Coworking Amenities: What Do You Really Need?

So here’s a little-known tidbit about me: when not blogging about commercial real estate, I write novels. (Hopefully will become a well-known tidbit at some point—rest assured that I’ll keep you posted.)
I also have four kids, ranging in age from 9-17. They tend to be loud, kind of smelly, and often suffer from the mad delusion that my purpose in life is to provide them with things. A ride, perhaps, or clean soccer socks (good luck on that one). And food. Always food.
Having loud, smelly, mildly demanding kids in the   house is not conducive to writing anything—be it a blog post or a novel. So I’ve taken to writing elsewhere, most often with a mindful writing group. We meet in the private room of a local restaurant, listen to a guided meditation for about fifteen minutes, then write for four hours.
There’s food available, and coffee, lots of coffee. Although we’re all in the same room together, the rules are that everyone must be respectful—so no talking. The rest of the restaurant chatter is muted as soon as the door to the room is closed. The only sound is the clicking of keys on laptop keyboards (and the occasional sigh of writerly frustration).
No one asks me for help with algebra. Or cares what’s for dinner. No one smells like they came straight from a soccer game.
It’s glorious.
It’s coworking.
And more and more people are finding that it’s the best way to do their job.
Now, keep in mind that my coworking needs are not great, and as a result, my amenity expectations are not high. I fully recognize that reserving a five-hour-stint in a private room in a restaurant twice a week isn’t going to be a solution to most people’s coworking needs. Still, it’s fine for me, for now. The price is right—the cost of a meal, and coffee, and a really big tip. And the camaraderie can’t be beat.
But the room is cold, no matter the season. And there’s only one (one!) outlet in the entire space. Worst of all—no WiFi. While arguably a benefit when I’m working on my novel (no wasting time on social media), this is a huge inconvenience if I’m researching a blog post.
As someone who blogs about commercial real estate, I read regularly about coworking places like The Writer’s Room in NYC, The Hatchery Press in LA, and The Writers Workspace in Chicago, all of which allow you to share equipment, ideas, and expertise 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They provide access to online databases as well as reference books—and in some cases, even a napping area. I ogle their websites and spend time thinking about my own ideal coworking space, and what would it look like.
As coworking spaces have proliferated, the range of amenities has also grown. Options at various locations now include everything from outdoor seating areas to rock climbing walls, yoga sessions to dog parks.
For those pressed for time, there may be an option for laundry/dry cleaning drop-off onsite. Or a fitness center—with locker rooms, showers, and even exercise classes—that can not only save travel time, but provide an option for stress relief during the day. For those with small children, on-site childcare might be invaluable.
And I can see the appeal in all of these. They’re simply less necessary for someone who is only using the space ten hours a week.
My coworking needs—today, at least—are simpler. My ideal coworking space need only offer the following six basic amenities. Only six, and nothing fancy, but they would need to be done well.
(1) Open Work Space
My current coworking location consists of a single room, where we gather to write at a large central table, seated side to side but with enough space to spread out. This works for me. There’s proximity to my colleagues—that’s why we’re here, right? Because writing is a solitary activity and we need community. But we’re also not right on top of each other.
The table—really a mass of smaller tables that have been pushed together—can be reconfigured if necessary, but it rarely is. On occasion, someone will split off and move a single table to another area of the room, which allows slightly more privacy.
Still, there is no place to go to take a call, or to have a conversation without disrupting others. Since we’re talking ideal, in addition to the large table, my coworking space would offer a privacy pod, and a conference room. Sit-to-stand desks would also make the list.
(2) Supplies/Accessories
I’m not even going to discuss the necessity of fast WiFi. Or abundant outlets for charging. Or basic office supplies, and a printer. Clearly these are must-haves that my colleagues and I currently struggle on without—but in my ideal coworking space, we wouldn’t need to.
(3) Food & Drink
There’s coffee available at my current coworking space, of course—that’s a given just about anywhere. But one huge advantage to writing at a restaurant is that there’s even waitstaff to deliver (and refill) it. Meals get delivered, too. When I’m in the middle of a chapter, and don’t want to get out of my seat, this kind of table service is invaluable. It’s one of the factors that keeps me coming back.
(4) Support Staff
Now, I recognize that reasonable minds may differ on the benefit of table service in a coworking space. Some might prefer to get up and walk around. Maybe hit up a vending machine. I get it. But one thing we can probably all agree on is that excellent service in general—having a friendly and knowledgeable staff running the location, even if not also providing dining service—is a top requirement.
(5) Environmental Factors
I’m fortunate that the room in which I write provides good natural light through its abundant windows (which are also equipped with shades to block the occasional glare). Climate control, however—something so basic you don’t even think about it until you don’t have it—is lacking. For now, I rely on a sweater. And a jacket. Sometimes gloves. But my ideal coworking space would definitely do a better job maintaining a comfortable temperature.
(6) Access and Location
In my current space, my writers’ group gets the same two five hour shifts every week. Would I get more done if I could access my coworking space more frequently, or easily adjust the schedule when I have a conflict? Certainly. Many coworking locations offer 24-hour access (often accomplishing this through an access control system, so that they do not need a receptionist or security guard to monitor use), and my ideal space would unquestionably provide this benefit.
Which brings me to one of my biggest requirements of all—finding a location close to me. For all that my current coworking space may be less than ideal in many ways, it’s also only ten minutes from my house. And that’s one of the main reasons you’ll find me there twice a week. Every week.

