Redesigning Coworking for the Age of Social Distancing
As we begin the second year of the pandemic and the worldwide shift to remote work, we reflect on the process that went into adapting a coworking business for a new era. The power of a long and trusting relationship allowed for quick action and little downtime. With careful consideration of brand and culture the changes that were implemented a year ago are still working today.
Lower Density, Same Connection
Redesigned layouts subtly reduce capacity at each location. Flexible furniture and accessories allow for the community to connect.
By Vince Pan, AIA, WELL AP, LEED AP
Principal, Analogue Studio, LLC
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Workbar, one of Boston’s premier coworking providers, needed to pivot their business model quickly to comply with rapidly changing expectations and safety guidelines. But how does a business built on fostering community adapt to the age of social distancing? Solutions like plexiglass screens, every-other-person seating assignments, and plans for staggered re-entry sprang up throughout the marketplace. These types of “one size fits all” solutions wouldn’t suit an organization that is prized for its culture. Workbar still needed to feel like Workbar. More than ever, members needed that sense of community, while knowing their mental and physical well-being were considered of utmost importance.
Workbar saw an opportunity to lead the thinking in workplace adaptation, and turned to their longtime design partner Analogue Studio to advise them during this critical time. Over eight years and dozens of projects, Analogue Studio has designed each of Workbar’s locations, and established furniture and finish, brand, and marketing standards across the entire portfolio.
Emphasis on member wellbeing has always been a part of Workbar’s core values. In 2018 Analogue Studio designed Workbar Back Bay to be the world’s first WELL certified coworking space. To preserve a culture of wellness and connection in the current climate, the design solution would need to be holistic and applied throughout their spaces, website and marketing. Analogue Studio’s interdisciplinary design process allowed for the implementation of strategic changes that were practical, sustainable, and most importantly, authentic to their brand.
This design strategy integrates emerging best practices and guidelines with Workbar’s mission, core values, and culture. The resulting multifaceted approach focused on shifting member habits through environmental graphics, modifying physical infrastructure, and updating messaging to reinforce that member wellbeing has been and will always be paramount.
Redesigning the space started behind the scenes with a thorough evaluation of the building infrastructure at every Workbar. Strategic upgrades were engineered and tailored to each location’s existing HVAC filtration, purification, and ventilation based on their unique systems and operations. Member behavior studies identified high-use and high-traffic areas and led to the redesign of furniture layouts and circulation norms to subtly reduce capacity and shift member habits. Flexible furniture and accessories make it easy to maintain a physical distance but lend a relaxed feel that fosters the spirit of collaboration and community.
These studies also helped determine circulation areas and key entry and exit points that were critical moments to manage safety and promote new habits. Custom wellness stations were strategically placed in the identified areas. These include touch-free thermal scanners, masks, touch-free hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Witty, on-brand environmental graphics resonate with existing messaging throughout the spaces and integrate reminders to remain at a safe distance in Workbar’s authentic voice.
Redesigning the website to celebrate Workbar’s focus on wellness and communicate these changes, especially the ones you cannot see, was an important component of the plan. As the first stop for current and prospective members, the website needed to educate visitors clearly and transparently about the new safety measures and set expectations for using the space. Most importantly, the updated site provides peace of mind that these new measures are an extension of their longstanding ethos rather than a rushed band aid.
This holistic design process resulted in solutions that reinforce Workbar’s unique brand and demonstrate to their community that although everything has changed, nothing has changed.
About Analogue Studio
Analogue Studio creates experiences that foster innovation, learning, and culture. We are an interdisciplinary studio that believes all forms of design have the power to solve problems and unleash possibility. Our projects are more than the solutions we develop; they are the relationships we build, and we take pride in the trust our clients place in us. Our ability to respond quickly, provide valuable insight and design powerful solutions for Workbar is rooted as much in our diverse skill set as it is in our longstanding relationship and understanding of their business.
Promoting Safe Social Distancing
Custom designed table tents, clever table graphics and other visuals throughout the space remind you to keep your distance while also reinforcing community norms.
Custom Wellness Stations
Branded wellness stations include thermal scanners, masks, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer. The stations were strategically placed in high traffic areas as well as entry and exit points.