Unless you’ve been on another planet – it could happen; Mars is in vogue – you’ve probably heard about the influence of coworking on office design. 

Coworking is one of the fastest-growing workplace movements of the last decade. As wireless technologies have freed workers from their desks, workers have discovered a new form of freedom, which has affected everything from worker expectations to office design. That freedom is called coworking. 

Coworking began about a decade ago in response to freelancers’ need for a community and a desk. As the number of freelancers grew, independent workers ran into a problem: Starbucks eventually had “no room at the inn.” But because necessity is the mother of invention, coworking spaces emerged and have been popping up all over the globe ever since.

Online coworking magazine Desktop estimates that coworking spaces, which numbered 7,800 worldwide in 2015, will reach 12,700 in 2017. Some estimates have coworking members numbering 26,000 globally by 2020. 

So, what does coworking office design look like?

Essentially, coworking spaces are large open plan office layouts where independent workers can set up shop, socialize and form strategic connections. Coworking spaces typically feature organically arranged open plan office furniture layouts of tables, desks, chairs and sofas, and an abundance of benching workstations and lounges. 

According to Forbes, coworking spaces share a few key characteristics: 

  • They provide independent workers with a cool-looking office space and a chair for a reasonable monthly fee, considering the chic amenities most offer.
  • They carry flexible terms.
  • They foster a sense of community building. 

Interestingly, businesses are now adopting the coworking model internally. Research by Knoll, Inc. suggests one way to do that is to integrate coworking office design into the overall open plan office furniture design. Another option is to create a separate coworking section within the office, which vendors, consultants and partners can lease out. As to why a business might want to do this? According to one industry white paper, “traditional office systems … can stifle creativity and innovation.” 

Key to creating a great coworking office design, however, is to fill the office space with furniture that supports workers’ needs for options, strategic connections and social interaction. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Take down the walls, and open up the space. Invest in open plan office furniture to create a coworking vibe.
  • Focus on variety. Different workers and departments bring different expectations and needs to the office. Use a mix of open plan office furniture solutions, such as large, family-style tables with bar-height stools and benching workstations. Scatter them throughout the open plan, and support them with lounge-inspired meeting spaces. 
  • Create some quite space. Lounge chairs with privacy panels and stand-alone desks with screens are great ways to support workers who need to concentrate. Even a good, old-fashioned private office still has its place.
  • Design with flexibility in mind. Noam Hazan, principal at Noam Hazan Design Studio in Toronto, advises using versatile solutions such as retractable or demountable walls and stacking chairs. Coworking spaces demand open plan office furniture solutions that support adaptability and invite change.
  • Don’t forget the kitchen. Another of Hazan’s suggestions. Coworking spaces are notorious for having a hospitable environment with good coffee, food and drinks. The kitchen is always the one place within the open office plan where everybody feels at home. 

Whether you create a coworking section or an entire coworking space, coworking office design offers the community and connection employees are seeking today.