Top tips for choosing the perfect workspace

Forget the daily grind. The 9 to 5. The tired old carpet and the swivel chairs. The office as we know it is a thing of the past.

By 2020, over half of us will be freelance, as we seek a different way of doing things: a novel way of managing our work life balance and a new way of pursuing the things that we love. But with the rise of the self-employed comes a logistical issue – where are we all going to work?

In answer to this question, and in answer to the needs of the booming startup and SME scene too – we have seen the unprecedented rise of the co-working space. Even corporates are now looking for a piece of the action as they seek out different ways of working to keep an increasingly mobile and international workforce engaged. But with campuses springing up left, right and centre, what should you actually look for in a co-working space?

Here at Talent Garden, we believe that creating the best possible experience for our members goes beyond placing furniture within easy reach of a plug socket and making sure that the Wifi is working. Here are our top five tips for choosing the perfect workspace:

1. Digital vs. physical

Many of us spend almost all of our working lives online, and digital solutions are important in the workspace too. But the best digital technology is frictionless, so look for a space that uses technology to enhance – rather than replace – the physical experience.

A case in point is our new robo-administrator from Double Robotics, which allows our support staff to have a physical presence across multiple campuses at any one time. We also love Vitamins’ Lego calendar, which syncs with Google Calendar via a smartphone app, our Bitcoin ATM by Robocoin, and Epson’s latest range of projectors, which can turn any surface into an interactive whiteboard.

2. Bringing the outdoors, indoors

Technology can only take you so far. At Talent Garden, our coworkers spend over 10 hours a day in our spaces on average – often longer than they spend at home – so how the place makes them feel is really important. The link between nature and wellbeing has been well documented, so seek out a space that caters to your psychological as well as physical needs.

Enter one of our campuses, for example, and you’ll find an almost entirely natural interior. The lamps hanging from the ceiling are produced from the finest Japanese paper. Branches, stumps and sculptural tree trunks help to bring the outdoors, indoors. Visitors often wonder how we maintain the fluffy green forest-like walls – which are alive and breathing – cultivated from a special type of moss that feeds on moisture in the air. We believe that this all serves to help keep our members happy, productive and healthy.

3. Seeing the light

Recent research in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that working in an office with poor lighting can cost you 46 minutes of sleep a night, as well as impacting upon performance and concentration. So make sure that you look carefully at the positioning of windows and the availability of natural light, and check that the lighting itself is gentle on your eyes.

4. Feeding the five senses

To remain creative and productive, we all need daily stimulus, so consider whether the space you’re looking at incorporates some variety. Our solution is to include a number of wooden, glass and cardboard deco details, which are regularly moved around and upgraded to foster an atmosphere of flux and change. Even the availability of a window with a changing view or some objects you can move around your desk can make a big difference.

The best spaces don’t just focus on what you see either – we have five senses, and it is important to appeal to all of them. Natural wooden elements such as birch trees or wooden tables can provide a calming and earthy smell in the midst of the city, and multifarious textures on the walls, floors and surfaces will create new sensations to the touch.

5. Getting social

Being a freelancer can be lonely. One of the greatest benefits of co-working is the sense of community that it provides, and the networking and collaboration opportunities it generates. Having the right blend of people is essential to maintaining this kind of environment, but the space needs to do some of the work too. Event spaces, kitchens, lounge areas and roof terraces are all good ways of ensuring you’ll get that much-needed interaction with other members through a sense of shared community.

Balance is also important, though, so check that there are spaces where you can escape when you’re craving some peace and quiet. Our campuses have plenty of little enclaves where people can get away from the hustle and bustle.

The co-working campus should never be the poor man or woman’s office, or the wallet-friendly option until a more permanent solution is secured. If co-working is about enabling a different state of mind – redressing your work life balance, reclaiming your time, and working on your own terms – then this needs to be reflected in the design.

In the new era of digital working, it is all the more important that we choose our physical environments with due emphasis on our own wellbeing. Only then can we nurture ideas, foster creativity, and allow our talent to grow.

top tips

Davide Dattoli is the CEO and cofounder of Talent Garden, a network of coworking spaces with 12 campuses across Europe. Talent Garden was nominated by New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg for its work stateside as one of the top five innovators developing the local community. Davide has been named as one of Wired Italy’s top entrepreneurs, and regularly speaks about the future of coworking at local and international events such as Wired Festival and TEDx.


If you’re in need of some inspiration or just keen to hear the latest tools and tricks to support your escape, check out our upcoming workshops.
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