SPACE is the most tangible element of your coworking business - it’s where your community works, it’s the equipment you provide, the meeting rooms for hire and, of course, the plants you inevitably under care for.
To the untrained eye space is all there is to coworking, to those of us in the know (i.e. anyone who’s read all the blogs in this series) it’s much more than just a desk. But the space does matter, the right design will help you facilitate all the softer elements of building a thriving coworking community. You can use design to communicate your values, to create an atmosphere and to help your members meet each other and have a productive day.
We’ll start with the least fun part: make sure your space fulfills all legal requirements and best practice with regards to health and safety and accessibility. Ask your local council what the legal obligations are for operating a space like yours. The worst case scenario for overlooking local laws is probably a hefty fine, so save yourself the worry and risk of not knowing by speaking to those in the know. They probably spend most of their time fighting with people, trying to get them to take an active interest so chances are they’ll really appreciate you being proactive! There are loads of people out there who can help you with health and safety policies so reach out to them too. This is important at design stage because it saves you from gorgeous furniture that does more harm (to your members’ posture) than good. And please consider accessibility throughout the design process, you don’t want to exclude people from your space for the sake of artistic flare.
First impressions are everything, so try to adopt the view of a first time visitor whenever you are surveying your space. It’s unlikely you’ll neglect this perspective when you’re initially designing it but remembering how to look at your space with fresh eyes will help you keep on top of the maintenance and keep it looking great for years to come.
Incorporate a variety of purpose built work spaces for meetings and phone calls, areas to interact and places where you can get your head down without any interruptions. People have different working needs and they change throughout the day, do your best to cater to all of those needs. How you put the parts together will depend on your taste and the confines of your space, but consider how you want it to feel to be there. You want to make it easy for people to talk to each other, people should feel comfortable and it should be clear how they access the practical things they need to get their work done. A big table in the break space will do wonders for community building without you having to lift a finger.
Inject some personality into the space! You are designing on behalf of all your members so it’s important that the space is fairly neutral and doesn’t alienate anyone you want to feel welcome. Still, this is a chance for some fun and it’s totally possible to make things beautiful on a budget. Interactive elements like a book swap, noticeboard and, that coworking essential, the coffee machine will be good talking points and will end up being the cornerstones of your space. Be imaginative and invite your members to take pride in the space themselves - together you will build something that is out of this world.
The Coworking Canvas
This blog is part of a series demystifying our Coworking Canvas – a practical tool for developing the 6 key areas central to a thriving coworking community. The canvas was designed by our sister organisation the Coworking Accelerator drawing on over a decade of experience building The Melting Pot. If you are considering starting your own coworking business come along to our EXPLORE Coworking workshop on the 18th & 19th June 2019 in London – you’ll work alongside other coworking leaders as our team shows you how to apply these tools to your coworking venture.
Cleo Goodman is Communications and Social Impact Manager at our mother organisation The Melting Pot.
Cleo started off at TMP as a host, community building, managing the events venues and running the learning events programme. Now, she manages our communications and measures the social impact of coworking at TMP and our incubation programme for social entrepreneurs Good Ideas.