So often we find ourselves making do with amenities, spaces, or resources that just aren’t quite right. In our Roundtable, managers encourage each other with a spirit of experimentation. Often free or low-cost workarounds can do wonders for increasing the functionality of a space.
Move stuff around, put stuff on wheels, repaint a wall . . . and pay attention to what impact those “experiments” have on the interactions and satisfaction of your members. This approach is blatantly borrowed from our favorite space planning resource – Make Space – from the Stanford d.School. Check out my current favorite space hacks to support collaboration. These are sourced from four of our local Managers Roundtable participants – photos and credit included for most.
1. Information-sharing work arounds.
Cost-effective and easily modifiable ways to share information are critical to ensure that your members or tenants can cross-promote, exchange ideas, and connect with each other. We also know that it is critical to have space to write and brainstorm if our community spaces are going to work for collaboration. Here are three examples of low-cost hacks to create space to share.
As a tenant in a public school building, Aurora Welcome Center was limited in the modifications they could make to the walls in their space. Their Executive Director pulled off this awesome magnetic bulletin board with 4 pieces of salvaged trim, a sheet of metal cut to suit, high-powered magnets, and DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE. Never underestimate the power of double-sided tape.
In keeping with the cost-effective theme, John Maikowski at Converge shared that his coworking space is fully outfitted with “whiteboards” that are actually 4×8 sheets of $10 hardboard from Lowes. Depending on how much these get used, this $10 hack can last more than a year in a meeting room. Here, these are trimmed with barn-wood for a rustic finished look.
While not exactly cheap, our last info sharing solution is a sound-proof flexible wall that doubles as a high-quality whiteboard in Common Roots shared conference room. Added during the initial build out for this new shared space, allow the meeting space to serve multiple purposes.
2. Make things mobile.
At Converge, the shared flat screen TV is on a wheeled cart. Members have used this mobile amenity all over the space – even outdoors on the patio.
Keeping way-finding up-to-date in shared spaces is often a challenge, with members or tenants moving around within the space and new folks joining the community. Posner Center has opted for magnetic signage for common spaces and offices. This highly “mobile” approach to way-finding makes it easy to modify and update.
3. Create space to linger by considering comfort and options.
Posner Center has made a point to provide a variety of social and productive spaces in their common areas. Standing height tables are useful for 2-3 people to work side-by-side. They’ve situated these to have access to good natural lighting and a vantage point for people watching. Bonus: these double as serving tables for events. They have also tucked a couple couches in the lobby area, just outside the flow of visitor traffic. These are often used as casual workspaces for members, perhaps feeling a little more private than the seating in the Commons.
4. Don’t forget about sound management.
Managing sound in open work spaces is one of the toughest challenges we hear from managers. It’s a challenge to balance privacy and sound masking with air flow and aesthetics. At Converge, they have two WEN air filters that clean the air but also provide great sound masking.
5. Make it personal.
People love to see pictures of themselves and others. A picture board to share who’s who in the space and who to go to for support can go a long way in making people feel at home. Posner Center shared this photo of their staff board. And the Colorado Collaborative for Nonprofits shared this shot of their breakroom poster featuring the center’s floor plan and photos of who sits where. Admittedly, it is hard to find adequate wall space for all this, keep it current, and keep it clean, but people love it.
6. Be not precious
This is one of our favorite lessons from the d.School. “Be not precious” refers to not taking oneself or one’s space too seriously. Ensuring that spaces feel flexible, useable, and not “too nice to get dirty” goes a long way to promoting hands-on, collaborative work. From rethinking the shared coffee station to completely reimagining the open workspace floorplan, at Common Roots staff members are encouraged to take initiative in crafting space to best support their work styles. Alana shared, “I think it is safe to say we work in a space where new office remodel ideas are welcomed, and here is day one of construction to create three new flexible offices!”