The Top 6 Challenges Of Coworking Spaces And How To Address Them

Only 77% of coworking members are satisfied with their shared workspace. Here’s how to swing the odds back in your favor.
  • A recent survey highlights the top 6 challenges faced by coworking members.
  • Almost one quarter of coworking members are less than satisfied with their shared space.
  • These guidelines address each challenge and how operators can make improvements.

A recent survey by Clutch identified the top 6 challenges coworking space members face. While coworking spaces remain a top option for many professionals, only 77% of coworking members are currently satisfied with their shared workspace. 

As coworking space operators continue to face increased competition from other operators and property owners, addressing the top concerns of members is key to retaining a strong membership base and keeping a space running in the long run. 

The Top 6 Challenges of Coworking Spaces

According to Clutch’s survey, these are the top challenges coworking space operators need to address:

  1. Distractions and noise (48%)
  2. Lack of privacy (48%)
  3. Limited space (39%)
  4. Insufficient equipment (31%)
  5. Inability to personalize workspace (31%)
  6. Security/safety issues (23%).

1. Distractions and noise

Distractions and noise have been a top complaint of shared workspaces since the beginning, and for good reason. Increased noise levels are without a doubt distracting, which leads to decreased productivity and, in some cases, increased stress levels. 

Luckily, there are various strategies coworking space operators (and members) can use to overcome this challenge. 

For coworking members, one effective solution is to use noise cancelling headphones, particularly when they’re tackling focus work. If coworking members find that their top distraction is chatty coworkers, there are various ways to deflect these interruptions: schedule a meeting (if they’re chatting about work-related issues); ask them to take the conversation to a social area rather than a work area; or simply be honest and tell them that their conversations are distracting you. 

Suggested Reading: “5 Effective Strategies to Deal with Chatty Coworkers

For their part, coworking space operators can manage noise and distractions in several ways. Some of the most effective ones include:

  • Adding plants to the office to create barriers and absorb noise
  • Understanding the ABCs of acoustics and implementing strategies that best fit with their space. 
    • Installing noise-absorbing panels
    • Using a pink noise system
    • Creating a barrier between different work areas (social areas vs focus work areas); these barriers should be visual, but more importantly they should help to prevent noise from traveling from one area to the next. 
  • Adding phone booths or pods to the work environment that people can use for a quick call or chat with coworkers without having to book a meeting room. 

2. Lack of privacy

Just like distractions and noise, lack of privacy has also been one of the top complaints of shared workspace users since the concept became widely popular. 

Even though work today is more collaborative, people still value and need privacy to do their best work. More importantly, in coworking spaces where members don’t work for the same company, privacy is a critical issue for those who handle sensitive information on a regular basis. 

In the workplace, privacy can relate to spatial, acoustical, and visual privacy. Can I hear other people and can they hear me? Can I see other people and can they see me? Is this work area just for me or do I have to share it?

The best way to tackle privacy in coworking space environments is to provide members with choice, even to members who don’t have a dedicated desk membership. 

This can be achieved by installing panels and partitions, using transparent walls, and striking the balance between individual work areas and shared ones. 

Pro tip: in today’s tech-driven business world, privacy is also a top concern in terms of connectivity, online security, data analytics, and — in some cases, biometrics

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3. Limited space

Clutch found that 39% of coworking members struggle with limited space. This is most likely the case for coworking members who have a shared desk membership rather than a private office. This isn’t too surprising, as research has found that the square footage per person in coworking spaces is less than that often allocated in corporate offices. 

One of the ways coworking spaces offset the reduced square footage per person is by providing access to additional workplace areas and environments, like lounges, kitchens, and breakout spaces. 

To ensure that coworking members don’t feel that their work is limited by their physical surroundings, coworking space operators should encourage all members to take advantage of common areas, as well as meeting rooms.

Additionally, to aid members to feel that they have more space, consider adding personal storage options, like lockers and shelves.

Pro tip: oftentimes lack of space can be due to cluttered environments. To ensure members have enough space to do their best work, consider organizing cables, having outlets easily accessible, and using decoration or add-ons that don’t take up too much space (i.e. desk lighting that can be attached to a panel rather than part of the desk). 

4. Insufficient equipment

Many coworking space operators focus too much on perks and amenities, and have lost sight of the basic elements that coworking members need from their workspace. Clutch found that one-third of coworking members say their coworking space has insufficient equipment. 

Basic coworking space equipment:

  • Robust technology infrastructure (connectivity, bandwidth)
  • Easily accessible outlets
  • Comfortable seating (including standing-desks or height adjustable chairs)
  • Laptop or monitor support 
  • Access to extension cords
  • Access to printing/scanning options
  • Audio-visual equipment in meeting rooms
  • Staples, pens, pencils, markers, paper, etc. 
  • Kitchen appliances (coffee maker, electric kettle, microwave)

To ensure that your coworking space is providing members with the right equipment, consider sending out a survey or reaching out to members individually to ask them if they have what they need from their workspace.

5. Inability to personalize space

With the rise of corporate coworking, this has become one of the main challenges of coworking space operators. 

While it’s important for a coworking space to keep its identity and branding as a coworking space, it is important that members also feel that the space is their own; particularly if they have a client-facing business and meet with clients often. 

To address this issue, coworking space operators can have a clear policy on how dedicated desk and private office members can give their workstation a personal touch (i.e. adding pictures, plants, decorative items, or even their business logo). 

Pro tip: if you allow members to personalize their space, consider asking them to follow specific guidelines like accepted colors, the type of wall decor, patterns, etc. This can help ensure that even though individual spaces are personalized, the overall look and feel of the coworking space isn’t compromised. 

6. Security and safety issues

Given that coworking members are home to a variety of professionals from a variety of fields, security and safety concerns need to be thoroughly addressed. 

Some common areas of security and safety concern include:

  • Wifi connection
  • 24/7 access
  • Equipment and personal devices security 

To address these issues, coworking space operators should:

  • Offer a private, secure network for members to connect. Ideally, coworking operators will provide each member with a unique credential and password to connect to the network. 
  • Coworking spaces that offer 24/7 access to members should have an alarm system installed, entrance points should be well-lit, and individual codes should be given for people to access the building.
  • Ensure that meeting rooms and conference rooms are soundproof; this is particularly important for members that work in fields where they handle sensitive information on a regular basis (lawyers, medical practitioners, psychologists, analysts, etc.).
  • Provide access to lockable storage options so that members can leave their personal work equipment in the space. 
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