According to the 2019 Global Coworking Survey, 90% of all profitable coworking spaces have over 200 members. In addition, the 2019 State of Coworking study found that coworking spaces have an average of 90 members, and that only 11% have 300 or more members. Having plenty of clients not only increases revenue: they also create a large community, which helps attract even more clients.
In this article we will provide more insights that, hopefully, will give coworking business owners and managers a hint on which areas they should focus their efforts in order to grow their coworking business and stand out from the competition.
Competition in the coworking space industry has grown in recent years. According to an article by Allwork, there were around 35,000 coworking spaces in the world as of May 2019, and they represent a 26-billion-dollar industry. In 2018 alone, the number of coworking spaces increased by 16% in the USA, and by 36% in the rest of the world. Thus any coworking business that wants to survive must set itself apart:
- By applying the lessons learned from office productivity research, owners of coworking spaces can improve their installations to retain and attract more clients.
- Ideally, a workplace should have an indoor environment that is comfortable and healthy, while boosting productivity.
- The office layout should be designed in a way that fosters and enhances coworkers’ types of work, whether they carry out high-concentration tasks to group collaboration, and everything in between.
- According to the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC), the communities created by coworking spaces are very important for their members. A community provides both networking and socializing opportunities for members, which means better business for the owner.
Keep reading to learn what a coworking business has to do in order to tick each of the above boxes, and attract and retain clients by boosting their productivity.
Creating a Premium Coworking Space
When it comes to setting a business apart from competition, achieving the “premium” status means a huge leap upwards, and it applies the same to coworking spaces.
A basic coworking space is simply a shared office that members can use freely according to their needs. However, to attract talented professionals and create a thriving business community, a coworking space must offer added value. A premium coworking space offers the following features:
- Becoming a member is a lucrative investment. A premium coworking space is a high-performance environment where users can accomplish more, while expanding their business network.
- The coworking space is designed with human wellness in mind. Premium coworking spaces have a healthy indoor environment. This includes controlling physical variables like temperature and air quality, as well as subjective factors like the color scheme and ambience.
A well-designed HVAC system is fundamental for a premium coworking space – it should keep a comfortable range of temperatures, while keeping air pollutants at low levels and reducing energy consumption. The HVAC system should also be designed for noise-free operation, since noise is one of the main distractors in work environments.
- The space layout and available tools are designed to enhance work. Premium coworking spaces must offer a variety of workspaces, to meet the requirements of multiple professional fields and individual preferences.
- A premium coworking space benefits from its location. 95% of respondents of the GCUC survey said that location was very important or important. In addition, when a business community expands outside of a coworking space, professionals benefit more from becoming members. For example, a coworking space in a business district can become an excellent networking hub.
How to Improve the Physical Environment of a Coworking Space
The environment of a workspace is determined by measurable aspects like indoor air quality and temperature, and also intangible aspects like the type of community that is created.
As discussed in a previous article, the optimal office environment should offer open areas for collaboration, and private areas to allow concentration. The layout should also include private areas for group work, such as conference rooms, since multiple groups sharing the same space can distract each other.
- According to a survey by Robert Half International, an office layout that combines private and open spaces is beneficial for both collaboration and productivity.
- A layout that only uses open areas helps collaboration, but it has a negative effect on productivity. The opposite happens with a layout that only uses private offices – it enhances productivity but collaboration is reduced.
After creating an office layout with suitable areas for multiple types of work, the next step is designing building systems that sustain an adequate indoor environment. The most important physical variables to control are the following:
- Temperature: While there are individual preferences, human productivity peaks at around 71.6°F (22°C) according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The WELL building standard has introduced the concept of workspaces with temperature variations, where users can sit where they feel the most comfortable.
Consider that thermal discomfort can cause a productivity loss of up to 7%. To achieve thermal comfort, the heating and cooling systems in a building must respond independently to the needs of different building zones.
Each area of the coworking space should also have its own thermostat, instead of using the same temperature for everyone.
- Indoor air quality and ventilation: Poor air quality can reduce productivity by up to 9%. A well-designed ventilation system provides enough fresh air to keep low levels of air pollutants, but it avoids overventilation to conserve energy.
Foobot Smart Air Building technology provides automatic monitoring and control of temperature and air quality, in different zones, ensuring a comfortable and healthy working environment while reducing energy consumption.
- Lighting design: Natural lighting improves mood and productivity up to 16% according to a study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In most cases, lighting is described as “too dim” or “too harsh”. Insufficient lighting forces the eyes to work harder, while harsh lighting can cause visual fatigue.
Premium working spaces should maximize natural lighting, combined with artificial lighting as needed. The quality of artificial lighting can be improved with an adequate distribution of fixtures, and by using high-quality products that are suitable for commercial applications.
- Noise and acoustics: Sound management is very important in a premium coworking space. According to the study by Universiti Teknologi MARA, noise distraction is strongly dependant on the type of noise and its intensity. Noise has also been identified as one of the main factors that increases stress in the workplace, leading to reduced job satisfaction.
The ideal acoustic environment for a workspace uses sounds that are perceived as natural and predictable, such as water pouring from a fountain. According to an article by Entrepreneur.com, music can have a mixed effect, since personal preferences have a role. Also, lyrics can have a distracting effect, even for users who like the song.
