Learning from the New Kid on the Block: Four Steps to Creating a Coworking-Style Community in a Traditional Office Space

Among the many benefits attributed to coworking is the sense of community it provides freelancers and remote workers—a benefit that appears quite real. According to a recent survey of coworking professionals, an overwhelming majority of them—almost 9 of 10—stated that they are happier and less lonely than they were prior to coworking.

Done right, a coworking space can provide the kind of personal interaction that workers miss out on when working from home, or their local coffee shop.

Or increasingly, when working a traditional desk job.

Remote workers aren’t the only ones experiencing loneliness and isolation. Many traditional employees also find their workplace lacks a real sense of community—and in some cases, that community is decreasing all the time. With the number of remote workers on the rise, those still making the daily commute have fewer colleagues actually within the workplace to turn to for active collaboration and socializing. Talking with their coworking friends, traditional workers are increasingly aware that they are missing out on something.

It doesn’t have to be that way. While property managers may not be able to (nor wish to) recreate the coworking setup exactly, there are elements they can take from these spaces to make the traditional office more hospitable and welcoming for those working there.

  • Create spaces for collaboration. Whether these are dedicated team meeting spaces, open work spaces, or even a lounge or café where employees can go to chat with colleagues, providing workers with an area to bounce ideas off others can help grow a sense of community. Experiment to see what type of set-up works best for your particular employees and adjust accordingly.
  • Hold regular—but optional—events outside of work where employees can interact, learn from each other, and build friendships and relationships.
  • Use technology to maintain connections. Through technology such as video conferencing, employees can continue to collaborate with even those colleagues who are working remotely.

In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”: if you don’t have the capacity within your existing building to offer the above options on-site, consider making coworking part of your business strategy. Use the alternative workspace as a bonus place for your workers to meet and work. Providing access to a coworking space can also help to attract top talent to whom this type of flexible work place has become the norm.

Written by: Kim Pierson

for CoeoSpace

Increasing Meeting Efficiency Through Better Use of Conference Space

With U.S. companies losing billions of dollars each year to poorly organized meetings, it has become increasingly obvious that changes must be made to increase efficiency. While there is no one perfect path to a well-run meeting, there are a number of techniques—such as setting a clear agenda and limiting the number of invitees—that can help. One factor that is often overlooked is how meeting spaces can be used and adapted to improve productivity.

As WorkSocial stressed in their recent piece on meeting room design:

Well-designed meeting rooms can put attendees at ease, encourage conversation, and induce creativity. Mindful meeting room design can drastically improve effectiveness of your meetings.

Many office buildings have several distinct and different conference areas available, and choosing the right one involves an analysis of not only the number of expected attendees, but also the purpose of the meeting, and how your team likes to work. A room that seems perfect for six colleagues preparing for a presentation may not function nearly as well for a large board meeting, and vice versa.

Consider whether your team prefers standing meetings to sitting. Do they like to work on their own, or as a part of a group? Do they do their best work when they have access to a white board, or might they need equipment to teleconference with employees working remotely? All these factors should be considered in order to optimize a meeting’s efficiency. But the size of the room, because it’s the hardest to change, is probably the place to start.

(1) DETERMINING THE BEST SIZE FOR YOUR MEETING SPACE

Today’s offices generally offer some combination of the following types of conference spaces:

  • Privacy Booths: these relative newcomers to the world of meeting spaces are intended for telephone calls or one-on-one discussions. An upgrade on the cubicle, Perfect for sharing sensitive information in otherwise open floor plans, privacy booths are frequently modular and thus can be added easily and inexpensively. Many companies have multiple privacy booths so they can be used as the need arises, without advance scheduling.

  • Huddle Rooms: typically intended for 4-8 people, huddle rooms are particularly useful for brainstorming and collaboration, as well as small corporate training sessions. They commonly contain advanced videoconferencing capabilities that can help to create a connected culture. As with privacy booths, most companies do not allow huddle rooms to be reserved, allowing more flexibility in use. They are particularly valuable in offices with open floor plans, as they allow small groups to meet without noise or other distractions.
  • Small Meeting Rooms: more than simply convenient rooms for internal meetings, these can also serve as places to work on longer-term projects too substantial to be packed up at the end of the day. Rooms this size must generally be reserved ahead of time.

  • Large Conference Rooms: these are the rooms where a company pulls out all the stops. The largest meeting space, with top-of-the-line furnishings, state of the art equipment, and a lovely view, a large conference room is used primarily for meetings with clients or others who executives are trying to impress.
  • Outdoor Spaces: while less traditional than indoor conference rooms, outdoor meeting spaces are becoming increasingly common. Outdoor workspace can promote relaxation, as well as encouraging creativity and innovation. Patios, gazebos, and rooftop gardens have all become popular conference spots—with some companies even holding walking meetings along nearby trails.

