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Setting up a flexible co-working office

If you have spare space in your office building, retail outlet or hotel you might have thought about how to make it generate some income. Short term flexible business space rental is not a new idea. With the increase in flexible and hybrid working, people are looking for alternative options to commuting long distances to the office. What are the requirements to set up a shared office space though?

ThinkingWall Acoustic Freestanding wall with whiteboard desk

The trend for flexible co-working spaces

The increasing trend for serviced flexible offices such as that offered by Beehive Lofts huge converted cotton mills in Manchester, the Ministry of Sound in London and cosy Qworkery near our own base in Skipton has opened up the idea of renting out office space on a short-term basis.

According to a study by CBRE Research, 92% of UK landlords believe that flexible office space is on the brink of becoming mainstream. Potential clients could be anyone from a young start-up to a more established consultant. Although currently most popular with creatives, businesses from any sector could potentially benefit from working alongside other industry professionals.

A co-working space offers the opportunity for sharing ideas and collaborating with similar businesses. Equally though there needs to be quiet space for meetings and just thinking; this is key distinction that makes serviced office space more desirable than a coffee shop. It provides an affordable option for those just setting up, a break from the isolation of home working and somewhere to bring clients to.

Here are three ideas to furnish a flexible work space:

Meeting booths

You don’t necessarily need a separate room to create a permanent meeting zone. An area that feels secure on three sides but does not have a door strikes a balance between privacy for formal meetings, whilst encouraging impromptu sessions. This alternative to a boardroom is likely to get more use as people drop in, which makes a lot more sense than a large meeting room that only sees occasional use.

Even in a smaller space it’s possible to set aside a similar area that feels private for meeting clients or team briefings. Think about the high back booth style seating in bars and restaurants that can create an intimate setting in a busy environment.

One example of this is ThinkingWall® curved acoustic walls we’ve produced for several different projects. These curved office dividers create organic lines to encompass a more formal board table or a soft seating arrangement. Simple grey gives a minimalist, neutral effect, or you can introduce your own corporate colours for the acoustic panel. Using colour can bring together a theme and break up an area into recognisable zones. The curves can be combined to give an s-shape wall, or put together with straight sections to fit your space.

Office pods

There will always be a requirement for quiet spaces in an open plan office. Wilma Koustaal in her article Does an Open Office Plan Make a Creative Environment? gives several examples from a study where researchers found a change to a completely open office layout actually reduced interactions and collaboration. This is the very opposite of the shared ideas that a co-working space is trying to foster. Open plan offices also seem to be more beneficial for extroverts and detrimental for introverts, which suggests that a proportion of any workforce is going to feel uncomfortable in their working environment. A shared office space needs to make everyone feels welcome and at ease enough to seek out interaction. That means there needs to be quiet zones where people can concentrate on writing a report or make a video call.

ThinkingWall Freestander mobile whiteboard

Freestanding panels provide a lightweight physical screen which immediately removes the feeling of being overlooked. An acoustic version can also block office noise, useful for screening out chatter and keeping conversations private. The double sided wheeled panels can be endlessly reconfigured. Use a single panel as a divider between workspaces, or put several together to make an informal quiet pod. You can choose to custom print the dry wipe panel or the base with your logo or design, or leave them plain. This mobile quiet zone perfectly meets the need for privacy for phone calls or just thinking.

Mobile partition walls

Attractive but practical partition walls are gaining popularity as designers seek multi-functional solutions to deliver flexible workspace layouts. A larger partition wall makes a more solid screen, but can still be on wheels, so delivers on the functional aspect on two counts. This gives flexibility to create temporary private spaces with partition walls that can be wheeled into place as needed for meetings or planning. A modular partition is particularly useful so you can move them around to fit different purposes and push them out of the way completely if required.

The magnetic dry wipe surface of our collaboration walls means they do more than just divide the space. Use with dry wipe markers or magnetic notes that you can easily move around to organise your thoughts. Keep pens and magnets on the board to encourage doodles, ideas and communication throughout the day. The large flat panels with lockable wheels are stable and sturdy with a minimalist modern finish.

ThinkingWall Divider in use

Fruitworks in Kent set out some pros and cons of co-working to consider:

 

 

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