The GSBA Blog


Rethinking the Workplace

by Kim Burmester, Vice President
| May 08, 2017

atlas workbase blog 2017 600x337When looking at the concept of ‘‘the workplace” today it is radically different than even just a few years ago. Perhaps the only boundaries to how we may think about it now is when we consider the actual physical walls and space they occupy. What we mean by that is, the office-workplace is becoming much more than just the four walls, workstations, reception desk, kitchen and bathroom, all wonderfully and carefully set about we’re sure. Those are some of the things you might find there. 

You probably wouldn’t be surprised then to know that coworking spaces actually do boost productivity and retention: studies such as G. Bacevice, P., & Garrett, L. (2015) and Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces, Harvard Business Review, illustrate how most people actually thrive much better in coworking situations versus traditional work spaces, even if it’s only a portion of their work day/week. 

But like mostly everything it comes down to economics. On average 55% of all desks in traditional work spaces are empty at any given point in the work day. That seems crazy—and it also means each desk costs its owner nearly twice what it’s worth, every day. 

When looking at the total cost per desk per employee coworking then can be extremely cost-effective. This is particularly true if you can access a space that offers members some type of pay-for-usage-only, including single-day use passes, with flexible space options that meet short-term or long-term needs, where you pay only for time used each time onsite. 

Those are just a couple of reasons why coworking has grown so rapidly, and you’ve probably noticed there are now many coworking spaces to choose from, with layout and formats to fit almost any business type. According to an industry report, as of May 2017 forty-one co-working centers are established in Seattle, putting it into the top five for coworking spaces along with New York, San Francisco, Austin and Los Angeles.  

If you’re thinking about joining a coworking space start by thinking long and hard about the different work scenarios that you require to drive and enhance collaboration and productivity—for small and large teams, and individuals—before you start your facility evaluation process. Here are some basic tips to get started: 

1. Find a coworking space with tiered pricing that clearly outlines basic pricing and services, as well as amenities such as food/kitchen/café, mail and shipping, etc. You may also want meeting rooms, private phone rooms, advanced teleconferencing systems, or secure and/or enclosed offices.  

2. As a rule of thumb, always ask upfront about what, if any additional fees may be required—some coworking spaces can charge quite a bit for services like mail drop-off. Look for a space that offers members some type of pay-for-usage-only, including single-day use passes, with flexible space options that meet short-term or long-term needs, where you pay only for time used each time onsite. 

3. Coworking spaces may look the same on the surface, but if you’ve bought a house or car you know when it comes to quality, the cheapest option is rarely the best choice. Make sure to closely inspect the quality of materials and ergonomics at workstations, as this is something that can be easily overlooked in the rush-rush of a busy site tour.  

But ergonomics goes beyond chairs and desks. Lighting can have a huge effect on productivity. Find out what if any acoustical lighting has been incorporated to further enhance productivity and health. A study by the American Society of Interior Designers indicated that 68 percent of employees complain about the lighting in their offices. As such, make sure the facility lets members control and customize lighting within each workspace; also inquire about lighting in general. 

4. One thing for sure, a workplace isn’t just a room full of desks—you need amenities to help you work and conduct business. Case in point, at ATLAS we partner with FedEx to give our members quick access to a wide range of high-quality, affordable business services. Is there a cafe? Coffee? 

What about more complex things like arranging special AV and catering needs for a special event or meeting? Is there a dedicated IT team or Help Desk to keep you always on, always connected? Shared cars/parking? Laundry pick up? Pet sitting? And so on.  

5. Finally, when evaluating a coworking site, your best bet is to check out the location in person. This lets you determine if it has services and amenities you need, that the layout and mood to fit your workstyle, and that it is properly equipped to make your work experience productive.

By Kim Burmester, Vice President, ATLAS Workbase