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How to make your Co-working space your own

01 May 2017

The rise of Co-working spaces are one of the most exciting and innovative movements I've seen in corporate and workplace design in recent years.  As a new twist on the activity based working & hot-desking that lends itself neatly to entrepreneurs, sole proprietors and small companies, it provides all the benefits of larger support structure to individuals and small teams.

If you're thinking of taking that next step into a Co-working space, some of the elements to look out for are:

  • Proximity to home - if you've been used to working from home, the biggest transition you are making is heading back into the traffic.  There are so many choices of Co-working providers that it's getting more achievable to find a place nearby.
  • Proximity to public transport or affordable car parking (especially if like me, you need your car to visit clients & building sites).
  • Bike storage.  Even if you commute or drive in, storing a bike & helmet at your Co-working space gives you opportunity to get out for exercise at lunchtime, or even saving taxi-money and riding around to town.
  • Look & feel.  Co-Working spaces all differ in style and atmosphere to garner a competitive edge.  Whichever space you choose, should be a strategic decision that reflects positively upon you and your company;  the environment sets expectations of any clients that visit you, and when you utilise meeting & conferencing facilities.
  • Space.  How much space do you need to do your work?  Just a desk, or like me, a room with storage for files, product & samples?
  • Quality of printing facilities is critical; ensure the printers & binding facilities are up to scratch for your presentations.
  • Postage.  Can you get post & courier deliveries?  How is this handled in-house, so you're not constantly running to the post office box?
  • Quiet rooms for private phone calls or concentrated work is an essential if you rent a desk in a shared open area.
  • Are the conference facilities of high quality for your presentations?  Most Co-working spaces provide good audio visual facilities.  Is there access to water or tea & coffee for your visitors?
  • Choices of different places to work give a sense of personal control and a dynamic to your workday.  It also gives you a chance to get up and move.
  • If you work as part of a team, huddle spaces can be useful for informal team meetings.
  • A great cafe-style breakout or lunch area is a must;  even if you haven't time to get out for a proper break, use this space for all it's worth!
  • Informal lounge areas or a library-style environment offer somewhere to read that dry report, or for me, a place check & co-ordinate architectural & engineering drawings in a relaxed environment.  Getting away from the computer takes the pressure off that "You've got Mail" chime that constantly dings.
  • Outdoor space (or a Pseudo garden room) brings nature to you, and allows you to reconnect
  • A gym is a great benefit if available, as working sitting at your desk for long periods is detrimental to your health.  Don't just sit at your desk.
  • Does the Co-working space officer sit-to-stand workstations?   If you are sitting for more than 2 hours at a time, it's something to consider.
  • How good is the standard task chair on offer?  Most should have up/down height adjustment & swivel.  Does it have lumbar support, does it tilt?  Is there choose of a range of chairs?
  • Beware the Co-working space that looks like a backpacker hostel or student accomodating.  A casual atmosphere is important, but not to the detriment of feeling less professional, especially if you regularly have visitors.
  • Some Co-working spaces offer a trial day, so take advantage of a whole day there to try out facilities, and get an idea if the space is for you.  Speak to other Co-workers of their experience of the space.
  • Visit the space to gauge a feel of the noise level during a busy period.
  • Is the space designed for Wellbeing?   Is there plenty of natural light available in the desk area?  Have plants been introduced into the design?  Have textural, natural & organic materials been used for the fit-out?  Is the lighting warm and welcoming?
  • If you are considering renting an enclosed office, what is the policy of bringing in your own furniture & artwork, adding signage or painting walls?
  • Other facilities you may want to consider are childcare, a parenting room (i.e. read breast feeding & expressing!), prayer room, a sick bay.

Once you've made you decision and are planning for the big move-in day, consider ways to personalise your space.  You'll be in an office environment with loads of other people, all with their own business.  It's a great opportunity to be noticed.

The No. 1 rule - Curate everything in your space.

Remember that whatever you do, every choice is a strategic decision that needs to reflect positively upon you and your company.  Quality and curating even the small details leaves a positive and lasting impression.  This is your entree into corporate real estate.

  1. Create your presence with your Identity & Logo.  Even if you just have a desk, you can do this on a small scale - think small light boxes or 3D letters that are on-trend now & easy to find in craft & specialist stationary stores.  If you rent an enclosed office, consider asking permission apply vinyl wall decals or window decals on the glazing (you can order these online & apply them yourself - but ensure they are straight & centred).  An alternative is a large scale Logo is an quality frame.
  2. Learn to put value in investing in quality furniture right from the start - it's an very visual expression of your values.
  3. If you have a wall or screen space, add posters or artwork, a vision board, or frames with your Value proposition or manifesto printed in an eyecatching text and colour.  Remember to Curate - all imagery you introduce must reflect you & your Brand
  4. Bring your own task chair.  Look for one that has an AFARDI Level 6 rating - anything less is a compromise.  Remember that a good chair is essential, as you're sitting on it for long periods of time.
  5. Add a desk lamp with a warm welcoming light, to direct the light right were you need it for reading.
  6. Add an indoor plant or two, as you and the air quality will benefit.  Choose a nice pot - no plastic ones please!
  7. If you're renting space in a Workstation, consider purchasing workstation compatible accessories from the supplier to make the most of your limited desk space.  There's a great range of choice from mobile drawer pedestals, pin boards, white boards, cantilevered shelves, paper trays, pen holders, computer CPU holders, right down to plant & flower holders.
  8. Use a monitor arm for that extra OH&S factor.  There are clamp-on ones available, that give you flexibility of where & how high you have your screen.
  9. Bring a nice mug, water jug or small tea pot for that well-earned coffee break, or to reinforce that commitment you've made to drinking more water or herbal tea.
  10. Keep you space tidy - it's a direct reflection upon you.

If you rent an enclosed office, consider ways to use the available space to it's best advantage.  You'll want to make it work hard for you.  Remember to be strategic in all your decisions.  Select colours, texture and pattern that works with your Logo, and reflects you Values and Vision.  Refer to my article on Creating a Workplace that Reflects Your Vision.

  1. Consider dividing the space.  There are some great movable screens available these days, high back chairs, planter screens, DIY like air flakes (3D view)
  2. Add visitor seating in the form of a nice armchair & small ottoman with a side table and lamp that does double-duty as a reading corner for you.  Add a cushion & throw to the space for that extra welcoming factor when you're stuck in the office on a rainy day.
  3. If like me you have product or samples that get used on a daily basis, consider a display.  It could be in the form of a wall unit, nice wall hooks for sample garments, or a glass topped coffee table with a space under for objects.
  4. Rug
  5. Mobile pin boards and whiteboards for flexibility and to divide your space.
  6. Storage
  7. If you're allow to paint the walls the choices are great.   Select from neutral predominanty colours, perhaps with a "feature" paint on one wall.  There are numerous choices in functional painted surfaces like blackboard, magnetic paint and whiteboard paint.
  8. Add a bookshelf area and a magazine rack for those moments you need inspiration.
  9. Music and scent help to personalise your space and create an atmosphere primed inspiration & creativity.
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