Co-working—it represents the largest shift in office culture since, dare we say, Herman Miller invented the cubicle! Successful co-working companies have their finger on the pulse of the modern workforce and have appealed to the convenience, lifestyle, flexibility, and community that 21st-century consumers crave. Whether you work out of one of the 21,000 co-working spaces that have infiltrated the global market or you’re still in a traditional office, it seems inevitable that almost every office employee will feel the impact of this burgeoning industry as it redefines workplace standards across industries. Take note—the following 10 design drivers are those that will continue to shape the most successful co-working environments.
- In an increasingly crowded market of competitors, co-working companies are creating powerful and nimble brands to target evolving markets. Co-working companies are looking to their physical environment to further differentiate themselves with spaces that embody their mission and resonate with target demographics, all while providing a backdrop that is approachable to a wide range of individually branded end users.
- As foosball tables and ball pits have become relics of a bygone era, co-working companies continue to up the ante when it comes to the type and scale of amenities they provide. From juice bars and full-service cafes to dry-cleaning service, podcast studios, outdoor spaces, and even childcare, users expect their co-working space to become a home away from home; supporting a thriving professional lifestyle, convenience, and user health and wellness.
- Co-working spaces need to reckon with an extremely diverse user base–no two companies will bring the same skills, experience, job functions, or space needs to the table. As a result, the co-working environment must embody an interdependent ecosystem of space types beyond the desk and present users with choice. Quiet space for heads-down focused work must be balanced with hackable, technology-rich spaces for collaboration and teamwork in order to support the productivity and success of diverse users.
- Beyond the guarantee of a desk, a monitor, and reliable Wi-Fi, people are drawn to co-working spaces for the promise of meaningful community and connection. Co-working users are keenly aware of the value in immersing themselves within an environment of diverse thought and experience. As such, it is important to design adaptable multipurpose space to support a variety of events and gatherings—from guided morning meditation and lunchtime lectures to overnight hackathons.
- The notions of a ‘nine-to-five’ job or ‘one-size-fits-all’ design solution are officially passé. Advances in technology and digital communication have made a tremendous impact on our need to be plugged-in. As a result, flexible electrical solutions are critical in addressing users’ desire to work not only from their desks, but also from amenity-rich collaboration spaces. In parallel, personal workspaces must provide users with a seamless ability to personalize and reconfigure workspace, including connecting and charging the increasing number of devices we seem to all be carrying with us.
- Advancing technologies have enabled start-up companies to increase their geographic reach faster than ever. As a result, technology-enabled conference rooms are of essential to facilitating teamwork within co-working based companies—many of whom reside in and collaborate across multiple geographies. In addition to these internal collaboration needs, properly equipped and sized meeting rooms must enable optimized local presence.
- Though co-working spaces have historically been filled with individual entrepreneurs and small start-ups, larger organizations and corporations are increasingly driving membership. As such, many co-working spaces are shifting to better accommodate corporations with provisions for ample semi-private space—such as larger shared offices and meeting rooms. Providing space for fewer, but larger, tenants has also necessitated customizable tenant zones reflecting unique brands.
- Co-working companies are turning to advanced IT-infrastructure and the ‘Internet of Things’ to allow users to more readily access and control their environment. Co-working users expect to schedule desks and conference rooms from their phones, print documents from the cloud, control their individual thermal comfort and lighting levels, access spaces with keyless entry, and pay their membership fees through an app.
- In an increasingly competitive market, co-working space providers are pushing the envelope in tracking the performance of their spaces. From space utilization sensors to end user surveys, companies are relying on data to evaluate and inform their real estate decisions. As an industry leader in both building and human performance measurement, ZGF has long shared co-working space companies’ belief that ‘numbers talk!’
- As user groups change and mature and technology rapidly advances, co-working trends and drivers will continue to evolve, and a co-working company’s success will be contingent on its ability to keep up in an ever-changing market. A nimble and flexible architectural and furniture solution will be increasingly critical for accommodating change in the co-working environments of tomorrow.
Kent McCullough is an Associate Partner at ZGF with more than a decade of experience in architectural interior design, workplace strategy, and strategic planning for top tech firms, law firms, professional associations, and higher education institutions. Kent finds daily fulfillment in the opportunity to create responsive and healthy environments that reflect his clients’ unique cultures and missions.