The landscape of the modern workplace has changed, and many workers in the United States continue to prefer remote and hybrid work options. In 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 27.6 million people were working from home—a major increase from the approximately nine million who were working from home in 2019.
Data projections indicate that remote work opportunities for high-paying jobs will continue to grow. While some of these workers prefer their home offices, others are looking for a collaborative workspace design where they can connect and focus on their duties without the distractions they experience at home.
Working remotely has far-reaching positive effects on the worker, the company, and the community at large. These include:
- Improved work/life balance for the worker, with more control over when the work day starts and ends.
- Less time in commute, which allows for more time with family, pursuing hobbies, exercising, and more.
- Money savings for the company as they downsize their headquarters and save on rent and electricity.
- Increased opportunities, since workers can apply for remote jobs all over the country.
- Flexibility in choosing where to work, including the option to relocate temporarily or permanently to a different city or state without giving up the job you love.
- Fewer cars on the road, resulting in lower carbon emissions and shorter commute times for those who still go to the office.
Of course, remote work has its share of challenges, as well. Pew Research notes that while most remote workers report a better work/life balance, 60% of them feel less connected to their co-workers.
That extra productivity you get by working from home likely comes at the expense of networking, brainstorming, and building relationships. For many, the solution to this problem is an inspiring coworking space that brings together the best of both worlds: flexible schedules and short commutes paired with dynamic, vibrant work communities and streamlined collaboration.
Freelancers, remote workers, entrepreneurs, and startups all benefits from coworking spaces, and the best spaces are made better by thoughtful, collaborative workspace design. Whether you’re choosing a coworking space as your permanent working location with a private office or dedicated desk to call your own, or simply dropping in once or twice a week for uninterrupted work time, networking, or a meeting with colleagues, a well-designed space will impact your productivity, happiness, and connection with others.
Why Collaborative Workspace Design Matters
While the library or a coffee shop can work in extenuating circumstances, there are some drawbacks. This solution might serve the purpose of getting you out of the house, but it likely won’t give you the privacy, ambiance, resources, or opportunities for networking you really need and want.
Because most visitors to these locations are not there to work, there is little sense of community or shared goals, and distractions may be frequent. At the same time, you might feel rushed to leave if you’re taking a seat in a busy coffee shop. The lighting could be too harsh or too dim, and it could be too loud to take phone calls, have virtual meetings, or concentrate on complex tasks.
Related: How to Choose a Coworking Space
Ideally, your workspace should provide a nurturing environment that fosters you and your vision. It should feel like home while offering some of the perks and advantages of a traditional office. Good collaborative workspace design balances privacy and business resources with the opportunity to make connections.
When deciding where to work, people often look at the price and location first, followed by practical matters like mail service, package handling, and the availability of printers and other equipment and supplies. They check for free, convenient parking and a kitchen or easy access to area restaurants and coffee shops.
These are important considerations, but you should also think about the design of the workspace and how it meets your needs for comfort, focus, flexibility, and more. Here are some essential elements to evaluate before you make a decision on your coworking space.
Good collaborative workspace design results in a space that is conducive to different types of activities. Quiet solo projects, brainstorming sessions, in-person and virtual meetings, even informal chats and gatherings—a great workspace design can accommodate them all.
Look for conference rooms, quiet areas, and open spaces for connection. Partitions, desks with one chair, privacy screens, and large, shielding plants create quiet yet natural nooks for solo work, while couches, coffee tables, and lightweight tables and chairs of various sizes invite discussion and collaboration. Expect furniture to be comfortable, ergonomic, and easy to move around the space to accommodate groups of different sizes.
The best collaborative workspace designs include multiple ways to work—sitting, standing, inside, outside, together, or alone—and they make it easy to switch between them.
Even the most open shared workspace should provide privacy when workers require it. This could include reservable conference rooms, private offices, or enclosed phone booths. Because privacy means different things to different people in various situations, having multiple options allows for flexibility and individual comfort.
A carefully designed collaborative workspace design may include moveable walls and partitions, helpful for creating cozy, quiet spaces on a temporary or permanent basis. Frosted glass, plants, and additional furniture or artwork can create a greater sense of privacy in a busy area while maintaining the free flow and open feeling of the space.
Technology and Equipment
Just because a collaborative workspace focuses on creative, vibrant principles for design doesn’t mean it should neglect the practical details. Expect the right space to offer access to all the tech and equipment you need to work efficiently and effectively. Look for:
- High-speed internet
- Printers and scanners
- Video conferencing equipment
And while it may be an oft-forgotten detail when you’re on the search for the perfect coworking space, well-designed spaces make it easy to access outlets, proper lighting, and more—wherever you happen to be stationed for the day.
Natural lighting reduces eye strain while improving focus, mood, and productivity. Large windows provide this light and give workers an opportunity to see outside. In one workplace wellness study, comfortable light was the second most important workplace wellness consideration (good air quality came in number one).
Of course, while natural light is the best kind in collaborative workspace design, artificial light also plays an important role in a well-designed coworking space, as some people will be using the space at all hours of the day and night. Artificial lighting can create ambiance and set intention with task lighting in work areas and mood lighting in rest areas.
In a loud space, it can be hard to concentrate or hold your own conversations. Good acoustics are essential in a well-designed collaborative workspace.
Acoustic panels, along with soft objects like couches, pillows, and even plants, can help absorb sound and reduce echo. Sound masking introduces a technology similar to white noise into the space and helps to obscure sounds coming from the surrounding area, such as conversations that other people are having.
Scalable Options in Adaptive Spaces
Your workspace needs may change. As a small startup, you might be looking to quickly add people to your team, which means you’ll require more coworking space to accommodate them as the company grows. As a freelancer, you might only need one or two days per week in a collaborative workspace, but as you get busier, you might prefer to have your own dedicated desk and 24/7 access in that space.
The ideal workspace design is scalable, ready for your growing business to adapt, spread its wings, and expand its footprint.
The Great Outdoors
Big windows are a good start, but having an outdoor space—like a deck, patio, or courtyard—gives you more options to do your best work. Getting outside can help you focus and reduce stress, whether you’re using that time as a break or setting up an outdoor workstation. These outdoor workspaces should feature some of the same qualities you look for in an indoor workspace: comfortable furniture, collaborative set-ups, additional lighting, access to outlets, a reliable internet connection, and more.
A Warm and Casual Atmosphere
How does the space feel to you? Will you look forward to going there? Is it inclusive, inviting, and soulful? Is the decor inspiring and attractive?
It’s important that you can see yourself thriving in the space you choose, with all the tools you need to succeed. This is where you’ll network, collaborate, and get things done in a way that might not be possible in your living room, local coffee shop.
Having a private office, dedicated desk, or flexible space gives you the opportunity to customize your work life with the support and amenities of a traditional office—without being stuck in one. A well-designed space allows for a natural flow and division between workstations, break areas, restrooms, and more, while supporting both work, collaboration, and privacy. Collaborative workspace design isn’t an afterthought. Instead, it’s key to creating a comfortable, inviting coworking space for freelancers, remote workers, and entire startup teams. VUKA offers temporary, short-term, and long-term coworking spaces designed with your needs in mind, complete with holistic member benefits. Contact us today to learn more and get started.