Absolute silence is not recommended either, since it can be perceived as unnatural.
Clearly establishing what each space is for could have a huge impact on noise management and how it affects coworkers’ productivity and stress levels.
Studies on how the office environment affects productivity have focused on conventional offices with permanent employees. In coworking spaces, a poor design can have another negative impact besides low productivity: users may simply move to a competing coworking space, reducing income for the owner.
According to a Harvard study, the cognitive performance of employees under low VOC concentrations and enhanced ventilation conditions was 100% better than that of the same employees under conventional conditions.
The interior design of a coworking space is more subjective than factors like air quality and temperature, but it has an impact as well. A 2015 survey by the GCUC found that interior design is important for 73% of members. The interior design of a coworking space is subjective, but it must meet two main requirements:
- Meeting the preferences of your target clients.
- Promoting networking, socializing and the creation of a community.
Plants have a positive effect on workplaces: they create a more appealing environment and they have been linked with a productivity gain of up to 15%, according to an article by Wired.co.uk. In addition, plants can be used to divide spaces and improve privacy. However, a recent study by Drexel University casts reasonable doubts on the air filtering power of plants: hundreds of plants would be required to substitute just a single air purifier.
Getting the LEED or WELL certifications can help improve the public perception of a coworking space, promoting its “premium” status, and attracting even more clients. Getting one of these certifications comes as an additional benefit of improving the physical environment of a coworking space. Energy efficiency, air quality, thermal comfort and acoustic environment are some factors that are assessed in both LEED and WELL certifications.
The LEED certification is available for entire buildings, or for specific commercial spaces where the owner does not have control over the rest of the building. This means a coworking space can get LEED certified even when it shares the building with other businesses.
Why Do People Join Coworking Spaces?
The main goal of designing a premium coworking space is providing luxury facilities in which coworkers can flourish. But coworkers need to feel that thriving is possible in such a workplace, and a key element to that is the community.
Coworkers surveyed by the GCUC say:
The GCUC survey found that usage and preferences with respect to coworking spaces change depending on the age group, gender and type of work carried out, among other factors. However, the survey found three common attributes that coworkers are looking for:
- A work environment that expands their network and leads to greater professional success.
- A social environment that improves quality of life.
- A workplace where they are engaged and motivated, and where they are learning and growing.
This is the baseline.
The same way a premium coworking space must have well-designed facilities that minimize energy usage while properly managing noise as well as providing comfortable and healthy temperature and indoor air quality, it must take its community building efforts one step up.
Coworking spaces can contribute to the creation of communities by adding features like coffee shops, restaurants and gyms. All these features can accomplish a double role: they are socializing areas, but business connections can also happen there, which helps growing the business by expanding to other markets as well as attracting new clients and keeping existing ones.
The kind and quality of the events a premium coworking space organizes is fundamental to attract and retain talented professionals. But day to day actions also play a critical role.
According to Harvard Business Review, the possibility to make connections with others is a big reason for paying to join a coworking space. Facilitating connections could be something as easy as what Grind, a network of coworking spaces in New York and Chicago, is doing. Their staff knows the name and profession of all of their members, which allows them to constantly facilitate connections between them.
Coworkers interviewed by the GCUC say:
A premium coworking space must serve its community above their expectations, and one way of over-delivering is through temperature control. If a coworking space has more members of or targets a specific gender, temperature control is very important. The University of Southern California and WZB Berlin Social Science Center compared male and female performance within a temperature range of 60.8°F to 91.4°F (16°C to 33°C). Women experience a gradual improvement of math and verbal performance as temperature increases, while men experience a loss of performance. According to Maastricht University Medical Center, women need offices 5.4°F (3°C) warmer, since they have a slower metabolic rate than men.
Foobot Smart Air Building technology leverages artificial intelligence to ensure proper comfort, health and energy use in the workplace. A great investment for a premium coworking space that can be recovered in just a month.
A premium coworking space offers more than just a shared office to be by its members as needed. Premium coworking spaces offer a competitive advantage for their users, by creating a high-performance environment and making them part of a thriving business community.
First of all, a premium coworking space must have a well-designed indoor environment that makes users comfortable and productive. Some critical elements are comfortable temperature, indoor air quality, effective lighting and an acoustic environment that helps concentration. These are common requirements for all coworking spaces, regardless of their target market.
An added benefit of a well-designed premium indoor environment is the possibility of earning points under building certification systems like WELL and LEED. A coworking space that gets one of these certifications can disclose it publicly, gaining a marketing advantage over competitors who lack them.
Coworking space managers must foster the workplace community, facilitating connections and networking so coworkers feel motivated, successful and part of a burgeoning group of professionals.
A premium coworking space that provides both a thriving environment and a flourishing community will stand up and become a lighthouse for talented professionals.
At Foobot, we can help you achieve the premium status with our cutting-edge technology.
Indoor comfort and energy savings on autopilot
Thermal comfort and indoor air quality are very correlated to staff health and cognitive performance, studies say.
Since human resources are businesses’ largest expense, it’s time to give them the best.