Coworking spaces are melting pots for workers of different backgrounds, jobs, and interests. The desk that may have been occupied by a 20-year-old programmer in the morning could easily be filled by a 60-year-old graphic designer in the afternoon.
Being able to mix with folks from different jobs and life experiences is what gives coworking spaces their edge. Everyone loves meeting people with different professional interests than themselves, and genuine relationships can form while people take a break from their work day.
But, if you run a coworking space, appealing to a wide range of workers is difficult. By privileging some design choices that appeal to older users, you may accidentally put off younger workers (and vice versa). To avoid this, you must intentionally cater to multigenerational users of your coworking space.
There’s no “right” way to design a coworking space. However, every design choice you make should privilege productivity and feel cohesive to your overall interior design style. Ideally, you should also offer various ways to work in your coworking space, as some folks love an open floor plan while others benefit from pods and single-seater desks.
When catering to a multigenerational audience, try to imagine a “typical” worker from each generation that uses your space. You might, for example, picture young workers as a freelancer who is just finding their footing. By contrast, your “typical” older worker might be well established on the corporate ladder. Of course, these stereotypes don’t necessarily play out in the real world, but they do help you visualize your target markets.
Once you’ve identified a few “typical” workers from each generation, consider what they want from the space. This helps you create a productive workspace for everyone, as you can use a blend of different floor plans, desk options, seating arrangements, and lighting to promote efficiency in your coworking area.
When designing a multigenerational coworking space, each of your design choices should be intended to capture the widest audience possible. This means you need to be savvy about your design, too. There are no hard and fast rules about what each generation looks for in an interior design, but you can probably skip the graffiti-like graphics or grandfather clocks if you want to appeal to a wide range of ages and audiences.
Coworking spaces offer more than a chance to get your head down and work. The best coworking spaces should help members further their careers by providing events, mentorship, and networking opportunities. When scheduling events, be sure to consider the needs of a multigenerational audience, or you risk alienating some of your users.
Multigenerational users of your coworking space will benefit from three types of coworking events and networking opportunities:
These coworking events can build community in your workspace and bring members together. Remember to host a range of events to best attract multigenerational workers (but don’t be surprised when retirees show up for after-work drinks!).
Offering a range of events that genuinely appeal to your members can break down any generational barriers that may have formed and help folks come together around a common love of the space you provide.
Members from every generation care about their health and wellbeing. Remote workers have suffered in the past few years, as sitting for long hours in relative isolation has caused a surge in posture-related illnesses like tennis elbow and tension headaches. Remote workers may also suffer from health conditions like depression, dry eye, and metabolic syndrome.
Coworking spaces are in a great position to promote the health and well-being of members of all generations. Health initiatives that appeal to folks from all generations include:
Well-being is a priority for all your users. Prioritizing health and wellness is an easy way to win popularity with a multigenerational audience and improve member uptake and retention across all demographics.
Members across generations have different work styles and needs. In general, younger members benefit from highly collaborative workspaces where they can bounce ideas off one another. Meanwhile, older members are usually in more senior positions like management and need a private space to focus on their work and talk with other employees.
Catering towards these work styles means you have to get creative with your floor plan. Start by assessing your space and considering the best area for private booths and secluded work. Usually, private booths do well at the back of your workspace where foot traffic is low. Ideally, you can seal these areas with glass windows that cut noise and grant members privacy.
Once you’ve established a private area for members in more senior roles, consider creating a space that promotes collaboration for energetic users. This area should be filled with collaboration-friendly items like standing whiteboards, large desks, and easily movable seating. If you’re concerned this space will get too loud, consider subdividing it into a separate room. Basements are ideal for this purpose, but a modern glass dividing wall will fit the purpose perfectly too.
Most coworking spaces already offer basic amenities like coffee, drinks, and snacks. These basics are essential tick-box items that ensure you remain competitive compared to other coworking spaces. But, if you’re trying to appeal to multigenerational users, you must go beyond the basics and provide a wide range of amenities.
You can appeal to younger workers by providing amenities that host VR and the metaverse. Items like VR headsets can help members stay in touch with current trends in the business world. Entry-level headsets run between $300 - 600, while high-end tech usually costs between $1,000 - $1,500.
Older workers may still benefit from VR headsets in your coworking space. However, in general, older folks are less interested in gadgets and more interested in amenities that improve their quality of life. For example, if you have some underutilized outdoor space, consider creating a dog-friendly outdoor work park so older workers can bring their pooch with them. Or you might consider higher-end luxury goods like wine or catered meals that help workers feel as though they are at a home away from home.
You can strategically target members who become mothers by offering baby-changing rooms and lactation rooms. Working mothers are an important generational demographic for coworking providers, as mothers may want to work away from home but do not want to bring their child into an office environment. By providing for mothers, you ensure that you cater to all generations and their specific needs.
Making changes to support a variety of generations will increase member loyalty and improve cross-generational sales. However, you still need to gather feedback and track trends in data to get the most from a multi-generational coworking space.
When gathering feedback from your members, make it clear that their insights are important to you and will be acted upon. This is particularly important for younger workers, who may not be used to having their opinion taken seriously in the public domain. However, giving folks a blank sheet and a pen is a recipe for feedback disaster. Instead, consider some guided questions like:
These sample questions are designed to give you insights into your member's preferences. Guided surveys also ensure that the feedback you gather is useful and can be applied to current initiatives that you are running.
Catering for multigenerational users takes time, effort, and some financial investment. You should account for differences in work styles as well as preferences for different amenities and perks. You can also invest in networking events and wellness initiatives that improve your members' professional lives and help them navigate life’s challenges. These holistic measures will be well received by all generations and may lead to greater brand loyalty and sales.