Co-working spaces: the new-age office that best cultivates innovation

Make your workspace work for you — create a space that encourages innovation

We spend ~160 hours working in a given month. For the majority of us, this time is spent in an office meant to foster creativity, communication, and ultimately a better business. Technology has revolutionized many pieces of our daily lives and has too impacted the concept of an office. As needs of employees change, employers must shift the manner in which they best support their employees to produce their best results.

Personally, I find that my best work is accomplished when it also aligns with my passions; work that fulfills a personal purpose cultivates personal happiness and joy. In a Ted talk I recently watched, I was drawn in by the idea that the physical space in which we work plays a significant role in the joy we have. Joy, among other things, impacts the work produced and the level of innovative thinking possible. 

Inspiration and motivation come from within, but also come from our surroundings.

– Ingrid Fetell Lee states in her Ted talk, “Where joy hides.”

So how exactly can companies encourage innovation while being flexible with their employees needs?

Create a spin-off of a co-working space

Co-working spaces are no longer a space for start-ups and entrepreneurs. As work continues to be digital-focused, employers are shifting the concept of what it means to ‘come to work.’ For many people, it’s important to leave the house to get into the right mindset of working effectively (away from noise or other distractions). For others, going into work is effective in accomplishing this need, however their environment may not be as conducive to inspire innovative thinking as it could be.

Regardless of the space where work is being accomplished, ways to stimulate productivity and creativity remains consistent.

1. Height creates a sense of ‘no limits,’ and creative problem solving

Like your business potential, you want your employees to feel there are no limitations in what they can accomplish. The concept of limitations is perceived by our physical space.

“People perform better at tasks requiring creative problem-solving skills under ceilings 10 feet or higher compared to eight-foot ceilings” (details). Glass ceilings and other boundaries that project a feeling of being boxed in, should not be existent. Things should feel taller than they are. For example, when decorating, choose a tall bookshelf versus a short bookshelf. Alternatively, select decor with vertical stripes. 

Our mental space stands in direct proportion to our perception of physical space.

2. (Visual) Distance supports creative thinking

Construal level theory (CLT) is a mental model in which the interpretation of distance is affected by interpretation and contextual understanding. According to CLT, the observation or perception of things being far away stimulates abstract thinking.

The greater our perception of something being in the distance, the more inclined we will be to idea formation; early stage ideation (brainstorming, sketching, drafts) relies on abstract, big-picture thinking.

For example, if you are planning where your business will be in one year, versus 5 years, you are more likely to think of more impactful, creative, opportunities and goals when discussing a 5-year plan versus a 1-year plan; 5 years is farther in the distance so thoughts will be more focused on ‘what could we do,’ versus ‘how do we do it.’

Closeness in proximity prompts detail-oriented thinking, whereas distance prompts open-minded, unbiased, free thinking.

3. Neutral colors create a sense of relaxation

Color choice plays a vital role in giving a feeling of comfort and relaxation. Cooler colors (blue, green) are more soother than warm colors (red, orange).

By decorating or painting walls with warm colors, your initial level of energy will spike, however it will also quickly fade due to being over stimulated. Soothing, earth colors, encourage relaxation and make people feel as though there is more space, opposite of warm colors which make people feel closed in. Exploratory thinking will increase in spaces with more neutral tones, so choose your colors wisely. 

4. Let there be l i g h t

“People who work in windowless spaces get ~46 minutes less sleep on work nights, experience lower-quality rest, and are less physically active during the workday than colleagues who are afforded adequate exposure. Additionally, medical scientists report higher levels of depression, anxiety, delirium, and even psychosis among patients lacking access to outside views in healthcare facilities” (details).

Dim-lit, natural space encourages exploratory thinking, whereas bright spaces encourage rational, logical thinking. 

Finding a balance between the two is challenging, but with natural lighting from windows and dim to medium-lit lights will provide balanced thinking required for creative, efficient work. 

5. Smell the plants 

Awaken your brain through smell. Scents like eucalyptus and citrus help people feel alert, and lavender helps people remain calm. My personal favorite place to work is somewhere where I feel as if I am outside surrounded by nature. A balance of earthy colors and greenery from plants, combined with fresh scents from things found outside like flowers makes me feel at-ease. 

6. Make the coffee and food spots your hang-out spot

Whether coffee, tea, or water, make the space people frequent a place inspiring to communication and collaboration. Food and drink are a social activity, so why not encourage communication in the office by making the space where food and drink are consumed are also a place people enjoy – feel relaxed, creative, and open-minded.

Food and drink feed your body, so why not feed your brain at the same time?

