Last week I spent my first day in a co-working space. I need to give a big thanks to the great folks at WELD in Dallas for being so accommodating and friendly. Great space. Great people. Great coffee. WELD will be setting up a new space in Nashville in the near future, so be on the lookout for that if you’re in the area.
My day started with working from home for a few hours. WELD’s typical hours are 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. so I had some time at home in the morning to catch up on a few things and jump on a conference call before heading out for the day.
WELD is only a 15-minute drive from my place, so the distance/driving time was not an issue. Parking was also no problem. A small area in back of their building fits about ten cars and there was a decent amount of street parking on the block.
Tiffany, an artist and coordinator at WELD, met me when I arrived and gave me a tour of the space and some great pour-over coffee. A very warm welcome. Adjacent to the work area is a large photo studio, which is used by many of the members (photographers) for photo shoots. It’s a great amenity to have on-site to bring clients in for shoots. I didn’t get to see the photo studio right away because the space was doubling as a yoga class in the morning. Right from the start I could tell the people here really enjoy working and playing together. They are not just a bunch of individuals sharing space, they have a great camaraderie, and often discuss projects they are working on and look for ways to help each other get things done.
Seating in the open work area is first come, first served, so after my tour I grabbed an open seat and settled in. Wi-Fi access was seamless. I wasn’t sure how much work space I would have so I consciously planned to travel light. The main shared work area consists of four tables that seat four people each. They are a good size and I felt I had plenty of space to set up shop. All I needed was space for my laptop, a notebook, and some other light paperwork. The work tables are simple, not high-end furniture, but they don’t need to be. A simple work surface with plenty of power access down the middle of the table is all you really need. I like simple solutions, so this was worth noting.
The adjacent kitchen has a standing height counter and stools which people also use for working throughout the day. It’s nice to have the option to stand and work. The kitchen really embodies the communal vibe at WELD, with plenty of open sharing of food, snacks, and beverages…an overall great place to strike up a conversation with someone new. The kitchen was where I ended up meeting the most people. I feel that in general you need to have an outgoing personality for a co-working space like this, not an over the top personality, but the experience is more fulfilling when you open yourself up to meeting new people and sharing ideas. Otherwise you might as well stay at home and work alone.
In general I was very comfortable working in the open setting. I am used to sitting in open work plans so this was not a huge stretch, although I did need to adjust to the variation in noise levels. I tend to be on the phone quite a bit for my job, and typically utilize a Cisco VoIP soft phone. The headset I use is isn’t wireless so when a call comes in, I typically take it at my desk. This puts me at a disadvantage whenever a call comes in that I would prefer to take in a more private setting. I’m literally tethered to my laptop. On a few calls I was very conscious of my own speaking volume as well as the volume of the conversations in my immediate vicinity. The space can be very quiet and then suddenly erupt into several louder conversations when people take breaks and socialize.
For the most part, I noticed that people in the space use their cell phones for calls (in retrospect, I would as well), as it is fairly easy to pick up and move to a more private location if needed. I would often see people answer their phone, and then roam around the space, finding an available private corner, or even heading outside for privacy (they’re on the first floor). WELD also provides a few small phone rooms, and has some adjacent meeting rooms and large photo studio where people can go to take a call when it is not in use. It’s a pretty simple solution…provide the overall functional spaces and let people organically carve out their own public and private zones to fit their purpose.
Aside from the open work areas, WELD also provides some more permanent work spaces in a separate closed off area. These are for individuals or very small companies (i.e. a few people) who like the balance of the co-working environment with a little more ownership of their space. There is also a semi-enclosed room with dim lighting for some people who do more video editing work. Overall, I felt it was an appropriate variety of work settings.
I happened to work in the space on the day they were having a member meeting. In the afternoon, all the members gather together to discuss a number of topics. They allow newer members and guests to introduce themselves, which helps with getting to know more people. They also discuss upcoming events that the space is hosting, and any interesting projects people have going on and if anyone needs help with any of their work. The member meeting was one aspect of the co-working experience I was not expecting. However, it was refreshing to see the social aspect of the space and the collaborative sharing of ideas. While most of the members work for themselves, they still manage to form close relationships with one another, and create their own co-working identity. It was very cool to see the pride they have in their space and each other. At the end of the day I realized that it’s the people and their individual personalities coming together that really shape the brand of WELD.
I would highly recommend spending a day or more in a co-working space. I think many individuals as well as companies can learn a lot from these spaces, not just how they are laid out, but to help get out of our comfort zones and experience different attitudes about working and how transparent knowledge sharing can help give us a nice shot of creative energy.