to customize their workspaces; and last, millennials especially place a high value on the feeling of deeper meaning in their work.

As workplace cultural values have shifted, technology has also made workspaces more variable in terms of location, customization, and collaboration opportunities. Jeff explained there has also been a shift toward creativity as a chief job skill. While 77 percent of workers feel creativity is one of the most valuable job skills, only 69 percent feel they are living up to their full creative potential (Steelcase Creativity and the Future of Work Survey, 2017 and Adobe State of Create, 2016). At the same time, company executives are saying their companies are not creative—even though creativity increases revenue (Forrester, The Creative Dividend, 2014).

Creativity and Coworking Spaces

Creativity is not a linear process, but rather more of a web that involves some individual work and some collaboration—a combination coworking spaces can use to their advantage. Creativity, Jeff explained, doesn’t necessarily mean someone is creating art—it just means they’re creatively problem-solving. Coworking spaces that cater to both the individual side of creative work and the collaborative side can meet the needs of these creative problem-solvers in an efficient and attractive way.

Spaces should keep four main attributes in balance:

  • Privacy—some work requires privacy, whether that means acoustic, visual, territorial or psychological privacy.
  • Posture—not all workers want to sit at a desk. Coworking spaces that allow clients to customize their working posture by providing workstations that allow for seated, standing, lounging or perching work postures will be able to cater to a wider variety of workers and work needs.
  • Presence—coworking spaces may house remote workers, full companies or portions of companies, and their spaces should have options for each.
  • Proximity—some clients will want to be close to other people, while others will not. Some will need technology and other tools close at hand, while others may prefer to use these things only occasionally.

Overall, coworking spaces designed to cater to creativity should cause people to walk in and be able to ask what they’re creating today, not just what they have to check off a list.

Branding a Coworking Space

In addition to Jeff’s suggestion to plan a variety of spaces that foster creativity, Mara explained the need for a “program of needs” that builds your space as part of your brand. The program of needs is, essentially, a list of everything you need to create a space—including both physical equipment and extra items you may need to support your brand.

The most important part of determining your space’s needs is an audience, Mara explained. Your current users, as well as those you want to attract, should determine the feel and setup of your space. For example, a coworking space for attorneys is going to have different design and equipment than a space catering to IT professionals.

Mara also stressed the need to feel your brand inside the space and provided a number of examples of how successful coworking spaces have accomplished this goal. Your coworking space brand is more than just a logo. Instead, your brand should be visible in everything from color scheme to what services you offer to how your bathrooms are designed.

Branding on a Budget

Especially when working on designing or redesigning on a strict budget, it’s important to put ideas on paper and categorize the priority level of each idea you want to incorporate into the space. No one has the budget to do everything, but prioritizing design elements based on how they support your brand will lead to the most cohesive space possible within your budget.

Mara explained that blending features and incorporating movable walls in order to maximize your space is a great way to provide variety to your target customers as efficiently as possible. Jeff commented that coworking spaces should plan on a ratio of one seat available for coworking for every 100 square feet of space. Regardless of how space is divided, however, the layout, decorating, hospitality, services, and reception area should all reflect your brand and the audience you want to attract to your space.

For More Information

Mara and Jeff both had helpful details to share in their presentations, including charts and examples, and they also provided insightful answers to audience Q&A at the end of the webinar. To access the full recording with all of their tips and advice for designing successful coworking spaces, sign up with the Global Workspace Association here.

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