During the past four years I’ve lived a nomadic life, moving from city to city and country to country in the search of new experiences and ultimately the best place to call home.
Living the life of a digital nomad is quite stressful at times; it involves a lot of research and planning as well as the task of adjusting to new surroundings and different cultures.
One of the most important places for a digital nomad (and indeed any worker) is his/her work space. Many choose to work from home or from cafes, but increasingly there has been a shift towards places that offer a better plug and play (work) solution.
Enter the coworking space.
I’ve tried countless spaces and on many an occasion had an “Oh this is a wondeful space, if only they had…” reaction to a coworking space. I’ve thus decided to dream up all the elements that would be part of my ideal coworking environment.
I know several people involved in this area, some who own such spaces, many others who are users, and then a few other brave souls who are planning on opening one of their own. Hopefully this post will be useful to all of them.
A fast internet connection is a must. Fiber optic (100megabit+) or equivalent speeds are now available in many major cities, so I would expect any decent coworking space to be equipped with not only one but several such connections.
Why more than one?
First of all to make sure that there is enough bandwidth to be shared by all workers, and secondly to ensure there is redundancy if one line goes down for any reason.
Many people choose to use coworking spaces for the simple reason that they don’t have a suitable workdesk setup at home, be it due to limited space or an environment not conducive to work (lack of natural light, noise etc).
Thus when I arrive at a coworking space checking the quality of desks and chairs is high on my priority list. I’ve seen many spaces who take the hipster approach to their furniture; using recycled materials such as doors for desks and cheap chairs. They’re a big no-no for me. I want to keep myself healthy, and working for hours at a stretch seated at such desks will definitely affect my body negatively.
All desks should have quick access to power supplies, preferably in a way that all wires are kept out of the way as much as possible, resulting in a better aesthetic.
My favourite coworking spaces pay a lot of attention to the design of the whole building, especially the interior. Many of the users will be people who have escaped from 9-5 office jobs in boring offices, and they certainly look forward to a more refreshing and playful environment rather than the terse offices found throughout the corporate world.
I love working in an environment that motivates me and injects positivity into those working in it. For some inspiration, make a quick search for images of Google’s offices.
This might sound obvious, and I wouldn’t have included had I not been to more than one coworking space where you either melted all over your keyboard or froze to death. The temperature of a coworking space should be kept at around 23 degrees all year round, ideally by using air conditioning in summer and central heating in winter.
Well Equipped Kitchen
A coworking space should have a nice kitchen with handy appliances such as a microwave, coffee machine and roomy fridge. A watercooler is also a very nice touch. Ideally the kitchen should be a sizeable area which would be the central hub where people go to eat, socialise and discuss ideas. Again attention should be given to furniture in this area.
Low Noise Levels
People go to a coworking space to get things done, so the working spaces should be as silent as possible. When taking calls users should go to a specifically designed room so as not to disturb others.
Most coworking spaces I’ve been to have this setup, although I’ve been to others where it was impossible to get any work done, due to the open plan setup and people taking calls and chatting on Skype throughout the day. People might not agree with me on this, but I think it’s essential to cut down as many distractions as possible in the work areas.
I also take it as a given that the coworking space itself would be well insulated from external noise, such as for example traffic.
I want to touch on the point of cleanliness as I believe it’s a very easy way to gauge how a coworking space is managed and what kind of people you’re likely to encounter there. Are the floors, desks and chairs clean? Have a look at the kitchen, is it a mess or orderly? Finally, check out the bathrooms. Are they well-kept? Is there a hygienic hand dryer? These are all little things that have always helped me in deciding whether a coworking space is good for me or not.
For those of use who choose an environmentally friendly and healthy means of transportation (bikes, scooters, skateboards etc) there should be a place for storing our treasured companions, as well as showering after the commute, especially in the hot summer months.
The availability of external monitors that one can connect to at any time would be another strong incentive for people to work in a coworking space rather than at home or in coffee shops. There is no doubt that an external monitor boosts productivity, and it’s not always easy to have one at home due to space constraints or cost.
These are useful for leaving things overnight (mouse, wireless keyboard, headphones etc) or storing your laptop when going out of the coworking space for a number of hours.
Half the fun of coworking is meeting new people and building new synergies as well as learning something new every day. To this end, a coworking space should also be involved in the organisation of events that benefit their users.
How about language classes for example? Or classes teaching people how to use WordPress, how to improve their site’s SEO etc. These can also provide additional income streams for the coworking space.
Coworking spaces should be easily accessible via public transport. This is really important as I’ve seen some truly excellent spaces go to waste due to being too hard to reach. The space should be in a quiet area but should ideally also be surrounded by ancillary businesses such as cafes and moderately priced restaurants.
A good coworking space will have several packages available for prospective customers to choose from. Many of the people who frequent such spaces have the ability to choose where and when to work.
Some might prefer to work at night, during the weekends or early morning. They might want to come to the coworking space on a daily basis or want to use the space once or twice a week to counter the sense of solitude when working at home.
All these situations should be catered for. Ideally, a coworking space should provide a build-your-own-package membership wizard through which a user can pay only for what he needs.
Printing, Photocopies and Other Services
We all need to print, scan or photocopy something from time to time, so why not provide the convenience of such services at a coworking space? I’ve seen some coworking space even handle mail and calls for their clients. This might not be something everyone would use, but the option should be available. Again, we’re talking about flexibility here.
There you have it. All these aforementioned points would be the building blocks of my ideal coworking space.
If you’re looking for the ideal coworking space in your area, try out coworker.com, it’s my favorite site for finding coworking spaces.
I’d love to get feedback from you, have I missed out on anything? Do you agree with my views of an ideal coworking space?