60. How multi-space operators are learning and evolving their space design
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I was on vacation with my family in late August. We did some camping at Big Sur and then spent some time in Santa Barabara. What else does one do on vacation but visit other coworking spaces? The Hub has two very central locations - one right near the beach and one about a mile from the beach and right on State Street. I wandered in and was pleasantly surprised that Josh, the Community Manager was more than happy to let me interrupt his morning for a full tour.
While the Hub tour in itself was quite enjoyable, this episode is more about the fact that the industry is evolving quickly and operators that run multiple locations (like the Hub), have the advantage of learning and iterating more quickly than others. If you’re working on a new space, my recommendation is to keep an eye on what the multi-location operators are doing in their latest spaces. Either reach out to them and ask, or stalk them on Google Images :-)
The Hub has 80 open locations with 26 in the making. They have 15,000 members across the network.
The Hub in Santa Barbara has been open for about a year and has a well-thought-out layout and design that I think reflects a lot of industry learnings over the last 10 years. For example, the Hub has a mix of private offices, dedicated space and open seating. They have a podcasting studio, an outdoor pizza oven where they host member lunches every Wednesday. Since it’s sunny and 70 every day in Santa Barbara, they also have an outdoor meeting room that is protected with canvas so that you can actually see your laptop screen even in the sunlight.
Their dedicated desks are at standing height with high-end ergonomic seating and set-ups. Their very modern, clean kitchen hosts an espresso machine, fruit water, and a loose leaf tea bar.
I’m saving the best for last - they have a wine bar at the entrance of the space that is run by one of their members.
Seeing this build-out made me wonder...what are operators with multiple locations building into their new locations based on their learnings over time? I should ask them and share this with others…
And so I did and today I’m going to share their responses.
Brad Krauskopf - Founder of The Hub Australia
Brad’s response was “Without a doubt, the cafe we operate.”
One of the evolutions that Brad has made to support the cafe is to make his spaces larger.
Brad’s typical space used to be 5,000 square feet and now he’s at 20,000+ Benefits to scale include more individual and team offices which really help to create a sustainable model, but also more common areas that offer a variety of work settings and amenities. Brad says “Design and fit-out matters and the businesses that we cater to expect it and are happy to pay for it as they are about attracting and retaining staff.”
Mara - Founder of 25N Coworking
Mara has two design evolutions that she thinks are making a big impact.
The first Moveable walls to open and close spaces. This allows for maximum flexibility and a way to keep sound separated by the function of the space(s). “We used to have the Hub (printers, office supplies, etc.) adjacent to the open flex spaces. We didn’t use to run power to it and having the hub right next to it was too distracting. We now run power to the flex space and the flexibility of the walls allows us to remove sound distractions created by the Hub but open up space for events, etc.
The second is booths - like you’d find at a restaurant but these include power and monitors and they’re out in the open space. They add a nice variety to a space that would typically just have bench seating. They can serve as a collaborative area or work space. They create another option for an alternate environment throughout the day.
Jerome - Blankspaces
Jerome is adding more team spaces including larger ones for 12+ people.
He said for the first time, he’s fulfilling a request to take down a couple of walls to convert 3 1-2 person offices into a team office for 8.
Nick - CommonDesk
We've designed a hospitality desk at the entrance of each of our new spaces. It offers coffee, snacks, and mail service and is staffed by our Host. The host makes sure all members/visitors are welcomed with a smile and have a coffee in hand.
Liz - Link Coworking
Liz’s immediate response was - “A big communal table! When I designed my first space there were less than 50 coworking spaces in the world, today we’re not really sure but our best guess is around 14K. Lots have changed! I did not include a big open kitchen space in Link Coworking and have regretted it ever since. When we want to have communal lunches we have to go outside or book the conference room. At Link Flex we put in a big communal table and it’s lovely and a natural gathering space. I won’t make another space without one.
Laura K - Quest Workspaces
Our space has evolved by adding unique functional and playful amenities allowing our Questers to work the way they want including…
We now have “Nap rooms”- set up for those who just need a break, decked out with reclining, massaging easy chairs, cozy“ lake house design” complete with fireplace.
We also have “Lap rooms”- with walking treadmills and standing desks.
Our Questers also love the “chat rooms” with a playful design and chalkboard walls.
Communal café tables are also a big hit, and great for our social events.
Kane Willmott IQ Office Suites
In our new space in Vancouver, we are doing all sit/stand desks. They are pneumatic meaning that they don't require electricity. They have pistons in the legs which allow the desks to be adjusted to customs heights by pressing a lever.
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