United House, Notting Hill: the latest offering from The Office Group
TOG’s Head of Design Nasim Köerting tells Mix about the 40th space from the flexible workspace providers.
There are seemingly countless varieties of coworking spaces and flexible working options for both young and established businesses to embrace.
But what exactly should those businesses have on their wish lists when they go looking to ‘flex’ their muscles? We’ve asked a selection of industry experts to present us with their own top trio…
Co-Founder, Interior Designer, Taner’s Sons Design Studio
A sense of belonging: enable users to feel a sense of belonging within a like-minded community. Help each other out. I don’t mean forced conversations by the free coffee bar – more like problem solving together.
Scale: linked closely with my first point, limit the scale of workspace to bite-sized environments –ie. Rather than planning large floorplates, break the floor into intimate zones, introduce intriguing pathways through to enable people to discover. People will feel much more comfortable when they start to recognise faces around the place, which can only happen in a rightly proportioned space.
No chocolate digestives please: We are all trying to look after ourselves, and sports and recreation is a good way to get to know one another. So, instead of free snacks, provide spaces for exercise/mindfulness. I could keep going on about a variety of settings etc, but we all know this would be provided anyway. So offer something special that is either a convenience or novelty to users – how about a roof garden?
Managing Director, Howarth Litchfield
A variety of work areas is the key to a successful coworking space. Specific requirements for individual tasks, along with personal preferences, require flexibility and adaptability in order to provide a multifunctional space for all.
Private space: There are many elements of work that require an element of privacy – phone calls, confidential discussions or concentration. To accommodate this, small meeting pods and call booths should always be included in the design, which are also a fabulous opportunity to get creative with colours and textures.
A dynamic environment and a sense of community are also vital in achieving a great coworking space. Encouraging interaction between users not only enhances a sense of belonging, but also develops business opportunities. A café or refreshment facilities are a fantastic way of doing this.
Head of Tenant Representation Team, Carter Jonas
Worldwide providers of coworking space have a unique selling point – the ability to connect all those who use their space via their ‘global village’ network. This feature is of particular interest to start-ups and high-growth businesses that offer products and services to a worldwide audience.
Coworking accommodation offers greater opportunities to work in communal open plan space, which is specifically designed to encourage interactivity between individuals who work for different businesses – to foster interaction and to engender a culture of collaborative working and innovation that ultimately leads to new ideas/new business development initiatives that can be monetised for mutual benefit.
Serviced office space tends to be more associated with businesses that prefer cellular, self-contained office space that offers less opportunity to interact with other businesses, ie. There is less floor space set aside for collaborative working and, therefore, less opportunity to pool ideas for mutual benefit.
Senior Associate, Bruceshaw
As cost management is one of our key services at Bruceshaw, when looking at coworking there is a significant cost benefit analysis to be considered. Locating in a flexible workspace relieves the stress of paying for furniture and fixtures, utilities and IT infrastructure as this is all included in the price of the rent, which is usually on a flexible contract with a notice period that can be as little as one month. This makes it a more suitable option for start-ups where there are only a handful of staff and where the medium to long-term location and size of the business may be less certain.
The design style of coworking spaces is the second important element to consider. Unlike serviced offices of old, the newer generation of coworking spaces have a highly desirable contemporary look and feel to them, with features such as café space, soft seating for collaborative working and phone booths for quieter phone conversations.
Finally, the community element of coworking spaces should not be underestimated. Almost all coworking providers offer a full programme of activities from business skills and thought leadership sessions to non-work specific events relating to food, fitness or culture or even drinks gatherings for members.
Head of Interior Design, Cushman & Wakefield
An efficient space: The key is to plan a great range of spaces but do it efficiently and effectively. You want to create a community and create choice for the user. You can’t be over-generous in how you plan this or you produce an inefficient business plan for the coworking brand. You are highly restricted on those shared amenity/coworking spaces but you can’t reduce your offering to the client because you’re ‘short of space’!
Creating community: Anyone can build a serviced office (with a big spectrum of quality of design and operation) or throw a load of desks into a room and call it ‘coworking’. Inhabiting the same space alone doesn’t build a feeling of community. If you don’t make people feel they ‘belong’ and that the space is theirs (whilst being shared!) you fail and you won’t have happy, satisfied and constructive clients.
Keeping everyone happy: You may be designing for a particular coworking brand and/or towards a particular demographic (eg. your space is in the City) but you will still have a multitude of business types, brands, and individuals. You must cater for all people and businesses to feel at home in this shared space. Turnover of clients/tenants is natural within such a serviced space – hopefully they haven’t left because their office didn’t feel representative of them in their shared environment.
Head of Choice & Design, RBS
Network speed availability and bandwidth: Given that all businesses, start-up or otherwise, now rely on this, the availability of reliable WiFi bandwidth/or network with high download and upload speeds are critical to venture, and this is needed throughout the space in all locations. Mobile signal coverage is also critical given that many businesses use this not only as a primary vehicle for their services but also communication between teams.
Variety and quality of spaces: To allow choice and freedom for every spot to become a legitimate place to work. Given the nature of people’s activities, the range and quality of the space is critical to allow people to be creative and productive, but also to allow them the choice as to where this work takes place, whether that is in quiet spaces, more open areas, in the suites, common areas etc. – so a good balance of look, feel and practicality.
Community and networking: Part of the attraction of these space is the mix and blend of people and businesses/teams, providing opportunities to have a curated experience, but also being able to bump into people who are on a similar journey, to potentially create connections, learn from others and feel part of something bigger than yourselves.
Creative Director, Oktra
The three most important elements of a coworking offering are the same elements that make these kinds of spaces successful; demand generation, relevance and space optimisation. When a coworking space is designed with these areas in mind, it flourishes with creative potential.
Demand generation is a space’s ability to create substantial membership by responding to the needs of a specific target market. Coworking spaces combine a knowledge of their target membership with competitive pricing and
short-term commitments in order to bring members through their doors. The look and feel of the space will also be driven by its target audience.
Relevance is the key to maintaining demand. Coworking layouts offer a high degree of flexibility and, as a result, easily adapt to accelerating change. It’s also important for coworking spaces to understand how to generate a sense of community amongst their members using a mix of services and built-in features.
Space optimisation is what coworking spaces are built around. At its most basic level, this means accommodating as many people per square metre of floor space as possible, without compromising on comfort or safety. Providers can make the most of their coworking space by optimising communal and agile areas.
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