How Does A Shared Workspace Work?  

Disclosure: I created this post in partnership with Workbar at Staples.

Recently, I was invited to check out Workbar at Staples, a new shared workspace in three Boston area Staples stores, in Brighton, Danvers, and Norwood. (You can learn more about the Workbar at Staples here.)

I had never visited a shared workspace before; as a Gen Xer, I incorrectly thought shared workspaces were the purview of hip Millennials with cool jobs creating websites, apps, and online products we don’t yet know we need. But, I thought I’d give it a try—if nothing else, to increase my cool factor. What I found was that people of many different ages and professions used the space—not just Millennials.

If you’re considering trying out a shared workspace—also known as coworking, collaborative working, or flexible workspaces—here’s what you can expect…

shared workspace

Private phone rooms and quiet places to concentrate are just two of the features of the new shared workspace, Workbar at Staples.

Welcome
When I arrived at the Workbar at Staples in Brighton, the first thing I noticed was the host, sitting near the front door, a friendly smile on her face. Her job was to welcome visitors, give a tour if needed, check in members, demonstrate how the equipment works, and answer questions. By her desk was an interactive board listing all of the members present in the space that day (I was not there because I was a visitor). This board was an easy way to facilitate connections between “coworkers” and offered a short-cut for those seeking to network with other members in similar fields and/or with shared goals.

Work Zones
Well-designed work environments—whether they are at a location like the Workbar at Staples or in the headquarters of a large company—feature spaces for all kinds of workers, from busy, central hubs for conversation and brainstorming sessions, to quiet offices for deep concentration. I was pleased to see that the Workbar at Staples featured several different work zones, including the kitchen/cafe area for chatting, eating, and working; a central area with plenty of space to spread out for those who want to work and possibly talk with their neighbors; and a quiet area for those seeking no interruptions. The best part was that you can move from one zone to another as you like, matching the physical space to your working needs. When I arrived, I set up at a large table in the central area, across from a woman who smiled hello and pointed out the nearest electrical socket for my laptop. I had a clear view of people coming and going but found the area to be conducive to getting a lot of work done—just what I needed.

Meeting Time
Since we do more than just sit at our computers during the day, Workbar at Staples offers other work options. For example, those needing to make a private phone call can step into a soundproof phone closet, while those hosting a meeting can reserve one of the conference rooms for their gathering. Additionally, Workbar at Staples offers reservable offices that can be booked by members for a day at a time. When I visited, the conference rooms were full, and I spied animated conversations through the glass doors. I also saw groups using the conference room audio visual to connect with colleagues off-site, to show slide decks, and to work on a shared document. I decided to turn off my phone while at the Workbar at Staples—I was trying to be as productive as possible!—so I didn’t need the phone rooms, but I noticed they received a lot of traffic during the day, as people stepped in and out of them to make and take calls.

The Must-Haves
Good wifi, ergonomic seating, electrical plugs at every turn, endless coffee and tea, snacks for the 3 PM sugar lull, and access to printers were also in evidence when I visited Workbar at Staples. Every good office has these “must-haves” so it is important to find a shared workspace that places them front and center. I moved to the kitchen area after lunch, where I watched the coffee and snacks dwindle (and then get replenished by the host) thanks to engaged workers. The place was busy, yet the overall feeling was one of productivity, as people gave each other space to concentrate.

Cost
Shared workspaces offer different pricing depending upon your professional needs. A full-time membership in the Workbar at Staples is $130/month and includes unlimited use of the coworking zones, along with two days a month at another Workbar or Workbar Network location and two hours of reservable room usage. Additional fees for mail service, lockers, and conference room space can be found here.

Recommendation
A shared workspace can be a great option for teleworkers, people running their own businesses, or people who find working from home a challenge. Having access to technology, meeting other work-outside-of-a-traditional-office professionals, and having a “place to go” each day—or even a few days a week, depending upon your needs—are all advantages to a shared workspace like the Workbar at Staples. Those interested in scheduling a tour can do so here.