The Influence of Coworking Spaces on Office Architecture

Back in 2019, coworking spaces were growing rapidly with an estimated 19,000 coworking spaces worldwide. By 2025, that number was expected to grow to 26,000. Then in 2020, as we all are well aware, the world changed significantly including the way in which we work.

While the pandemic has changed how we look at working in an office, coworking spaces are anticipated to remain popular as they adjust to the new normal. We are likely to see considerations like social distancing and hygiene when designing office spaces in the future, even when the pandemic is under control. We are also likely to see the benefits of what we have learned through coworking spaces and how that may apply to more traditional office environments.

What is Coworking?

We have much debate about the definition of coworking, an ever-evolving concept. Let’s try to define what coworking is in simple terms:

Coworking is a working space where individuals and groups can work together, share knowledge, and enjoy a social setting.

Coworking is typically done in a shared space, with shared resources and often is used on an ad-hoc basis. The concept of coworking is constantly evolving to accommodate efficiency and productivity. Many of those principles are useful in more traditional workplaces.

Many coworking space users have traditionally been freelancers and micro-businesses who work from home some of the time and other times enjoy the collaboration and socialization a shared space can provide. As companies move toward remote teams and working from home, we may see the office space used more on a part time basis for the same reasons – collaboration and socialization.

Modern coworking spaces are influencing office architecture. It’s highly unlikely we see a return to the outdated cubicle approach to office space design, even when designing with social distancing in mind. Rather, workspaces will be designed to help minds come together and exchange ideas freely and safely.

The idea of a restrictive office space has taken a backseat as workplaces become more flexible. We saw this trend in coworking spaces and tech startups and we’re now seeing it influence office architecture and interior design in more mainstream workplaces.

Let’s explore how coworking spaces are influencing office design right now and what we might expect in the future.

Office Architecture

Coworking spaces put people first. They are generally designed with the sole focus of being an appealing workspace for people to choose to use. They focus on the desired culture they want to create and the way in which different workers may wish to use the space.

Generally, traditional employers have not put people first and that’s why there’s so much to learn from coworking offices. The time has come for organizations to take note and incorporate coworking space philosophies into their workplace.

Open Floor Plan

In years gone by, a private office was something office workers aspired to obtain. It came with a level of prestige. If you had a big corner office, with a great view, you’d made it. We’re now wanting collaboration and connection. Many of us are tired of working from home and we want to avoid isolation.

Office design has been moving toward open floor plans for quite some time. The surge of coworking has taken that to the next level. It’s now been demonstrated that open settings can help teams work more productively and create a sense of team.

Coworking spaces generally have an open floor plan with different areas for different styles of work. You may find stand-up desks, small group meeting spaces and casual lounge areas when teams can congregate as required using different spaces for different purposes.

If a blend of working from home and part-time office space becomes the new normal, this may become the preferred office style for many employers. Team members can get together in the shared space and work together as required, and work from home when privacy and quiet space is more beneficial.

Coworking spaces often utilize sound proof, private booths for phone and online calls. With online meetings becoming more common, this may also become more common in traditional offices. It’s a great way for modern offices to adapt to the open nature of coworking while maintaining privacy when required.

Large-scale businesses with multi-level offices may choose to use an entire floor for open plan working. They may dedicate another floor for getting social purposes. Then meeting rooms may be located on another floor for team members to avoid distractions.

Community Spaces

Many people prefer to work in a collaborative space as it gives them a sense of belonging to a community. It’s a great way to build a positive culture within a workplace. That’s why you’ll see ample space to socialize and connect in coworking offices. Open terraces, cafes, lounges, table tennis and other relaxed spaces can be appealing for modern day workers.

The traditional office block had little room for venting work stress. They had a cafeteria or a smoking zone at best where employees could take a break. Modern office designs are making an effort to help employees come together. They are dedicating more space to let workers relax and connect on a relational level.

When designing any office, you need to consider your own specific needs as a business. Many coworking spaces focus on a specific niche so they can bring like-minded people together in a meaningful way. The same principles can apply to any office design. Consider your brand and the culture you want to establish and design your space with that focus in mind.

For organizations that have multiple departments and teams, consider how your space might unite those teams within the context of the entire organization. How do all the departments come together as one brand and culture and how do the nuances of different departments play out in a healthy way?

Nobody wants to work from a boring office anymore. With the right office environment, working together can be fun and can lead to more productivity.

Health and Wellness

If the global pandemic has taught us anything it’s shown us our health and wellness matters most.

Sick staff means loss of productivity. Where employers may have once focused on healthcare purely from a business productivity standpoint, we’re seeing a shift in genuine care for the personal wellbeing of others in the workplace.

Coworking spaces prioritize individual welfare and health and for good reasons. Healthy and happy workers are more likely to contribute better and work productively as part of a team. For this reason, many coworking spaces integrate wellbeing into their design.

