Christie Chirinos

Office Space Design

What Is A Coworking Space And How To Get The Most Out Of One

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When I got my first job back in 2015, it was out of a coworking space. The company was a small nonprofit and they needed a communications manager (a long cry from interior design, I know). My next job would take the cowork to the next level. I became a IT staff member of an incubator that provided office space. Today, coworking spaces have become increasingly popular for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers. With so many jobs going remote after COVID-19, demand is at an all-time high. In fact, you might be here because you’re considering signing up for a coworking space, or you just did.

A coworking space is a shared workspace where individuals from different organizations or freelancers work independently or collaboratively. These spaces provide amenities such as desks, chairs, internet access, and often include communal areas for networking, meetings, and socializing. Coworking spaces are designed to foster productivity, creativity, and community among diverse professionals.

One thing I can tell you is that you get out of coworking spaces what you put in. The open and dynamic nature of these spaces can sometimes present challenges to productivity and focus. The same features can make them an amazing place to work, though. As an interior designer who has spent a lot of time in coworking spaces, I’ve gathered some tips and strategies to find the right coworking space for you, and then help you optimize your work area in a coworking space for maximum productivity.

First, For Those with a Dedicated Space

Coworking spaces are usually split into commuter spaces, or “hot desks,” and dedicated spaces either at desks or small offices. If you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated desk or small office in a coworking space, you can personalize and optimize it to suit your work style and preferences.

Choosing the Right Spot

The location of your desk within the coworking space can significantly impact your productivity. If you get a choice, look for areas with minimal foot traffic and noise. If you’ve read my home office foundations article, you know I’m a huge proponent of natural light, which can boost your mood and energy levels. Avoid sitting too close to communal areas like kitchens or meeting rooms to reduce distractions.

A good coworking space will have optimized this for you. The dedicated space members are important to a coworking space, so those desks should meet these requirements. If the dedicated space that is being sold to you is next to the kitchen, I would be wary of the design thoughtfulness of the space. Check out this article from Servcorp with other great tips on how to pick a coworking space.

Personalize Your Workspace

You have a dedicated space — use it. Adding personal touches to your desk at a coworking space is a treat, so don’t be shy about bringing in items that inspire you, such as a small plant or photos. Personalizing your space not only makes it more comfortable but also helps signal to your brain that this is your space, and your space alone.

Optimize Lighting

In my home office essentials article, I talk about the two kinds of workspace lighting: task lighting and Zoom lighting. Both kinds are crucial for doing your best work. A good coworking space should have adequate overhead lighting for both. However, since you have a dedicated space, you may want to bring some floor lighting to adjust the mood to your liking in your space. Adjustable desk lamps with warm light can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere, making it easier to stay productive for longer periods.

Use Ergonomic Furniture

Sometimes coworking spaces provide the furniture for you, and other times, especially with small office rentals, you have to provide your own. Either way, comfort is key to maintaining productivity throughout the day and health throughout the week. Ensure your chair provides proper lumbar support and that your desk is at the right height to prevent strain. If you must provide your own office chair, I have an article on office chairs that I love. If your coworking space allows, consider bringing in ergonomic accessories like a footrest, wrist rest, or a laptop stand to create a more comfortable and supportive work setup.

Keep Your Space Organized

A cluttered desk can lead to a cluttered mind. Keep your workspace tidy by using organizational tools such as desk organizers, cable management solutions, and storage boxes. Regularly declutter your desk and only keep essential items within reach to maintain a clean and efficient work environment.

Incorporate Greenery

Adding plants to your workspace can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and improve air quality. I wrote an article on my top picks for low-light and low-maintenance plants that are great for an office, featuring plants like snake plants, pothos, or ZZ plants that can thrive in indoor settings. A touch of greenery can create a more pleasant and inviting workspace, promoting productivity and well-being.

For Those Who Travel Back And Forth

If you’re a commuter who brings your laptop back and forth to the coworking space and must find open seating each day, these tips will help you stay productive in a dynamic environment.

Arrive Early to Choose the Best Spot

Getting to the coworking space early can give you the advantage of choosing a prime spot. Look for areas with minimal foot traffic and noise, and try to find a seat near a window for natural light.

Create a Portable Workspace Kit

As a commuter, having a portable workspace kit can make a huge difference. Include essentials like a laptop stand, wireless keyboard and mouse, your laptop charger, and noise-cancelling headphones. This setup allows you to create an ergonomic workspace anywhere you may be, which is a huge plus when you’re sitting in one place you don’t own for 6+ hours. Extra points: you’ll look much better in your Zoom calls if your laptop is on a stand.

Manage Noise Levels

Noise can be a significant distraction in coworking spaces. Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out background sounds and help you concentrate. Listening to calming music or white noise can also help drown out distractions and improve focus.

Also, if other coworking space members are being disruptive, don’t be afraid to let staff members know. Their job is to ensure that you have a productive and pleasant space to work. Sometimes, others don’t realize how noisy their calls can be until someone gently lets them know.

Personalize Your Space Temporarily

While you can’t permanently personalize your spot, small items like a favorite coffee mug can add a personal touch to your temporary workspace. These items can help create a sense of familiarity and comfort, even in a changing environment.

Utilize Available Resources

Many coworking spaces offer additional resources and amenities that can enhance your productivity. Take advantage of all of them — you’re paying for it. Meeting rooms can be helpful for private calls or focused work sessions, use the communal whiteboards for brainstorming, and even attend networking events to connect with other professionals, if they are available. Utilizing these resources can help you make the most of your coworking experience.

Take Regular Breaks

Maintaining productivity isn’t just about your focused time; it’s also about working smarter. Incorporate short breaks into your routine to recharge. Use break times to stretch, take a walk, or socialize with others in the coworking space (who aren’t wearing headphones, of course). Regular breaks can help you stay refreshed and maintain high levels of productivity throughout the day.

Whether you have a dedicated spot or are a commuter in a coworking space, maximizing productivity involves creating a personalized and comfortable work area, managing distractions, and making use of available resources. By implementing these strategies, you can transform your workspace into a productive haven, allowing you to thrive in a shared environment. Remember, the key is to find a balance that works for you, enabling you to stay focused, comfortable, and inspired throughout your workday.

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