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What are coworking spaces? Everything you need to know

If you haven’t already, then say goodbye to your potted plant, framed family picture, and regular office desk and say hello to coworking. Easing back into office life after working in virtual offices and tweaking the way we work has meant changes to office setups and work culture everywhere. One of the most popular setups is coworking, the use of a communal workspace and sharing equipment and ideas.

Hot desking is synonymous with coworking facilities, as there is often an open, collaborative workspace with on-demand seating accompanying adjacent private offices.

What are coworking spaces?

Coworking offers inspiring, simple, and functional work facilities for employees and saves companies on a traditional office setup. A more flexible office arrangement like coworking spaces with hot desking facilities streamlines productivity, saves funds on equipment, and maximises office space and use.

A coworking space is a workspace characterised by shared work facilities and equipment. Coworking spaces are typically open plan to foster communication and teamwork.

Hot desking is a common practice in coworking spaces. Hot desking is a form of satellite workplace sharing where an employee books a single desk or workstation in a shared space. While coworking spaces may offer private workspaces, there are no dedicated personal workstations, maximising the use of the workspace.

What is the difference between coworking and hot desking?

Both coworking and hotdesking are forms of flexible workplace setups. Coworking is an umbrella term for working in a shared workspace with shared equipment, while hotdesking is a specific form of coworking. The idea of coworking is to provide entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses, digital nomads, remote workers, and freelancers with flexible office space to suit their needs. But how do coworking spaces work?

Coworking spaces come with access to additional rooms, wifi, a communal kitchen, cleaning services, and amenities shared between the other companies and professionals in the community. A coworking space can be as simple as a coffee shop with a barista, wifi and charging points, or as specialised as coworking offices with membership access.

Hotdesking usually involves reserving or paying for a desk on an hourly basis, while coworking is a more general term for working in a shared space. Hot desking works on an on-demand and ad-hoc basis – meaning there are no dedicated desks. Hot desks are also used in activity-based workspaces. An activity-based workspace (ABW) is a dedicated group of seats or a zone that is set up to support any type of collaboration in the workplace. Typically focused on a specific activity or type of work—quiet work, group work, desks to support team-specific tasks, and more—most activity-based workspace designs can benefit from the flexibility that hot desks provide.

When it comes to coworking, workers can choose to share a table with random people, reserve a private cubicle or standing desk, snuggle up with their laptop on the lounge sofa or opt for any kind of unconventional seating arrangement that suits them that day.

What makes up the best coworking spaces?

If you are considering implementing a coworking office for your company, you may be curious about coworking space best practices. At its core, coworking is about balancing productivity with socialising and collaborative workspaces. A good coworking space is conducive to both privacy and deep work, as well as teamwork and leisure. And so, whether a coworking space is good or not depends largely on coworking office design and facilities.

Balance shared and private workstations

The key to an effective coworking space is variety. A good coworking space offers both open-plan common areas for work and leisure, an event space, as well as private facilities like boardrooms and pods or private office spaces for meetings, calls, and deep work. Balancing shared and private spaces ensures that employees have the space to collaborate as teams or focus on their own.

Use hotdesking software

If you incorporate hotdesking into your coworking setup, you need to ensure it runs smoothly. Give employees hot desking tools that make sharing desks easier. For example, consider leveraging workplace software or desk booking software that makes hot desking quicker and more efficient for employees. A workplace mobile app and real-time office maps can go a long way to removing friction from the hot-desking experience. Desk booking software that provides additional insight into how, when, and by whom desks and spaces are being used can help your team track the success of your hot desking strategy in real-time and improve the desk booking experience for everyone.

Prioritise comfort

A good coworking space is ergonomically designed and well-furnished. You need to consider how you will incorporate interior design when zoning the workspace into private and shared space, and you need to make use of high-quality office furniture like ergonomic office chairs for improved back support, and sit-stand desks for personalisation and comfort. Find more tips on designing an ergonomic office space here

What are the benefits of coworking spaces?

So why are coworking spaces popular? There are many perks of using a coworking space. Coworking offices are effective places to work in because they:

  • Increase productivity
  • Foster communication and collaboration
  • Nurture focus

But are coworking spaces profitable? Coworking spaces are also beneficial for employers because they:

  • Minimise additional costs on office design
  • Maximise workspace use
  • Increase efficiency and productivity
  • Improve teamwork and morale

Are there disadvantages to coworking spaces?

If you are considering a coworking office, you may want to know of the disadvantages of coworking spaces. You might think shared office spaces create more room for distractions, but when a coworking space is done right, it’s actually conducive to productivity and enhanced performance. The trick is to use clever interior design complete with coworking office furniture and to track the success of collaborative workspace, common areas, private offices and boardrooms with the right analytics.

How to measure the success of coworking spaces

You will only know if coworking is working for your team if you are able to measure it and make adjustments accordingly. It may take some getting used to, but just as there are KPIs to track the success of team members, there are metrics by which you can measure coworking spaces.

Workplace analytics

Workplace analytics provide a comprehensive, objective data set to help you better understand the workplace and make better decisions going forward. When it comes to coworking, workplace analytics can help companies analyze occupation, office desk utilization, meeting room use, facility planning, and other areas that impact the success of an organization.

Space utilisation

Tracking the use of various zones within a coworking space is a great way to measure its success.

  • The daily peak use is the highest number of workers using a workstation on a normal workday.
  • The daily peak use by department is the maximum number of workers in a specific team using a space on a normal workday. This metric helps you understand which teams take advantage of which spaces and why, and could help guide office layout and zonation going forward.
  • The frequency of peaks for a workspace indicates how often it reaches its highest use in a month. This helps identify trends and better understand how, why, and when individuals and teams use a space.

Tracking a space’s daily peak use, daily peak use by department, and frequency of peaks can all tell you how employees use and get value from a specific area.

Occupancy rate

The occupancy rate of your shared office space is a great indicator of how your employees are receiving and using a coworking space if coming into the office is completely optional. The occupancy rate is the percentage calculated when you divide the occupied square footage by the unoccupied square footage and multiply that by 100. 

Where to find the best coworking spaces in South Africa

Companies can either design their own coworking space in their office or pay a membership fee to work in third-party offices. In South Africa, you will likely find innovative coworking spaces in Cape Town and Johannesburg, the biggest business hubs in the country.

Popular coworking spaces in Cape Town can be found in:

  • Greenpoint
  • Claremont
  • The V&A Waterfront
  • The Cape Town CBD

Coworking spaces in Johannesburg are usually near the Gautrain in:

  • Rosebank
  • Sandton

In conclusion: Are coworking spaces worth it?

You may need the help of analytics to track how your team does in a coworking environment, but coworking comes with a string of benefits that can propel both your business culture and your team performance forward. If you can nail the balance between shared and private spaces you’ll find that productivity, performance, and collaboration improve, while wasted space and expensive office design can be left in the past. Like most office matters, the key to a good coworking office lies in its design. Using ergonomic office furniture and designing the office layout in an ergonomic manner is critical to get the most out of your coworking office.

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