How to Detox Your Coworking Space

Coworking spaces have completely revolutionized the workspace, for remote workers, small businesses and corporations alike. In recent years, more coworking spaces have added luxury amenities that mimic the hospitality industry in order to target more high-end clients. Things like yoga studios, meditation rooms, spas, and high-end catering are more common than you might think in independent workspaces.

However, these trendy features don't always equate to better community or productivity for individual members. Despite best efforts to implement flashy amenities, some managers or operators may still inadvertently be contributing to a stagnant, unhelpful work environment. Whether it's the lack of a standard code of conduct, disorganized administration, or a confusing member experience, here are some ways to prevent a toxic office environment in a coworking space.

1. Create Strict Separation of Different Zones

Creating different work and play zones in your coworking space is vital. We know this makes it sound like you're running a daycare, but...well you kind of are! Coworking spaces can arguably be described as a daycare for adults, being not just an office, not just a public commons, not just a professional network: it's a combination of all three and more. To that end, you should try to maintain strict contrast between areas that have specific purposes. It's easy for members to blur the lines of conduct between a quiet zone, a conference room and the eating/lounge area when there are no strict guidelines in place. When this happens, it only adds to the stress and anxiety that people are generally trying to avoid in a formal workspace.

Some of these spaces could be:

  • Meeting rooms: These should be secure spaces that require a specific process to reserve for specific groups at specific times. When there is no protocol around conference rooms, it's easy for it to lose monetary value for the owner, and practical value for the members.
  • Open workspaces: This will be where the majority of the coworkers will spend their time. A place where members can speak freely as they work, the noise level is probably the loudest in these areas. However, you should use a specific code of conduct to establish the norms for open office space to ensure all your members stay happy. Whether it's etiquette around leaving laptops and work materials unattended or creating standards around how spread out a person can be, being specific about what is and is not acceptable is crucial to keeping every comfortable and minimize distractions.
  • Private or quiet areas: Some members likely don’t thrive in noisy places. By creating at least one separate space that restrict loud noise or conversations, it can help detox the coworking space. There are many easy and economical ways to help soundproof these areas if it's not already designed into the space.
  • Cafeterias/areas to mingle: Having multiple areas in your coworking space that are designated for non-work and just chatting can go along way in improving the mood among members who need a break. Whether it's a library, a gaming corner or a cafe, this are should be strictly a "no-work" zone and kept far from the quiet zones.

2. Use Plenty of Plants

Many coworking spaces embrace plants because of their aesthetic value and to freshen the air in a space that is traditionally stale and stuffy. But plants are also useful from a mental perspective. A recent survey found that employees were 15% more productive when they could see a plant from their desks. Even in a friendly coworking space, the traditional office environment is a major contributing factor to workers feeling disconnected from life and lacking inspiration.

Buying and taking care of plants doesn’t take much time or effort, and it can be a great way to add value and better energy to your coworking space.

3. Standardize the Norms for Open Office Spaces

Unfortunately, the actions of a single person can have negative effects on the general energy of the space. That is why it is important to create a clear code of conduct that applies to the space itself and the member's behavior wherever they may be. This will ensure that distractions aren’t causing problems in the workspace and managers can focus on planning and streamlining the member experience.

Here are a few rules you might want to consider implementing for your members:

  • Members should use headphones when listening to music, videos, or podcasts
  • Keep your desk area clean as well as communal areas like the kitchen and cafeteria.
  • Book meeting rooms in advance and don’t overstay your time
  • Be respectful of others in the workspace. Say hello if you wish and introduce yourself!

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4. Choose Furniture Carefully

Having a variety of desks and chairs is helpful to people who work in different ways. Some people like to work on couches or be able to lounge as they work, whereas others choose a desk and a chair. Others prefer adjustable standing desks because of the flexibility and boost in productivity it gives them. Having a variety of seating and desk options available gives your members a chance to explore what works best for them.

5. Keep It Fresh

One step on how to detox your coworking space, literally, is to keep the refrigerator or kitchen tidy. Every Friday, throw everything out in the fridge that has been sitting there all week. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to, or what it is, inform your members it goes in the trash on Fridays. In a coworking space with no formal office management team, cleaning duties might be distributed or just unclear, causing some confusion or clutter in the kitchen that could easily be avoided with a few simple rules. Keep the kitchen fresh to keep everyone happier and healthier.

6. Create Engagement Opportunities

A coworking space should be more than just a place to work. You should work hard to create a social culture as well. Some ideas you might want to implement are small micro-events or mixers that allow your members to come together at the end of the workday and form connections.
You might also want to promote community volunteer events as well so you can get to know other people in the neighborhood while helping out. Or, you might want to consider bringing in a community or fundraising event into your coworking space. By helping your members to build social connections, it can make the office a better place with a strong culture.

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