Surviving a Downturn by Transforming Your Office into a Shared Coworking Space

In Branding, Culture, Interior Designby Christina Toole

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While economic tea leaves are notoriously hard to read, history tells us that our economy inevitably follows a pattern of highs and lows and that it’s wise to be ready for anything.

Today’s economy is currently finding many businesses in growth mode with a need to move up, start up, and expand up into new, larger spaces. It’s a tricky proposition to predict how many square feet they’ll need to accommodate growth - while hedging their bets to avoid being left with too much space in the event of a downturn.

While designing a flexible open office plan is the most cost effective and efficient use of space, some of our online interior design clients are taking it a step further. They have uncovered a strategy that leaves them well positioned for both growth and if needed a market retraction by converting their offices into coworking space that is shared by their employees as well as independent contractors and teams that also rent space.

Thanks to the growing gig economy, experts predict the number of coworking members will rise to 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022 and that 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors, and solopreneurs by 2020.

We’ll get into the specifics of how to transform an office into a shared space, but first let’s spend a little more time on why.

Benefits of a Shared Coworking Space

Sharing an office is not without its own set of complications but there are benefits to be gained in this new frontier.

Getting out of your bubble

The greatest benefit to be found in a coworking space is the coworking community. There is wisdom to be gained and lessons to be learned from working alongside others, particularly those from varying backgrounds and industries. A mixed coworking community offers endless networking, cross-promotion, joint marketing, education, and social opportunities.


“My company leases a large private area at a coworking space and it's amazing. All the benefits of a traditional lease plus the added amenities. It's great having space where there is also the co-working option on a different floor because our lunch break is filled with meeting new people and even collaborating for business. It's like free advertising for our product.”

– coworking community member

Cost Savings

There is of course the obvious benefit of offsetting costs with rental income provided by new coworking clientele. By renting desks or offices to others, costs such as rent and utilities can be mitigated. Additional costs such as copying and printing, can also be passed on to coworking clientele. Larger conference rooms and training rooms can also add rental fee income.

Enhanced Productivity

The entrepreneurial ‘hustle and grind’ mindset is contagious. By renting out empty desks to (often) self-employed people who are there to GET WORK DONE, you’ll be exposing your own staff to their infectious work ethic and energy.

Attractive Interior Design

The next benefit is also a key element – the interior design. Once you design a space that is suitable for coworking – you’ll have an open, flexible workspace that is filled with inspiring branded artwork, lighting, and amenities that everyone (including your own associates and recruits) will WANT to come to work in.


Key Elements of a Shared Coworking Space

There are a few elements specific to coworking communities that do need to be planned for. Incorporating such elements into a new office design will help make an easy transition should you decide to embrace a coworking model down the road.

Check your Lease

Early on you’ll want to confirm with your landlord that your lease allows for such an arrangement, making any adjustments in advance if needed. Of course, this is not an issue for businesses that own their own buildings. In fact, some of our clients have expressed such confidence in the coworking model that have purchased or built 2x the square footage they require with plans to launch a coworking space regardless of a downturn.

Keyless Access

Many coworking spaces allow members access to at least part of the workspace after normal office hours. This may involve adding access to the office or certain areas with keyless commercial door entry systems such as keypads, fobs, cards, or even smartphone access.


Real Estate Broker Tip! Some brokerages have found they are able to charge premium access to open office (bullpen) areas once a keyless access is added to this space. Creating an inviting pay-for-access workspace with unassigned seating allows them to generate income with an open space that would historically difficult to charge for. Contact us to learn more about this unique model that allows brokerages to recoup rental income from their bullpen areas while reaping the advantages of open office trends.


To help ensure conference, media, and call rooms are well used, make them easy to reserve remotely through use of readily available technology and apps.



Consider safety and security needs with proper lighting, cameras, lockable personal space, and perhaps even a 24 hour emergency contact.


Host lunch and learns, trainings, and social gathers designed to attract people from a variety of backgrounds. These events will serve to help foster a sense of community within your coworking space, as well as expose your space to new recruits and customers.


Another great perk of working in a coworking space is well.. the perks! Enhance the happiness and well-being of coworking community members by offering gourmet coffee, snacks, chair massages, and accesses to discounts and resources. Consider partnering with other firms nearby to offer discounts on items such as gym memberships, daycare, beauty services, transportation, and other services that help make the life of a busy entrepreneur a little easier.


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Designed to enhance Productivity and foster a sense of Community

If the community itself is the largest draw for a coworking space, it is critical that the space is designed for a sense of community. Residential-style kitchens can become a hub of social activity (while doubling as workspace) and communal workspaces and lounges can all be tied together to create a space that fosters community and interaction.

To assure the highest level of productivity, designing flexibility into a space is key. For example, breaking up the space by use and adding flexible space and desired amenities (sit-stand desks, lounge seating, coffee bars, private call rooms, small meeting rooms, etc.) is necessary so users can escape to these areas when needed.

There are many other items to consider including staffing,  industry-specific regulations, sustainability, ergonomics, lighting and noise control, audio visual, not to mention life and safety codes. If you are looking to create a dynamic coworking space, we encourage you to seek the help of a design professional and coworking consultant.

In recent years, our team has had a front row seat as the culture of work has shifted. In response, we’ve brought our combined hospitality experience into workspace designs, adding coffee bars, tech centers, lounges, fun breakrooms and outdoor spaces to create spaces people WANT to come to work in.

If you’d like to learn more about designing an office to create a sense of community, please reach out to us at or +1-702-907-3330.

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