Building a workplace (Co-working space) that works

co-working office space

Fun. Inspiring. Productive. Engaging. If you wouldn’t define your office space with any or all of those terms, then there is definitely something not right with your co-working office space.

There are multiple reasons to push each one of us off balance at work. For some, it could be the slightest commotion, like swinging doors or talkative employees, while for others, it could be disruptions like unplanned meetings or frequent discussions. However, the one thing that distracts almost everyone is the dull or boring workspace. There are numerous reports, indices, and studies such as Gensler’s Workplace Index, The Leesman Index,  Steelcase, and others that explore the relationship between the office space and business performance metrics, productivity, and what employees value.

As per these reports, co-working office space is strongly correlated to employee productivity and performance and even a small shift can have a dramatic impact.

This physical workspace is the one we see, touch or smell. It could be the art that hangs on the walls, the office floor plan, a colleague sitting next to you, and any other perks we might get in form of catered meals in a beautiful cafeteria, an on-site gym, or a video game area that we (employees) can use to unwind a bit.  

But before reading on, think for a minute about your co-working office space and how it makes you feel. Do you get excited and energized or do you feel as if you are walking into a hospital or a doctor’s office?

If it’s the latter, then there is some learning to pull out from some of the greatest offices across the globe. Both the employers and the employees play crucial roles in making these blueprints effective.

There are no ‘fit-for-all’ workspaces

Some of the most progressive offices across the globe are not just about an open floor plan or a cubicle, rather they’re about giving employees multiple moods of working. Consider SAP, Europe’s largest technology company, which has an open environment, cubicles, a collaborative innovation hub, a co-working cafe, conference rooms, smaller meetings rooms, and areas for presentations. LinkedIn, Cisco, Airbnb, and many other organizations have similar environments. To put it simply, the key is to shift away from having a single floor plan to integrating and incorporating multiple floor plans to improve productivity.

Imbibe your culture

As opposed to what is largely believed and perceived, productive office spaces are not just about throwing around beanbags, ping pong tables, and cool looking art just for the sake of doing so; rather, they are strategic investments. A desk, cubicle or a workspace must reflect the values and the culture of the organization. For instance, a walk down the design firm IDEO’s San Francisco office feels like wandering into a child’s playhouse, with jars of colorful paper clips, pens, and other tools for creative expression lined up at the entrance.

coworking office space

IDEO’s San Francisco office

Innovate, change, implement, repeat

According to a few experts on productive workspaces, one should treat their physical space like software. Just like you iterate, make changes, upgrade, and evolve software, physical space needs to be thought of in the same way. Take for example Airbnb, which constantly experiments and tests new office layouts and environments every now and then.

In a nutshell, creating inspiring office spaces is not about spending million dollars on changing the entire look and feel of the workspace. Instead, they are small changes that help organizations and employees shift away from thinking of work as a utility to ‘beautiful experiences’.

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