When it comes to designing a coworking space, we believe in offering members a variety of workspaces. While coworking in a large, open space builds community, people and businesses have varied needs—and we try to meet all of those.
“I think it’s important to offer a mix of different work environments to match the types of work individuals do throughout a given day,” says Platform Coworking owner Jeff Park. “While our members often have a single job title, they fill multiple roles, so their tasks change and our goal is to provide them with the proper space for all of those.”
Toward that goal, we offer three types of spaces: unassigned spaces in a communal setting, assigned spaces (a dedicated desk), and private offices. It’s key to have a good balance between these three styles and, going forward, we’ll be focusing on creating more shared private areas so that our members can use them for a phone call or a meeting.
Varied Workspaces Are Key
When it comes to coworking, sound privacy is the most important in our experience. Break out spaces and phone booths are effective ways to provide privacy. We’re working to make these areas into something more like mini lounges or mini conference rooms. “We’re approaching these like they’re a cross between your living room and a library, both comfortable and inviting,” says Park. “I see some spaces that are entirely open and there doesn’t seem to be much dedicated to focus-based work. It’s important to have a balance.”
While we do offer private offices, we think it’s important for these types of spaces to be available to all of our members. They’re a public resource and are first come, first serve, so they’re different from a private office. We find that sound privacy is usually more important than visual privacy. So, in addition to private phone booths and mini conference rooms, we put a premium on semi-public breakout spaces throughout our space where members can make a quick phone call and/or simply change their working environment to suit their needs.
“Providing these areas is a fundamental part of how our current and future spaces are and will be conceptualized in terms of different working styles and the actual flow of the space,” says Park. “People get calls randomly throughout the day, it’s not something you can plan for, so those private or semi-private spaces need to be close to communal areas. Even in one day people differ in their working patterns, from needing to be on a call with other team members and clients, to executing whatever was decided on that morning call, so we’re trying to model our spaces to closely follow people’s actual work patterns.”
Coworking In Private
Some people simply prefer a dedicated, private workspace. Perhaps they are on the phone constantly throughout the day and don’t want to subject others to their daily business. As many do prefer private offices, it’s key to provide enough of those to meet demand.
Our coworking space in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood is composed entirely of private offices. Still, we see members building community and benefitting from the traditional aspects of coworking. “Our members in Wicker Park acquainted themselves with their neighbors very quickly,” says Park. “So that community component is still there, regardless of whether they’re working in private offices or shared space. I think that happens because it’s the same people working in that space every day and they become accustomed to each others’ routines and work styles.” That’s different from Platform Coworking in Ravenswood where members come in at different times, on varied schedules, and without as much consistency. Both models seem to work and we’ll continue mixing and matching them as we expand into new spaces.
The Future Of Coworking Space & Office Design
When we look at a properly designed coworking space, there are many intangibles and it’s something that’s hard to quantify, but it can be done. It’s evident when you haven’t taken the research into consideration. We’re constantly looking toward the future when it comes to the design of our spaces. “I think incorporating research-based design will drive the direction of how future spaces are built and I think it’s still early in that process,” says Park. “There are design companies out there doing really good work in taking a quantitative approach to design and how it influences work flow.
“In the past, office environments were organized by hierarchy. The whole framework of cookie cutter offices and cubicle farms is thankfully becoming extinct but there is still a lot of room to try and establish what the office of the future looks like,” Park continues. “We’re trying to collect as much data as we can and those poised to do this successfully are standing in a convergence of anthropologists, sociologists and designers who take a quantitative approach. It’s been neglected on a widespread scale and finally it’s starting to evolve.”
These are all thoughts that have been on Park’s mind since he first helped pioneer coworking in Chicago. “This is how we’re thinking today but it might change tomorrow based on feedback, it’s fluid in nature,” he says. “We’re constantly making incremental changes to see what works and what doesn’t, but adding more work environments into the mix is definitely a priority.”