The 4 learnings from coworking spaces for the hybrid office
The crisis caused by COVID-19 has accelerated the office and workplace design transformation process that has taken place in the last decade and that is bringing us increasingly closer to a hybrid working model. A model that is in between in-person and remote working. Coworking spaces have been applying a similar model for years, which we can borrow several ideas and lessons from.
Over the last decade, coworking has gone from being a Bohemian solution for a tiny majority to a billion-dollar industry that is now present in most countries around the world. If we had to explain what this industry does in one sentence, we would say that: "The coworking industry helps to use spaces more efficiently."
By viewing a working space as a dynamic service that adapts to the changing needs of the user at all times, coworking spaces are forced to develop different strategies that allow them to be flexible in order to adapt to the changing needs of their clients. Meanwhile, the traditional real estate industry has made stability its defining feature throughout its long history.
1. Reducing cost by generating greater flexibility
Offering more flexibility with hot desking
If we try to understand how coworking spaces manage to be flexible, beyond the types of membership plans they offer their users, we will find several strategies that will allow you to improve space management in your company. One of the methods for using space that was very popular in the early days of coworking, and that is now re-emerging with the pandemic, are the hot desk rates (also called "flex desks" in other markets).
Optimizing the use of space to reduce costs per user
By signing up for one of these rates, you won't have an assigned desk, but instead every day you choose one of the available desks assigned to this membership plan where you'll work that day in exchange for a less expensive rate. This allows the coworking space to offer more affordable rates for those who don't need to have a permanent desk. This is made possible because there are users of the coworking space who don't work there every day and, as such, the space can eliminate a reasonable percentage of permanent desks without the risk of overbooking.
Company offices could reduce their footprint
If we were to replace permanent desks with flexible workstations in our company, we could either reduce the total area of space needed and therefore reduce how much we would be paying for the office. We could also dedicate that area to creating a better workspace, or implement a combination of both of these solutions.
2. Designing spaces for greater productivity
Another factor about coworking spaces that may have caught your attention is that you will practically never see people working at their desks in their advertising:
People are always shown at a networking event, in a training session, in a meeting, a team building session, etc.
Spaces created for each type of activity
In a conventional workspace, we have desks, meeting rooms and common areas. However, an approach based on activity-based design tries to create different spaces for each activity that an employee must carry out during the day. Some work tasks could be done at a desk, mainly individual work, while others can be carried out elsewhere, for example, video calls can be taken in a booth, informal team meetings can take place in an area more similar to a lobby of a hotel or cafeteria. If someone needs to have a private conversation, they could go to one of the meeting rooms in the coworking space, but if you were to give a presentation or workshop, this could be held in the auditorium or in the space's amphitheater.
Optimizing individual spaces to offer more collaboration spaces
Coworking spaces have fully optimized the space dedicated to individual work, increasing their occupation with hot desking, and use the dedicated part of the square meters they have gained to create more attractive common areas and spaces where activities other than individual work can be carried out much more effectively and without disturbing other colleagues.
In a company where the pressure to make every square meter profitable isn't as high, we can eliminate the permanent desks and with all or part of the square meters we gain, we can create different work areas that offer users higher quality.
This way, each employee can choose where to work depending on their specific needs on any given day or at any moment in time, in order to be more productive.
3. Creating communities and fostering collaboration
Without permanent desks, departmental barriers are broken down
As a colleague who was also a coworking pioneer in Spain once said: "Collaboration doesn't happen by magic, people don't walk through the door saying: Life is wonderful, I want to collaborate! Collaboration is the result of people rubbing shoulders every day." How do we make that happen? If we don't have assigned desks, what should happen is that teams begin to mix naturally, this is the first step.
Create a community to encourage collaboration
If we want to speed up the process, it is best to create situations in which people interact naturally, without any pressure. In coworking spaces, you can find all kinds of events with the sole purpose to provide the place and time for people to meet. Encourage cross-departmental trainings, form mixed teams with teammates from different departments, choose topics in which no department has an advantage, promote the development of soft-skills and design the trainings in such a way as to include times for social activities. For example, social moments where people are eating and drinking have shown to work especially well. You can also choose a facilitator with experience in community building who understands that, besides acquiring knowledge, the important thing is to build a relationship structure within the company. Oh! Involving employees in the choice of themes is always a good idea too.
Offering flexibility makes managing spaces more complex. You have to make sure that each member has a space to work at when they go to the coworking office. To do so, space management tools are used that allow users to reserve any space in advance, even a desk. Apart from being able to offer members a quality service, these tools are crucial to managing the business itself: you need to have data on the space occupation, since this is an important metric when it comes to making the business profitable.
4. A space management tool allows for flexibility without chaos
If we want to implement a flex office model, it is essential to use a tool that allows us to optimize the use of the space, monitoring the level of occupation and adjusting the space as needed. At the same time, it will allow employees to reserve the spaces they need to carry out their work in the most efficient way possible, while also knowing who they are going to run into when they go to the office. This guarantees that those who are going into the office will be able to find a free desk or an office, without having to look around for one that is available.
This is obviously just the starting point, but it's a good place to start, nonetheless. All of these strategies don't produce immediate effects, but they will start to work much sooner than you would imagine. When? It will depend on various factors, but once the ball is rolling, if you are dedicated to the project, its own inertia will do a large part of the work.
Reopening your office? Ciao helps companies go back to the office safely and easily implement a hybrid workplace. Get started with a demo.