The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures

The coworking space trend is showing no signs of slowing down. If you work on any commercial projects at all, chances are good that you’ll be working on a shared office at some point. Maybe you’re already positioning yourself to be competitive in the space! Either way, it’s worth knowing what makes good coworking space design.

What Makes Shared Workspace Better Than Traditional Office Space?

Let me start this by saying that a cowork space isn’t all pros compared to the traditional office model. Both have their advantages and disadvantages — but to be competitive in the coworking trend, it’s worth exploring what makes the latter so appealing.

In one word: flexibility.

Thanks largely to the increase of independent work — i.e. freelancing, startup jobs — more and more people are seeking a place where they can not only get things done, but also have plenty of autonomy when they need it.

The traditional office space takes care of the first part. However, the beauty of a coworking space is that it can provide that and so much more.

A possible con? You’ll have to be more self-reliant on staying focused.

7 Elements of Good Coworking Space Design

1 – Flexibility, part 1: “I” and “we” spaces

At its core, a coworking space is a place to work. This means it’s crucial to have areas that are private or simply quiet, where members can focus.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | BrandOpus London
Image: BrandOpus, London

On the other hand, a shared office space will always have a wide variety of professionals, so it’s also important to have areas where everyone can mingle while working.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | The Assemblage
Image: The Assemblage

If you’re a startup CEO, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that the uber talented developer you need is sitting right next to you.

2 – Flexibility, part 2: varied seating arrangements

The desk and office chair setup has its place. At a coworking space, so does the beanbag. And the bright yellow wing chairs. And the colorful stairs with throw pillows.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | Thomas House CoWorking Desk
Image: Thomas House Coworking Office
The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | The Wing, Brooklyn
Image: The Wing, Brooklyn
The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | b.sorted Romania
Anyone else who loved sitting on stairs to hang out or do homework? Image: b.sorted, Romania

Why all this variety? It helps the brain get a fresh perspective. This is especially helpful for coders trying to solve specific problems, or creatives who are stuck in a rut.

3 – Flexibility, part 3: different sceneries

Essentially, this is taking varied seating arrangements to a whole new scale. This is an even more powerful tool for stimulating the brain, creating a different mood, or simply taking a break.

You can have rooms that are closer in looks to a traditional office space, but perhaps a lot more modern and polished.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | Coworkrs, Gowanus
Image: Coworkrs, Gowanus

Artsy sections with playful patterns and accessories? Why not?

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | Nomad, Copenhagen
Image: Nomad, Copenhagen. Furnished by Muuto

Are you converting a former church? Inspired by a coffee bar? Go for it! The point is to walk away from the staid, stuffy traditional office setting.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | Replica House Studios, London
Replica House in London was a former church. Image: Dezeen

4 – Good design

Blame it on the reptilian part of the human brain, but a lot of times, beautiful things are very effective in attracting people. In the case of a shared workspace, it makes members excited to come in.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | The Wing, Dumbo
The Wing, Dumbo, NYC. This exclusive women’s coworking space’s design was inspired by the women’s club movement in New York, in the 19th and 20th century. Image: Dezeen

On a deeper level, good design isn’t just easy on the eyes: It’s also a reflection on the type of members a coworking space wants to attract. This products two additional benefits: First, precise targeting makes it easier to get people in the door. Second, homogeny makes for harmony, creating strong relationships and therefore a loyal member base.

5 – Going green

This means two things: living plants and being green-certified. The first has been proven again and again to reduce stress. Not only that: They’re pretty!

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | Second Home Lisboa
We’re green with envy. Image: Second Home, Lisboa

The second means a space that encourages well-being and sustainability. Judging by the high levels of work-related stress and anxiety, this is pretty crucial.

Studies have shown that “green” buildings produce a 26% boost in cognition and 30% fewer sickness-related absences (Forbes).

6 – Snacks

Look. It seems trivial. And we know this. But actually, snacks, and the quality thereof, make a big difference in members’ experience and perception of a coworking space. Some nice coffee, healthy food, fruit, chips, etc. would be good. Bonus: The food station makes an extra area for collaboration.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | WeWork, Shanghai
A snack station in the middle of WeWork Shanghai is manned by staff. Image: Dezeen

7 – Office necessities

Of course, the fanciest coworking space won’t be any good unless the basics are covered. Start with a variety of lighting: big windows for natural light, task lighting, and warm ambient light. Don’t forget climate control — allow variability in different areas if you can.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | Coworking space in Mexico City
Coworking space in Mexico City. Image: Dezeen

Last but not the least: office supplies. Provide the basics like paper, pens, pencils, staplers, paper clips, a copy machine, a printer, and more. It’s conveniences like these that make a difference.

The Anatomy of Good Coworking Space Design, In Pictures | Fohlio | Product Specification and Materials Budget Calculator | Thomas House Coworking Office
Standard desk and chair, plus pens and paper. Image: Thomas House Coworking Office

Fohlio Quick Tip: Setting Up Your Product Specification Sheet for a Coworking Space

You can save yourself lots of time and effort by creating a product specification template specifically for this type of projects. Make a placeholder checklist of the standard items: lighting, HVAC, flooring, furniture, etc.

Once you start designing, just replace the placeholders with the specific items you want.

As a bonus, you can provide your client with their first set of office supplies, so they’re ready to go as soon as possible. This section can probably be the same for every project, so you don’t need to spec them out every time. It’s a small thing, but it makes a huge impact on your client’s perception of you, and likely the reputation you’re trying to build.

What are your tips for designing coworking spaces? Tell us in the comments below!

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Also published on Medium.

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