You can never predict the future, but more and more you find yourself going back to your original plan. Over here at The Guild we've had a bit of a reshuffle with our Engine Room and hopefully you'll agree we've made some improvements. Back in 2013 when we were first designing The Guild we planned on The Engine Room being our main coworking space, and indeed it is our most popular work environment but we also planned on using it for evening events and therefore we decided to make the space super flexible with tables that could be swept into the corner and chairs that could be stacked forty high. However, you can soon realise that you are only doing half as good a job as you thought you were.
The Engine Room when we first opened in 2013
Though the flexibility was great the space was being underused as the tables were large (a shocking 1.6m!) and they didn't encourage members to sit together let alone work together...it was like being on the train looking for somewhere to sit and only seeing a few workers and a sea of laptop bags! At this point (back at the start of 2014) we decided to have a shift around, this was mainly brought in due to membership numbers having doubled in that period, so we decided to make The Engine Room 100% a work room (ex. the odd evening/weekend) and turn The Library into a workspace.
The Engine Room, 2014
This change worked well as we installed two long bench desks which encouraged members to work across from one another, we also retained some of the larger flexible desks as well as a meeting table, allowing members the choice to move around in the room. This set up worked really well for over a year, but in the past few months we found ourselves wondering once again how we could improve the space. The room was working better but some tables gave members a large amount of space, some would only allow one member to work at them at a time and the two larger tables although encouraging members to sit opposite one another, didn't encourage members to sit next to each other unless you worked in a team. We also had the issue of perception of space, we personally assumed that the layout of chairs would dictate where members could sit, however just like trains this wasn't always the case. At its quietest The Engine Room could have 12 people working in it and yet members would complain of there not being room, even though the room was designed for 25, other members were also enquiring about permanent desks - this is where we go back to 'whether you can predict the future'.
Unlike the majority of coworking spaces in the world The Guild is a series of rooms rather than being one big open plan office, our members enjoy a variety of spaces to work in and also were 'treated' to more space per member. If we had moulded The Guild on other coworking spaces we would have had a mixture of permanent desks amongst coworking ones, this works really well in the spaces that adopt this approach as you gain resident coworkers, a constant for new members looking to join. And therefore a few months ago we made the decision to do what will hopefully be the last turn around of The Engine Room we moved the two long desks and marked desk space and added more smaller individual coworking desks and five permanent desks.
The Engine Room, 2015
The turn around had an immediate effect, as desk space was clearly marked members started to sit together, members upgraded to the new permanent desks and we found that the room became more popular and had for a lack of a better word a real buzz. Conversations that before would have felt awkward were happening organically and now teams feel a lot more comfortable about being vocal. Now, that isn't to say there wasn't any backlash, it was a massive change and as we said it did have an immediate impact, since the move around there are now more coworking desks than before it just limits the amount of circulation space, however, in most coworking spaces as space is so valuable you do find that desks are much more closely packed together. We're not sure if the calculation already exists, but we guess it comes down to how much space you really need in a coworking space, in your typical office you would find that an executive would have a 1.8m desk and that the majority of the workforce would have a 1.6m desk which would house a desktop, desk tidy, keyboard and mouse. Here, our permanent desk users have 1.4m which gives them space for a screen (or two) and laptop, while our cowokers occupy either 1.2m or 1m desks, which we have found is enough for a laptop and papers and even in some cases a laptop, monitor and papers!
The smallest desk (1m) on offer at The Engine Room
The 1.2m desks at The Guild
The permanent desks, which are also the largest (1.4m) on offer at The Guild
We guess time will tell how much space you really need to work, but we feel much more confident that the new layout in The Engine Room is helping to answer that and that we may finally have been able to predict the future.