Coworking spaces have been on the rise for more than a decade, with the industry averaging 23% growth annually since 2010. Some experts predict that 30% of all commercial real estate in the U.S. will be occupied by coworking ventures by 2030. Although freelancers and other digital nomads initially occupied coworking spaces, today’s tenants include Fortune 500 companies that pay top dollar for a vibrant space.
Coworking’s popularity is the result of two main trends. First, the pandemic accelerated the move toward remote work. Secondly, innovators are disrupting old-line industries. These trailblazers are looking to work in modern spaces without overbearing bosses looking over their shoulders.
The growth of coworking spaces is concentrated in commercial hubs such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Still, there’s potential in small- and medium-sized markets, with the potential to save money using a 1031 exchange.
So how do you convert conventional office property into a coworking space? Do your research, ask a real estate agent questions, and scout out properties using a real estate broker. Then read our tips on how to transition from an old-fashioned office into a 21st-century coworking space.
Keep Flexibility in Mind
Your coworking space needs to accommodate many types of workers: individuals who need to rent a desk for a day; a brain trust that requires a meeting room for a few hours; or an entire organization that needs long-term office space.
That means your space will need to adapt to different types of workspaces. A crucial element is equipment and furniture. Instead of reproducing the rigid structure of a traditional office, think of open, collaborative workplaces emphasizing cooperative pieces like long, modular tables over cubicles.
Don’t Forget Aesthetics
Coworking spaces tend to attract younger workers. While a startup-style aesthetic may be a bit too quirky to serve a broad spectrum of workers, it’s moving in the right direction. Think natural light over fluorescent, communal tables over cubicles, and sofas over rolling office chairs. Lamps, wall art, murals, stylish furniture, and plants are easy ways to make a space feel modern and warm. You can also hire a professional decorator to help give your space the right personality.
Build Inclusive Common Areas
Shared common areas are the heart of any coworking space, so you’ll want to make them inviting, functional, and attractive. Consider communal seating arrangements such as long benches, couches or multifunctional seating that can double as impromptu meeting areas and places to eat.
A mixture of hard and soft seating can delineate collaborative and leisure areas from meeting and work areas. Natural light is a must, and you can use greenery or artwork to liven up a drab space.
Don’t Overlook Cleaning
It can be easy to overlook the basics in the excitement of getting your new coworking space off the ground. Don’t forget that your space will require daily cleaning. Pay special attention to shared spaces, which tend to be high-traffic areas. Most coworking spaces supply kitchen basics such as a shared refrigerator, appliances, cutlery, and dishes, which must be thoroughly sanitized.
Arrange for Appropriate Security
Security requirements will depend on the type of space you have. If you occupy floors in a larger building, that building will likely have front-desk security at the main entrance. If you’re in a standalone structure, you’ll want to perform a detailed assessment of your security needs.
How many access points does the building have? What equipment will be kept on-site? Does your facility have cameras or monitoring equipment? Ask nearby businesses if they’ve experienced crime, break-ins, or other disruptions to find out what to expect.
You’ll need secure storage areas for daily and long-term users. Small storage units such as lockers are adequate for jackets and bags, but you’ll need more secure storage areas for long-term users who want to leave laptops or other personal belongings on-site.
Think About Noise
People will need to make calls — often confidential ones. You’ll want to provide soundproofed booths or rooms, and you’ll need to devise a system to manage their usage. You’ll also want to provide enclosed meeting spaces so other workers in the shared office can concentrate. If that’s not possible, consider providing quiet spaces where workers can retreat for deep work with minimal distractions.
Plan Networking Events
Some coworking facilities organize happy hours or other social-networking events so users can get to know each other. They also facilitate collaboration between different professionals using the space.
Consider a Smart-Access Solution
You can use a smart-access solution to outsource front-desk responsibilities, saving you money on staffing. Using online tools that integrate with your membership software can streamline your security process, allowing you to operate around the clock while managing your property remotely.
Although it may not be preferable to delegate all access to an app, you may consider using one to monetize off-hours and weekends. If your space is located in a larger building, make sure your app can access the main entrance, as well as restrooms and elevators.
Ben Mizes is the Co-Founder and CEO at Clever Real Estate, the nation’s leading real estate education platform for home buyers, sellers, and investors.