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Good idea! Some toys & tools for coworking spaces

A Twitter alarm box at Office Nomads in Seattle. The siren goes off whenever @officenomads is tweeted.

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On our recent Coworking Space Ship tour around the United States and Canada, we saw a lot of great innovations that can be replicated anywhere. Tech tools, practical fixes and quirky toys can help make a space function better and become more welcoming. Here’s a couple: white noise machines, twitter alarms, meeting room audio-visual equipment, phone booths, and bike racks. Don’t forget to send any ideas or hardware hacks you’ve spotted in coworking spaces around the world.

Phone boxes everywhere

The idea of the phone booth has become standard for coworking spaces everywhere. It’s mostly accepted that spaces get noisy, and quiet conversational corners are needed for phone and Skype calls. Real decommissioned phone boxes are hard to come by and can be expensive. There are plenty of low-cost alternatives. A glass door on an old cupboard is a good start. Some spaces make extra roomy phone booths for small group calls.

If you can’t afford to buy or build a phone box, here’s an idea from The Hive in Vancouver (see photos): put phonebooks to use to build a shell!

White noise

Another way to limit noise is to create noise, paradoxically. Many spaces have found that having soft music playing in the background lifts the base noise level, making occasional phone calls and soft conversation more tolerable than in a completely quiet environment. At Link Coworking in Austin, they even have a white noise machine to create an unobtrusive fuzz. Others prefer radio – although it helps to have a radio station everyone can enjoy.

Twitter alarm

Jacob Sayles at Office Nomads rigged up an old alarm box with a flashing light to go off whenever someone tweets the username @officenomads (go ahead, get the light spinning!). He showed how the box works in a video.

The box is powered by an Arduino, a cheap and simple programmable microcontroller. If you’re not technical, ask some of your programmer-members for assistance on replicating this idea.

Using touchpads

Several spaces now use various touchpads for different purposes. Member sign-in at the front desk is most common. Sandbox Suites in San Francisco has rigged up a Kindl Fire in front of each meeting room. Members can check if the room is available and book it from the touch screen at the door.

Meeting room audio-visual equipment

Setting up meeting rooms to host teleconference calls is a good way to make better use of such spaces, for both members and outsiders who wish to rent them. Having permanent speakers, cameras and monitors is a nice touch. This one is at Mission Social in San Francisco.

Bike racks

Encourage your members to ride more often by installing bike racks. They don’t have to take up much space. Wall hooks are popular across the northwest – this pic from Vancouver’s Hive again.

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Interested in more tips?

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