Why do I persist in cajoling one of my long-suffering employees or a hapless friend into spending precious hours every weekend rearranging the furniture in my northwest Austin co-working space? By my count, since 2010 when I opened Link, the first of my co-working spaces, I’ve moved chairs, dragged desks and essentially redesigned the space at least 384 times. In Link’s first year I rearranged the furniture layout every single night. At least now it's down to just once a week.
Does that sound crazy even to my “I’m the founder and I have a vision” ears? Yes. Is it disruptive? Yes. Is it the kind of disruption that brings benefits rather than headaches to my members? Absolutely. There is indeed method in this entrepreneur’s madness.
The thing is, in my open co-working space business model, I don’t want people to become territorial. Otherwise they won’t reap the benefits of the open office model.
The bottom line is I’m trying to help people be as productive as they can be by keeping things fresh and bringing great energy into a space so that they will never feel in a rut.
By sitting in a different place every week, they will find it easy to interact with new people and be stimulated from gaining a new perspective. In a society where people are constantly interacting with devices, an infusion of a bit of human interaction can make people more productive.
Should not people spend some of their time engaging? They might learn something. Or they might find a shortcut fix to a problem that’s been stumping them.
I also think my deliberate disruption translates into inspiration. One of the things I see a lot is one person in a co-working space having a win, making a big decision or taking a big risk and this inspires those nearby. Anyone working alone in a co-working space is not taking advantage of one of its key characteristics.
Current research, from Steve King of Emergent Research, shows that successful independent workers rank networking skills among the top three factors that contribute to their success. Word-of-mouth ranked the highest among the ways these professionals typically procured their work.
These days amid all this disruptive rearranging, I follow basic design tenets developed over the years of my involvement in this industry. I pay special attention to layout, color, furniture choices, lighting and overall flow. For example, co-working advocates know people need a place to take their phone calls.
I’ve learned to never skimp on the following three design elements. Here are some ideas for anyone thinking about office design:
If a leader of an office doesn’t want to sit in a certain chair for eight hours straight, team members won’t want to either.
I'm preoccupied with light. People need and love natural light but I don’t want glare on computer screens. That’s why, even though there's a very generous awning on Link’s building, I try to never place people with their back to the window. And I aim to give everyone a view.
I don’t want the artificial lights to be too bright because everyone’s working on a device that’s illuminated already. And they're not just using one device. Usually they have two to four.
Here's a tip: If an office is short on natural light, there are amazing artificial lights available.
Thinking about placing a meeting room next to a bathroom? That's a big mistake. Anyone about to slap himself on the head can refrain. White noise can fix a myriad of design missteps.
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur Media is an investor and partner with AlleyNYC, a co-working space in New York City that competes with Link.