Have you ever wondered why we design our coworking spaces the way we do? Read on to gain some critical insights into our design process, direct from our Head of Design Nestor Veloso. Nestor was recently interviewed by Distrito Oficina, a well known spanish magazine focused on the main workspace interior design trends. In this article, originally published in spanish by Distrito Oficina, Nestor tells us about his key ideas for new flexible workspace, the change in perspective after the pandemic and the undoubted advantages that coworking spaces bring to companies, regardless of their size.
What is the essence of a coworking project?
We always approach it as if it was a blank canvas, and spend a lot more time than people think brainstorming and optimizing floorplans. The distribution is the key. Although each building suggests and guides its layout, the ultimate goal must always be to open as many spaces as possible, creating large areas that connect and disconnect simultaneously, combining corners and mixing atmospheres.
The project should never be static, but should allow for as many mutations as possible. If we find ourselves with glass partitions that create a specific plot, this must be strategically located and defined to be divisible or scalable. At OneCoWork we talk about taking flexibility to the limit of possibilities.
Is a coworking space the best option for a startup?
Undoubtedly, because a startup, when it is born, has to invest its time and energy in its development and a coworking offers the ease of setting up in an agile, dynamic and flexible space where everything is configured as plug and play. You arrive with your team and it's simply a matter of setting up your computers and getting started. An emerging company will always feel comfortable in a coworking space, as if it were their natural habitat, because the space is adapted to their needs without any major changes in terms of location or value-added services. Everything is dynamic and very democratic. It’s important to mention, though, that it’s not just start-ups that love coworking. At OneCoWork, we also have a large segment of corporate and enterprise clients that need a premium flexible workspace solution that gives their employees the office experience that they truly deserve.
Private Office at our newest coworking space at Portal de l'Àngel, Barcelona
Do you think the pandemic has favored flexible workspaces?
The answer is a resounding YES. Already in pre-pandemic times, supply and demand were balanced, but on the rise due to the ease with which these spaces make it effortless for small and medium-sized companies, as well as entrepreneurs, to scale. What the pandemic generated was an acceleration in the change of model for large corporate and enterprise companies and cultural changes in the professional environment. It’s no longer essential to be in the office all the time, and coworking and flexible workspace in general provide a fantastic base upon which to build a hybrid work model for your business, mixing face-to-face work and remote work. In short, coworking provides a higher quality of life and therefore a happier and more productive workforce that has a higher probability of yielding results.
Are there any new trends in the design of coworking spaces after this crisis?
I wouldn't call it a trend. I would call it, rather, new priorities in terms of intrinsic requirements of the coworking space itself by members and companies. Before COVID, there was a lower emphasis on natural light, open-air exits and other factors that were not decisive when choosing a coworking space. Rather, what was valued was the combination of location-design-community. Similarly, spaces could be more compact or atomized. After the health crisis, all that has changed and we are looking especially for daylight, transparency and a sense of spaciousness. Basically, we value not feeling closed in. On top of that, those large corporate or enterprise clients have decided that they want all the benefits of a flexible workspace, while still maintaining privacy and security. We’ve seen a big increase in the demand for privatized large areas within our coworking spaces in Barcelona.
Have flexible offices changed a lot?
Yes, another key element that has undergone a major development in our spaces, following the pandemic, is what we call “quiet rooms”, Zoom Rooms and the additional implementation of phone booths for calls and video-conferencing. This is what our members demand and value the most and we dedicate a lot of effort to optimize their design and functionality. As far as new technologies are concerned, the whole field of IT is taking on special relevance in the implementation of new flexible workspace environments. Flexibility is not just designed by the layout and contract length, it is also very present in the cloud.
Common areas and phone booths at OneCoWork Portal de l'Àngel
Can you define your functions as the person in charge of the interior design of OneCoWork?
My job is to devise and propose the layout of the buildings looking for a balance between offices and common areas. I create a moodboard of materials, colors and textures unique to each of our locations while maintaining the soul that identifies us as OneCoWork. I select the pieces of lighting and furniture pieces, customize them down to the last detail, making each armchair, sofa and table unique. Nothing is casual! I strive to ensure that everything that surrounds the pure office space is rabidly comfortable, and has its own character with a timeless touch. I approach the lighting of the spaces by mixing technical work light, which is cooler, with decorative light, somewhat warmer. And all this to make sure our members feel so comfortable that they perceive the spaces as an extension of their home, or even better! The idea is that all members feel that they are not just part of a big community, but that our coworking spaces inspire them, actually no, EMPOWER them in their professional life, and give them motivation not just to come to work and do their best, but to enjoy every moment along the way.
Is this the added value that defines your company's spaces?
A person far from the design discipline can feel at ease in an environment and not know how to explain it. We, as interior design professionals, know how to meticulously combine materials, qualities, colors, patterns, textures, cadences, lights and shadows. All these factors together make our coworking spaces turn the daily life of our members into a unique experience. Let me define it with the concept of member-experience. Feeling at home in our spaces is intangible, but not the only important concept. Our spaces need to be beautiful, and inspiring, but more than that they need to be functional. We need to create coworking spaces that provide higher functionality and productivity than a regular office, and we need to understand changing behaviors in order to be constantly adapting our buildings to the shifting human preferences.
Share areas at OneCoWork Portal de l'Àngel
Do you work with regular external teams in the interior design of your spaces?
No. The whole process of design and concept of OneCoWork starts from our internal team and this is the key to our soul and our brand. The team is formed by a Project Manager and an IT Manager, also from OneCoWork. We are constantly learning and researching and we often attend international fairs to enrich ourselves and establish new synergies with manufacturers and artists. We like to ask for the opinion of our staff randomly, and even to our members, to involve them in the pleasure of developing the spaces, and the feedback is wonderful!
How does the workspace influence the mood and productivity of workers?
It is decisive. A workspace can inspire territoriality or mobility and this depends on its design. To obtain a satisfactory environment, you have to think about how it is going to be used and in what space of time. We create active offices and meeting rooms so that members can share, collaborate, interact and, consequently, encourage creativity between totally open spaces and other more private ones. We try to relativize the boundaries (if there are any) between closed offices, open offices and common spaces. We want each corner, each square meter, to allow the development of an activity, whether it is a table, a bar, an armchair or a sofa. Every single inch of a OneCoWork coworking space needs to be dedicated to the very specific purpose of productivity.
What is the main challenge facing the sector?
For us, the biggest challenge is undoubtedly the shift in human professional behavior due to technological development. As the particular needs for connectivity, networking and cyber security increase, complexity in design increases exponentially. It’s also imperative the consequent improvement in access controls due to the optimization of this total flexibility and the new uses of the buildings.