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.
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.
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.
* * *
Do you utilize a coworking space? Share your must-have amenities!
Written by: Kim Pierson
for Coeo Space