Coworking is here to stay! And coworking acoustics too!

Milan Začal and Šimon Opekar from Techo proudly open the event and welcome all participants from the main stage

 

Recently I took part in an event in Prague named TechoCon 2018 organised by the furniture and commercial interiors company Techo in the Czech Republic. The theme this year was coworking. It was stated that by the end of 2018, around 1.7 million people across the world will be working in coworking environments at 19 000 coworking sites. And what changes will this bring?

Many different panel discussions contributed to open discussions and a more interactive approach

 

I must admit, prior to this event (skillfully moderated by Nikita Poljakov), which I was invited to as a speaker and a panel discussion participant, I did not grasp the scope of the coworking movement. Not even in my own home environment – Sweden and Scandinavia.

Speech about the workspace of the future by Doug Lowrie from Microsoft

 

The main driver of this has been the adoption of new technologies that allow people to work in new ways, with more collaborative and shared space and the ability to work anywhere and at any time. Small firms and one-man consultancy companies don’t want to and cannot commit to long-term property and rental deals. These people and firms would pay for space as a member rather than an occupier, which had the parallel advantage of putting them into a network of like-minded people. But coworking may not only be for smaller firms in the future! Last year, IBM agreed a deal with coworking giant WeWork to take on all the space at its 88 University Place office in New York. This is likely to be only the beginning of a new ecosystem for workplace occupiers and the property sector!

Chris Cooley from Evelo Agency putting the coworking phenomena in a historic and global perspective

 

It seems coworking is not something driven by real estate and developers. Although some TechoCon event fellow knowledgeable speakers from North America said that it took off in USA when the economic crises hit them and offices became empty. Coworking rather reflects how our society is changing. There is a desire amongst the “workers” to create a sense of belonging: communities that thrive – the idea of a community, shared purpose and ideals. It may be so that we are not going to abandon totally the corporate workspace, but we are choosing more flexible options about how we work.

Carsten Svensson from Ecophon explaining how people are influenced by sound and what you need to know and can do

 

So, what about coworking and acoustics then? People and workers move away from their own home offices as to seek social settings and some kind of interaction. But they also have a lot of concentration work and meetings to carry out. They have rented a space including (most of the time) good coffee and Wi-Fi, so why not also good acoustics? (Carsten’s 30 min speech and workshop on acoustics can be viewed here)

Activities in coworking spaces:

  • People come and go and use many different rooms/spaces according to work tasks and availability
  • Many different kinds of activities take place all the time
    • Concentration work
    • Meetings
    • Skype / video conferencing (distance meetings and communication)
  • Acoustic considerations in coworking spaces:
    • Holistic acoustic strategy for coworking space providers needed as to support flexibility and multi-use situations
    • Open-plan and multi-purpose spaces need strict acoustic control
    • Meeting and conference rooms need good room acoustics to support speech and communication + good room-to-room sound insulation for privacy
The Ecophon exhibition stand was well visited by participants interested in sound and acoustics

 

The few coworking spaces I have seen did not have very good acoustic conditions. I believe acoustic comfort easily can be forgotten in these spaces – but actually play a vital role in creating flexible work spaces supporting coworkers and their activities, both concentration and communication.

 

Participants to the Ecophon exhibition stand could via a VR kit experience the combination of visualisation and auralisation as to better understand the differences between spaces with poor and good acoustics.

 

Ecophon sound absorbing baffle with a biophilic touch on display outside the exhibition booth

 

Links from the event and coworking in general

TechoCon 2018 in Prague

  • Overview – all films from TechoCon 2018 > link
  • Sound effect on people, speech and workshop by Carsten Svensson > link
  • TechoCon 2018 panel discussion | Ian Bogle, Martina Huitfeldt, Jan Musil, Billy Rue, Carsten Svensson > link

Read more about coworking here:

  • Coworking – what is it? > link
  • The meteor strike of coworking and the beasts that will remain > link
  • About time we simply accepted that coworking and flexible working are the new normal > link
  • You should not expect the coworking bubble to burst anytime soon > link

 

 

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