12 Mar 2015

Four key ingredients to a well designed coworking space

By Vicky

One of ways that teams get the most out of an accelerator programme is to make use of the expertise of other startups in the room. We take on entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, with a variety of skills, which means that quite often the person that can help solve a problem, or make that all important introduction, will be in the same room.

We work hard to create a culture where people are encouraged to collaborate, and we’ve learnt that an important part of this is about getting the physical space right so that everyone feels comfortable to swap and debate ideas. We are now in the second programme in the Makerversity space, and have learnt a few handy lessons about what makes a great coworking environment for our teams.

1.The collaboration space should be at the heart of the office

In the middle of our office space we have four large picnic tables where everyone can come together. This is where we hold workshops, talks and meetings. It is also a place for teams to go to when they want to brainstorm without distracting others; most importantly it is a place to have lunch. The position of these picnic tables can play a crucial role in how well teams mix with each other. For our first programme in Makerversity we positioned our tables at the far end of the room, to be in a quiet area, however we’ve learned that the communal area works much better in the middle of our office where there’s high foot traffic – and quick access to the kitchen.

2. Lighting and ambiance matters

During our last cohort we were still new to Makerversity and the lighting around the communal tables wasn’t great, which meant it wasn’t very inviting. We’re lucky to have big windows looking over the River Thames, and we now make the most of this by having the communal picnic tables directly in front of this, and we have also dangled additional lights over the tables to create a welcoming ambiance. Lots of plants and some extra standing lights has also helped to lift the space.

3. The ability to be flexible with the space works

The ability to have tables that can be moved easily to create different types of space is really useful. We’ve played around with different formats for different talks to see what works best – for example we create one big communal table for our founder confidential talks, we sit in a horseshoe for workshops, and we use a cabaret format for team updates. All of our teams are welcome to move the tables into whatever layout they wish which we feel gives the teams empowerment to make the office most suitable for their needs.

4. Shared desks

Finally, one of the ways we encourage collaboration beyond our picnic area is by seating teams together in large groups of desks. We try and do a bit of planning beforehand, to think about the working styles of different people and who would work well together – although it’s a bit of guess work until they join the programme and we get to know them better!

None of  these ideas are rocket science or original. However we have definitely learnt the importance of paying attention to the physical working environment. If you want people to effectively collaborate, the design of space should never be ignored.