Building Collaboration and Community in Coworking Spaces

According to Raymond Rahbar, the founder and CEO of MakeOffices, an appeal to the senses, along with flexible private and public spaces, helps workers in shared offices thrive.  

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“Coworking design should allow for plenty of face-to-face interaction — both planned and impromptu,” says Rahbar. Image courtesy of MakeOffices.

Your sense of fulfillment in the workplace is impacted profoundly by your surrounding office environment, your community of professionals, and your ability to be productive. For businesses operating in coworking communities, an extra challenge lies in choosing spaces that are conducive to both serious work and casual networking. The goal for employers is to offer employees an environment that’s welcoming. And that means the goal for coworking communities is to offer offices that are designed for all member businesses, and at the same time evoke the host’s brand message.

At MakeOffices, we strive to create coworking communities that encourage members to grow their businesses, achieve their goals and, ultimately, thrive. Translating that vision from granular details into a physical space that fosters a real sense of community is no easy task. It takes an understanding of how both people and spaces work.

The opening of our Clarendon location in Arlington, Va. on June 1, 2016 marked the first space that our design and construction team directed from start to finish, and the most current physical representation of our vision for what coworking can and should be.

The 40,000 square foot space is our largest community in metropolitan Washington, D.C. and our tenth community to date in D.C., Chicago, and Philadelphia. From the flow of the layout to the flooring, artwork, and finishes, each design decision for the new Clarendon space is intended to echo our brand vision and to allow for natural interactions between members.

The result of the design process? A spacious environment with 135 offices; an expansive open pantry with coffee bar, kegs, and lounge space; 10 private call rooms; eight conference rooms; two wellness rooms; a relaxation room; and five audiovisual booths.

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MakeOffices’ new Clarendon location in Arlington, Va. features distinctive branding, inviting curves, and bright, uncluttered workspaces. Image courtesy of MakeOffices.

Designing with coworking in mind

Assembling an experienced, innovative team was the critical first step to a successful project. We have created an in-house team that represents diverse backgrounds and a wealth of experience in construction, architecture and interior design. They focus on figuring out the best way to incorporate what members want and need within the layout of a building. The team works hand-in-hand with Gensler to create spaces that are beautifully designed and distinctly MakeOffices in function and form.

“We understand our members’ needs and use our concepts of function to create our layouts,” said Reid Fetters, our director of design and construction. “Gensler refined our vision and helped us create amazing coworking spaces.”

In MakeOffices’ Clarendon community, every detail is intentional, with the goal of creating the best possible experience for members. With its combination of private and public spaces, the Clarendon facility fosters the MakeOffices coworking trifecta — productivity, community, and collaboration — while also being attractive in design, function, and form.

“Much of our design revolves around the initial experience upon entering the front door to when the interaction with other members begins,” says Fetters. “Members have the choice to work in private offices or quieter areas when they need to, or rub elbows with others in our more social spaces when they feel like it.”

At Clarendon, the design features inviting curves, evident from the entry and furniture choices to the alcove and meeting room designs, along with bright and uncluttered work areas. Every detail was curated to encourage collaboration, with plenty of areas for face-to-face interactions, both impromptu and planned. The pantry and lounge space is the centerpiece of the space, offering room for members to hold meetings over coffee or lunch or host large after-hours events. The space is also flexible, allowing members to add desks or move to a private office as their company expands.

“The way the space is laid out provides these moments where you can feel and see personal interactions,” said Emily McVeigh, our director of interior design.

But for those who need to put their heads down and work, dry wall and soundproof glass between each office allows for privacy and less noise distraction. The design allows our members to make their spaces within our coworking facility their own.

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A combination of public and private spaces fosters MakeOffices’ trifecta: productivity, community, and collaboration. Image courtesy of MakeOffices.

Part of a community — inside and out

The design embraces the local community with neighborhood-centric elements. Where MakeOffices’ Philadelphia community has an urban city feel, the Clarendon facility was created with the views of the surrounding neighborhood in mind. These perspectives forge a multi-faceted approach to the design of our coworking spaces.

As design team member Michele Cowie explained, “I think of it as two layers. Layer one is consistent in each space, past and present. It’s the basics, the pieces that we know will be successful, and a streamlined look. Layer two is making the space more local to help us connect with the communities we’re in.”

Gatekeepers of brand and function

Serving simultaneously as problem-solvers and brand ambassadors, our design team worked to ensure that all elements of our Clarendon space convey our brand story. This dual role allows Clarendon — and our soon-to-open communities — to become accurate physical representations of our coworking vision.

The Clarendon design incorporates the MakeOffices logo in many touch points and uses a crisp monochromatic color scheme with invigorating doses of color.

“We try to touch on the five senses,” said Bruno Vega, our senior project manager. “It’s the visual elements, the smell from the coffee right when you walk in, the taste of the craft beer in our kegs, the look and feel of the furniture, and the acoustic quality of the open spaces and private offices.”

At MakeOffices, design is informed by our vision while also helping to convey it to create a community that is inclusive no matter the industry or company size of a member; strikes the fine balance between productivity and socialization; and has the flexibility to grow with and meet the needs of our customers.

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