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Do you utilize a coworking space? Share your must-have amenities!

Written by: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace

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

Using Sensors to Improve Office Space—Without Looking Like Big Brother

In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother—the leader of Orwell’s fictional totalitarian state—is always watching.
In real-world 2019, with sensors seemingly everywhere—including the workplace—it can be hard for employees to ignore the possibility that they could be subjected to a similar level of surveillance.
Unlike in 1984, however, where the purpose of the technology actually was to keep tabs on Big Brother’s citizens, many of the sensors available today have a much more benign intent: to help business owners address environmental and space management concerns. Consider the faucets in public bathrooms that turn on automatically—no need to touch the germy surface. A sensor knows someone is there when a hand is waved nearby—but learns nothing else about the person.
When sensors have a clearly defined, limited purpose, and don’t uncover much in the way of personal information, they are significantly less frightening. And, used responsibly, more and more are being given roles in developing and improving commercial real estate.
Long associated with energy efficiency—such as automatically turning lights on and off when someone enters or leaves a room—sensor technology has now advanced to the point that it can be used to increase other aspects of facility efficiency, tracking the location of employees within an office building and assessing employee work patterns.
But as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Given the advanced sensor technology now available, how can a company use such technology to enhance its office space without making employees feel like they are under a microscope?
(1) Determine if the benefits of the technology outweigh potential employee concerns.
Within the realm of workplace sensors, some seem to offer clear-cut benefits without implicating privacy issues. Automated lighting and temperature controls, for example, can significantly reduce company energy usage and facilities costs. These sensors also have only minimal effect on employee privacy—they identify that someone is in the room, but not who that person is. At a time when it is increasingly important that companies adopt environmentally friendly measures, sensors like these, which also offer long-term cost-saving benefits, seem to quite clearly add value.
Occupancy sensors, which monitor employees’ use of individual desks or conference rooms, can also be valuable, allowing businesses to obtain accurate, real-time space utilization data to determine how to best use office space—or even how to schedule cleaning and maintenance. These sensors are sometimes used temporarily—perhaps in advance of an office renovation to help decide how to restructure the space—but often on a more permanent basis, to track unassigned open desks and conference rooms so unoccupied spaces can be used by others for increased collaboration and productivity.
As with lighting and temperature sensors, occupancy sensors do not identify an individual, but instead recognize when someone—anyone—is occupying the space. It can feel more personal, though, in situations where one employee is the primary worker to use a particular desk: that person may feel that the company is monitoring him or her specifically. In such a case, the employer will need to determine if the benefits of occupancy monitoring outweigh the concerns raised by the employee.
(2) Don’t be any more invasive than you have to be.
There’s a wide variety of technology out there—from the environmental and occupancy sensors discussed above to employee ID badges that track “everything from movements and interactions around the office, to lengths of conversations, and even voice tone.” If your company is simply trying to make efficient use of desk space, it does not also need to monitor employee voice tone. Don’t add all the monitoring bells and whistles unless you have a clear and demonstrable need for them.
(3) For goodness sake, be transparent. Talk to your employees.
You might think this last—and most important—tip would go without saying, but like many other issues that employers worry might be controversial, the use of employee monitoring is often not dealt with head-on.
Just a few years ago, workplace sensors made the news when a UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, added a sensor device to the desks of journalists without disclosing the addition. The device, which picks up on motion and body heat, was intended to track when employees were at their desks—allegedly to identify times of low usage to help reduce energy costs. The journalists noticed the devices and broke the story (after which, The Telegraph removed the sensors almost immediately).
Could all the controversy have been avoided if Daily Telegraph management had simply sat down with the journalists in advance and told them what was being planned?
Maybe. Maybe the journalists, if they’d had the situation respectfully explained in reasonable terms, would have decided there were some benefits to the sensors and agreed to their installation.
Or maybe not. They might instead have suggested a compromise involving a less intrusive technology, or a shorter duration of monitoring time. Or perhaps they would have objected strenuously right from the start. It may have been an uncomfortable conversation, but it wouldn’t have broken employee trust. Or made headlines.
Sending out a memo trying to explain your intent after you’ve already taken action—as the Telegraph did—is never as effective as discussing the matter with employees ahead of time. If your company decides to use sensors to increase office efficiency, be transparent about it. Talk to your employees. Explain what information is being gathered, why the information is important, and how the employees can benefit. Talk with them about how the data will be used. As much as possible, come to an agreement on terms.
Because unlike Big Brother, the only thing your company is actually watching is its bottom line.

Written by: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace