What Makes a Really Effective Co-working Space? (Guest Blog)

Co-working spaces are ever increasing in popularity. According to a recent article by the Huffington Post, there are now 83% more co-working spaces in existence than there were last year, and the UK is following suit!

Collaborative work spaces like these are breeding grounds for productivity. With so many like-minded individuals around, resources at their disposal and freedom from the daily distractions found at home, co-working spaces have fast become the go-to environment for everyone from freelancers to entrepreneurs, new business start-ups and distracted employees alike.

That’s if they’re done right, that is. The main purpose of a co-working space is to enhance collaborative working and make it easier for users to interact with their peers, so here’s a list of what you can do to make your own co-working space really effective.

A strategic layout


Image credit: Inc.

This means large, four-walled rooms without partitions and with plenty of space to move freely around furniture and other members. Not only do partitions create a sense of secrecy and feel a bit like a blockade, but they scream ‘corporate’. In a working environment that’s meant to be informal and unpressured they’re a big no-no.

Functional furniture


Image credit: Design Studio 210

The furniture in a co-working space is perhaps even more important than the furniture in a corporate office. As well as being comfortable enough to increase productivity and avoid becoming a distraction, it has to make it easier for people to collaborate with one another. The good news is that the office furniture sector has responded to the popularity of co-working by producing a whole host of great furniture. While traditional round tables and expanses of interconnected desks are popular, my favourite are the interconnected LeafDesks at the Barley Mow Club Workspace in London. As well as being able to fit more people around them, they can pivot to form the most convenient shape and are light enough to move to wherever you need them.

Technology


Image credit: Inc.

Where would a co-working space be without technology? Make things like printers and scanners available and check the WiFi connection is working to the very best of its ability – it needs to be able to handle your space’s maximum number of members! It’s also good practice to include a few PC’s for emergencies. While the large majority of people will bring in their own laptops, notebooks and tablets, you never know when something could go wrong or someone might forget their trusty workstation.

Elements that encourage community spirit


Image credit: Flickr

Part of the success of co-working spaces lies in the community spirit contained inside. They’re informal environments, free from the stresses that can stifle creativity and full of other people with the same kind of aims and ambitions in mind. It stands to reason then, that they’re also hubs for conversation and blossoming friendships, so why not incorporate design elements that encourage it? As well as actual working areas include somewhere members can make a coffee or cup of tea, grab a bite to eat and chat while they’re doing it, and create a space for ‘down time’ where people can take a break and chat. Include a television, selection of music and even something like a shelf full of inspirational books to spark conversation.

Natural light


Image credit: Pinterest

For all the design and technological technicalities involved in creating a co-working space, you mustn’t forget the importance of some good old fashioned natural light. While a dark and gloomy room makes for a dark and gloomy mood, natural light brings a refreshing atmosphere to co-working spaces that doesn’t just make it easier for members to see what they’re working on, but lifts the mood of everyone inside.

Simplicity


Image credit: PSFK

Simple work spaces are always the most effective. As well as being free from unnecessary distractions like too many accessories, decorative elements and garish colours, simple designs leave much more room for members to move around. If coupled with a neutral colour palette, they can even help the natural light mentioned above reflect around the space to make it appear more open and tranquil.

Focal points


Image credit: vreaumobila

While simplicity is stylish, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a few additional focal points. Buy in some nice plants and flowers to brighten up the space and add a sense of vitality, hang framed posters and prints or even artwork by local artists, buy a rug, create a feature wall or add pops of colour in the furniture. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Co-working spaces are a godsend for those needing somewhere more laid back and informal to work, especially if they’re struggling to adapt to working at home among so many distractions. Although the pressure will be on to create a space that really enhances productivity, taking inspiration from this group of key design elements could, you never know, turn your co-working space into the birthplace of the next Mark Zuckerberg!

What do you think makes the perfect co-working space? Leave a comment below!

Victoria Crawcour graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a 1st class degree in Interior Design. She can be found putting her degree to good use by designing corporate and commercial office refits at www.deskcentre.co.uk