(2) OTHER MEETING ROOM CONSIDERATIONS

(A) Décor & Lighting: While not every company has access to an outdoor conference space, all can enjoy the benefit of the great outdoors by bringing certain aspects inside. Placing live plants in meeting rooms can have a relaxing impact, as can maximizing natural light. Indeed, lighting often plays a significant role in creating the desired meeting atmosphere, with softer lights making a space appear welcoming, and (dimmable) brighter lights generally preferred for more formal meeting rooms.

(B) Color: Like lighting, color can impact the effectiveness of a meeting space. Cool colors such as green and blue have long been touted as helping with productivity and relaxation, whereas warm colors like yellow are said to aid in creativity. Materials such as wood also add warmth, while glass is associated with a more modern feel. Some businesses like to use company colors or incorporate a logo into the meeting room décor in order to better tie the space to the company.

(C) Sound: Meeting room acoustics should also be considered. Not only should these rooms be soundproofed—keeping meeting contents private and outside noise from becoming a distraction—but set up to provide optimal communication within the space, without echoing or other distortion. This is particularly important when microphones or speakers are in use.

(D) Furniture & Technology: Comfortable office furniture is an essential part of an effective conference room, but other amenities may not be. While it is important that a company have access to features such as projectors, screens, white boards, microphones, speakers, refreshments—even height-adjustable tables for those standing meetings—not every meeting room must provide each and every one of these. Meeting rooms can be customized according to the ways in which they are most likely to be used—and modified when necessary.

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Does your office’s conference space meet the needs of your team? Please comment below.

Written By; Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace

Employee Retention: It All Starts with Onboarding

New employees bring with them energy and innovative ideas.

And they’d better. Because they’re darned expensive.

Engaging new employees requires an investment of both time and money. Advertising for and interviewing candidates is costly. As is training new hires and helping them grow into highly productive members of your team.

And that presumes you can even find qualified individuals. With the current low unemployment rate (3.6%, as of May 2019), when an employee leaves, 60% of employers spend more than 12 weeks looking for a replacement.

So when you do find that diamond in the rough, the last thing you want is for him or her to be one of the 50% of new hires who leave their position within the first 18 months.

Your onboarding program can help. Onboarding, or “organizational socialization,” is the means by which new employees acquire the necessary skills and behavior to become the qualified workers that every employer hopes to find—and keep.

But it’s more than that. Onboarding, if done right, is the new employee’s first experience with your company’s core values and culture. It’s your first chance to make him or her feel appreciated. And if your company attracted the new hire through an Employee Value Proposition, this is your first opportunity to deliver on it. The onboarding process sets the tone for all that is to follow.

But too often, it’s not made a priority. As Dana Bice, Managing Director for Found Advisors, put it,

How we plan and prepare for new employees is key to our very own success. Nevertheless, we often let it fall by the wayside. As a result, we may lose valuable employees. Our turnover rate skyrockets and employee engagement plummets.

Losing employees brings with it more than just the financial hit of trying to replace them. As Bice mentions, the loss can affect morale. Exiting employees can take key clients with them. And, from a real estate perspective, the empty spaces left behind can skew the remaining office space.

Onboarding experiences can and should be as unique as the companies designing them. They can be formal—providing new hires with a fixed sequence of activities—or informal—in which new employees learn about their jobs with a less explicit organizational plan. Regardless, there are certain best practices for making the onboarding experience a positive one:

(1) DO make new hires feel welcome. Show that you’re pleased to see them, take them to lunch, and/or leave a small gift at their workspace.

(2) DO use onboarding to inspire new hires and introduce them to the company core values and culture.

(3) DON’T ignore the onboarding process. Throwing your new employees right into the workday without introducing them to the people with whom they’ll be working makes the transition hard on everyone, as does expecting the new hires to just learn as they go, without proper training.

(4) DON’T make the onboarding experience an everlasting parade of employee handbooks and paperwork. Obviously, legal and policy documents will need to be signed, and handbooks distributed, but break up the day by introducing the new employees to their supervisors and coworkers, and providing a tour of the office.

According to a Gallup poll, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. Do yourself a favor: put yourself in that top 12%. It’ll boost everything from employee morale to your company bottom line.

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What do you remember about your most recent onboarding experience? Would you say your company did a “great job”?

Written by: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace