A good friend of mine is a freelance writer who works entirely on a telecommuting basis. I’m always interested to hear about his work, especially as telecommuting grows more and more popular. He loves what he does, but he faces some unique challenges when working from home. Whether it’s the distraction of his family or television, or sometimes feeling too isolated when he works alone, he often finds himself heading out to work instead at libraries or cafes.
The last time we spoke, he mentioned the growing trend of coworking spaces and their appeal to people like him. With high-speed internet and distraction-free working environments, these communal spaces are becoming popular alternatives for those who telecommute. For some, they may just offer a helpful change of scenery, but for others, they go so far as to help improve focus and increase creativity and productivity. Demand for coworking spaces appears to be substantial and growing. Over 2.5% of the US workforce (about 3.7 million people) work from home at least half the time, a figure that has doubled since 2005. In an area like DTLA, inhabited by so many young millennials who are likely to work from home—along with hundreds of businesses who might also wish to rent out a conference room from time to time—creating a coworking space at your multifamily might just be one of the wisest renovations you can make.
Creating a Coworking Space
If developing a coworking space in your multifamily is starting to sound like a good idea, the first thing you need to do is identify a location for it. Ideally, coworking spaces are going to be a little bigger than that first-floor storage closet you never use. They’ll also preferably be in an area that receives substantial natural light, which has been proven to increase work performance. That means the basement probably shouldn’t be your first choice. For some, this will mean minor renovation work to remove a wall and create a larger space, or to repurpose that disused laundry room. For others, this may entail creating an entirely new space. But the structure itself is just the start. Here are other important variables to keep in mind:
First and Foremost: Tech Essentials
Virtually all remote workers are going to be tech-savvy. Laptops and tablets are going to be tools of the telecommuting trade, so make sure your tech setup gives your working residents everything they need.
- Reliable, high-speed internet access is an absolute must. This is a non-negotiable point for any coworking space. Time is money to remote workers and no one is going to put up with slow internet. Invest in fiber optic broadband if it’s available in your area, or set up a number of routers throughout the communal area to ensure that download speeds remain high.
- Power outlets, and lots of them. Running out of power or having to wait for an available outlet can mean a trip back home or an end to the work day. Make sure that never happens by ensuring there are plenty of power outlets available. Don’t just limit them to the perimeter of the space. Users will need power wherever they are, so include outlets in the center of the space or on tables and desks if possible—if you can install them in the floor, even better.
- USB ports should also be included on power outlets where possible. Virtually every smartphone or tablet comes with a plug-free charging cable now, and so do some laptops. As a result, not everyone carries around adaptor plugs, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to power in your coworking space.
Getting the technology right in your workspace is essential. It’s the first thing it will be judged on and is the crux for workers who rely on it to do their jobs. Once your tech is in order, you can start thinking about other factors that will draw residents to the space.
Inviting Decor Invites Comfortable Work
The right decor can go a long way to creating a successful working environment. A table and some folding chairs just aren’t going to do the trick. As you design your coworking space, you must keep in mind the comfort of those who may be spending up to a third or more of their day there.
- Lights: Let’s start at the top. Standard bulbs aren’t made to be used constantly 12 hours a day, five days a week. Instead, use LED lights that will last longer and conserve energy, ultimately saving you money.
- Chairs: Just because your tenants may currently be working at Starbucks doesn’t mean you should bring coffee house style into your coworking space. Remember, your residents are going to be sitting in these chairs for hours on end. Do their backsides a favor and pay that little bit extra for ergonomic office chairs.
- Desks: Help residents get to work by installing large desks that give them space to spread out. Or, go all out and install a few standing desks to improve productivity and health.
- Floors: People want to feel like they’re at work, not home. With that in mind, tear up the carpet and lay a more professional (and cost-effective) vinyl or laminate alternative. You’ll be thankful when accidental coffee spills occur.
Always keep in mind that the space needs to be functional but still appealing. If it feels cold and uninviting, your residents won’t want to work there, so finding the right balance is worth dedicating time to.
Additional Amenities for Increased Comfort
Your coworking space doesn’t need a whole lot to become an effective working environment. But the more features you add, the more it will stand out, and the more users will be willing to pay for it. If you want to go all out, consider these additions:
- Conference rooms: Giving tenants somewhere to hold their own meetings can be a huge selling point. What’s more, you can also rent the space out to other DTLA businesses that don’t have conference rooms on their premises.
- Soundproof booths: Everyone needs to take a call at some point, but that shouldn’t interrupt everyone else in the space. Installing soundproof spaces in your coworking space will give privacy to those who need to take a call, without disturbing those around them. One way to go about this is to consider repurposing old phone booths, which you may be able to get on the cheap.
- Kitchen: Even if it’s as simple as a teakettle and coffee machine, giving your residents and other users a space to make a warm beverage or sandwich can boost your coworking space’s appeal. It will also stop people eating at their desks and the inevitable mess that comes with it.
- Lounge areas: It doesn’t all have to be work, work, work. You can dedicate one section of your coworking space as a lounge area, complete with comfy chairs, coffee tables, and magazines. Tenants will appreciate the variety and some may even prefer to work in the more relaxed area.
Going the extra mile with added amenities will not go unnoticed or unappreciated by your working residents.
Get Your Coworking Space Working Today
A combination of fast and reliable technology, inviting decor, and extra amenities will ensure that those utilizing the coworking space will feel comfortable, productive and excited to be working in within the space. Coworking spaces are an increasingly competitive market. A good coworking space will make your multifamily much more attractive to prospective tenants and may attract others who are looking for amenities like conference rooms for their own businesses.
Successful renovations start and end with a great working relationship between the owner and the contractors. By trusting REIG to create a coworking space in your multifamily, you’ll be drawing on years of experience renovating dozens of apartments in Southern California. We’ll oversee the entire project from planning to completion, working closely with you and keeping you informed at every stage. Give us a call today to find out how we can work together on your next project.