Modern offices have caught up to the trend and are introducing several features to support employee wellbeing. Office space designers are now creating new ways to incorporate wellness into their design.

Nap pods are growing in popularity in some leading organizations like Uber, PwC, Google, and Cisco. Insomnia costs the U.S. $63 billion annually in lost productivity according to CNN. Research shows taking a short daytime nap can boost productivity and help your staff perform better.

Another example is dedicated lactation rooms to support new moms. Traditionally, offices utilized unused rooms or even closets for the purpose. Creating a dedicated space demonstrates genuine care for the needs of workers and that’s good for business.

User-Centric

If you want employees to be productive, you need to cater to their preferences and desires. Coworking spaces have led the way, taking extra effort to align with the people who work within the office.

Generally, there are staff whose primary purpose is to manage the community so they can create the office experience worker will appreciate. From required resources to technical difficulties, everything is attuned to the worker’s needs.

Your specific business and the team members you have within your organization should influence the way in which you design your office. For example, millennials may prefer to work in spaces that resemble their college campus environments. On the other hand, the Gen Z workers need a balance of open and private workspaces to be productive.

Modern offices cater to the preferences of their employees. You may need to do a bit of research to know your staff and what they want. You should also consider the culture you want to create and the team members you’d like to attract in future.

Once you have a good understanding of the direction you want to take as a business, you can design your office to provide more value and be more receptive to the people who work there.

In some coworking spaces, the host and the members work together to create a fitting working environment. Your current employees can help you with their feedback but its ultimately the leaders that need to determine the direction of the organization.

Advanced Technology

No workplace can exist without suitable technology. The modern workforce takes technology for granted, no matter where they go.

Consider the following findings of what Gen Z wants, as per Randstad:

  • 41% of Gen Z feels their employer should incorporate social media into the office
  • 27% of them want to enjoy wearables at work
  • 14% of Gen Z desire augmented reality at their workspace

Young workers are accustomed to technologies at home that they may expect in their offices. Smart lighting, automation of climate control, apps to control HVAC, the list goes on.

Coworking spaces are far more technologically advanced than traditional offices. Many already have social media, apps for climate control, and more.

Corporate office designers must now work to incorporate the technologies their workforce expect. In doing so, they can create a positive culture that ultimately impact the business’s bottom line.

Room for Privacy

There will always be a need for privacy in the workplace. Open plan works great for many purposes, but employees still need isolation from time-to-time to meet deadlines, take a call, or concentrate on the task at hand.

Many corporate offices have now installed modular privacy booths with soundproof walls. The booths usually have a small table, chairs, and charging points for devices. Anyone who needs privacy can hop into a booth and concentrate on their task or make a call without distracting others in the office.

Booths may not be required in your office based on your specific needs and available space. Some corporate offices are anticipated to downsize so simply redesigning unused rooms to be used for privacy may work for you. The way in which we use office spaces may evolve with more people working from home so you don’t necessarily need to go for a complete renovation. Making a few changes or investing in a modular setup can save both time and money and provide flexibility.

Activity Zones

Part of the appeal of coworking spaces is the events. There is no reason why corporate offices can’t facilitate similar activities.

Coworkers take part in activities and participate in a number of events which is great for team building. The sense of community is strengthened through activities, and the workers have some fun and enjoy going to work.

Common examples of coworking activities a well-designed corporate office may consider making space for:

  • Movie screenings
  • Having lunch or coffee together
  • QA sessions with guests and visitors
  • Playing games or cards

Coworking spaces sometimes have dedicated rooms or areas to hold activities. However, the kitchen or the coffee bar also acts as a place to gather and talk at other times. For the corporate office, consider making flexible spaces suitable for multiple purposes.

Modular Approach

Flexibility is the key. Coworking spaces try to avoid permanent structures or objects where possible. Modern office designs now use a modular approach and mobile furniture. Most of the furniture used in such spaces can be moved easily.

The advantage of going modular is the ability to redesign your working space as needed. You can quickly move a few tables or adjust the partitions to set up a new working area or to prepare for an event. You’ll need to consider the acoustics and durability of fixed structure such as walls and flooring. High quality commercial carpet tiles are usually a wise choice since they are easily replaced in areas that suffer the most wear. You can mix and match colors to create the desired effect and even to distinguish areas used for various purposes.

Final Thoughts

The way in which we work together is changing. Coworking spaces are influencing office designs and architecture in exciting ways. You can easily incorporate the positives of a coworking space into the blueprint of a corporate working space or small office. Your employees are likely to be more productive and feel valued.

They will be happy to give their best and work towards achieving your business goals. The ability to exchange ideas freely, and opportunities to chill and mingle. The space you create influences all of this within your organisation.

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