7. Inspire through storytelling

Remind people why they do what they do. Whether through written phrases, photos, or paintings, reminding employees of the goal they are working toward inspires their work. Whether a start-up focusing on growth, an advanced company encouraging innovation, or a co-working space explaining the value they provide to members, storytelling is an extremely effective tool for encouraging big-picture thinking.

Being creative and innovative is a lot about surroundings — feelings of freedom, relaxation, and time foster limitless, innovative, thinking. As you build or design an office for your team — remember that what works best for them, will work best for your company’s success.

monster coding logo

Monster Coding founder, Stacey Reiman, says “You can do it from home!”

Stacey Reiman, founder of the educational programming app Monster Coding, wants you to know “you can do it from home.”

stacey reinmanWith degrees in Spanish, Latin American Studies, and Political Science, Stacey’s education is well-rounded, but her passion lies in languages. Her love of dialects spread to the language of programming where she quickly picked up coding skills. As a self-taught programmer and entrepreneur, she’s responsible for creating several successful apps, such as ‘Musical Spanish learn through pop music.’

When Stacey encouraged her children to learn programming through, she found a platform lacking complexity. She quickly sensed an opportunity to educate and founded Monster Coding. Monster Coding teaches children across the world to learn programming with sound-based assistance.

I interviewed her this past week, and here’s what she had to say:

Why did you start Monster Coding?
“My daughter Julia wanted something more complex (than She wanted an ‘if’ block and it wasn’t available, so she asked me to edit the app.  I said ‘no, I can’t edit this app, but maybe I can make one like this for you!’  It (Monster Coding) became a labor of love at that point. I quickly found that developing a computer science app for kids was the most exciting project I’d ever worked on.”

How is Monster Coding different than what’s already in the marketplace?
“I see learning programming as similar to learning a foreign language; many of the same core principles apply. If a kid is learning to program, they shouldn’t have to learn to read at the same time. This is why we have the audio component.”

If a kid is learning to program, they shouldn’t have to learn to read at the same time. 

In what ways do you see your app changing in the next year?
“We are in our infancy, (so) we are still trying to catch our breath and understand how this would look like with investment.  There are all these features I’d like to develop, and I know I need investment to grow.”

How do you feel about the current curriculum for children?  Should computer science be included?
“Definitely! There are so many jobs that will be lost in the future if we don’t educate our youth today. There are all kinds of opportunities in tech that aren’t even programming specific. Every kid needs the opportunity to see if any of those things (computer science) are things they could be good at. Computer science really should be taught in every school; everybody should be able to get a job.”

I noticed there was a stats section under the “Country Quest Tab,” comparing the use of your app in various countries.  How important do you feel analytics are in relation to your app?
“I get excited by seeing which countries are using my app.  As far as analytics I pay more attention to, I recently looked at student behavior in the app and noticed that the amount of students who got to the last activity was low.  So I wondered what the problem was.  I began tracking errors, and added a ‘Solve It’ button (so when a child makes a mistake they can click the button, re-read the question and try to solve it again), and then the rate of kids completing increased, which was nice to see.”

As a recent participant in the Hour of Code, how do you feel your app stood out from the crowd?
“I think our use of audio to introduce each activity and provide feedback was really one of the most important differences.  Teachers have given us great feedback about the importance that played for their students.  We were also really excited to partner with a company out of Arizona, called Responsive Voice, which provided on-the-fly audio in foreign languages as well.”

What’s been the toughest or scariest decision for you as an entrepreneur?
“You have no guarantee of a positive outcome.  You walk out on a ledge and have no choice, but to keep going. I know that I will jump into the unknown and am going forward no matter what.”

How do you feel about being a woman in technology?
“Women are powerful, women are resourceful — we work.  I want to see more strong women saying they program at work, or program and do it from home.  We can fight the stereotypes.”

Women are powerful, women are resourceful — we work.

What advice do you have for other women?
“I switched my focus from publishing to software and app development because I fell in love with the creation process rather than just the creation.  I also found out that I could build my skillset one project at a time, and craft pretty amazing things just by looking at online examples, and working through them on my own.  All the while, I used online resources to study topics as they came up in my work, which made it easier to learn.

So I learned things as I needed them.  And when I hit a wall, I’d look for a way to climb over it through creativity and sometimes through long hours!  The bottom line is that I would encourage other women to realize that they can do it (learn to program, design or do anything else you put your mind to) from home, too.

I hope someone will see my story and think that they can do it from home and do it with their own time and brain.

Women in all walks of life should know that technology can change their circumstances.  You don’t need be able to get into MIT or get a job at Facebook to make tech work for you.  You can learn all sorts of new skills through online programs, or online courses like Khan Academy, Coursera, and a host of others. Being a stay at home mom, a caregiver, or a housewife doesn’t mean the only jobs you can do from home are related to domestic duties!”