General Assembly Founders Personalize Their Coworking Space

As the number of startups, freelancers, and solo-entrepreneurs increases, coworking spaces have never been more in demand. These community-oriented work spaces offer a range of amenities — from free wifi and coffee to networking events with popular speakers.

Designing A Coworking Space To Fit Your Needs

Despite countless perks, little privacy and a revolving cast of neighbors may inhibit your ability to settle into the space. But don’t fret! Follow these simple tips from General Assembly co-founders Brad Hargreaves and Matt Brimer and your coworking space will feel like home in no time.

Get involved in the community

“It’s all about the people! Decorations and furniture are nice, but it’s really about the community around you in the space. If you make an effort to get to know everyone around you—personally as well as professionally—it’ll feel like home and you’ll get way more value out of any coworking environment. Otherwise even the cushiest space will feel like a cube farm.” – Brad Hargreaves

One of the many benefits of working in a shared space is the intrinsic spirit of community that comes with a diverse set of entrepreneurs working in close proximity. Coworking spaces like WeWork often host classes, happy hours, and special networking events to give members an opportunity to mingle; sharing upcoming projects, past setbacks, and current successes.

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But you’ll never feel at home if you don’t participate. Feeling comfortable is all about getting to know your neighbors, and contributing to the flow of creative energy.

You might also want to consider hosting an event. This could be a great way to introduce yourself (or your company) and get to know your neighbors. Try collaborating with your coworking space to host a Meetup, fitness event, or happy hour.

Be design-conscious

“Don’t even think about fluorescent lights. Stick with halogens and incandescents, which provide a less sterile light spectrum. More natural light is always better. Plants are important too — give the space some green life and everyone benefits.”

Unlike traditional office spaces, many coworking facilities put a unique focus on lighting, furniture, layout, and design. This certainly facilitates hard work and inspiration, and with a few additions, it’s easy to give the space a personal touch.

1. Indulge your inner green thumb

Introducing plants into a workspace has been proven to increase cognitive function and productivity. Ruth K. Raanaas of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, says office plants may be a simple, cost-effective way to keep workers satisfied and focused. “Most people spend a large proportion of their life at work,” Raanaas says, “so even small effects may have great practical significance when aggregated over employees and time of employment.”

2. Introduce some color

Certain colors have been proven to have specific psychological effects (yes, color psychology is a thing). For instance, both green and blue have been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas. However, red has been linked with better performance on tasks involving attention to detail. Do you need to get creative, or crunch the numbers? Decorate your space (if only your desk) with colors that will help you get the job done.

3. Keep your space clutter-free

This one’s a no-brainer. A messy work space makes for an unhappy and unfocused work day. Keep your area organized–if not for yourself, for the people around you. Clutter has been proven to cause stress for everyone involved; including those who have to look at your mess.

Switch it up

“A coworking space should feel inspired (and inspiring)…the trick is to create a space and a vibe that can feel both energizing and calming at different times.” – Matt Brimer

One of the best parts of working in a shared space is your ability to choose your work environment. Many coworking spaces are designed with different “vibes” in mind–from communal tables and lounges, to hidden corners and conference rooms.

Don’t be afraid to explore the space, and try out which area makes you feel most comfortable. If you’re having a hard time concentrating at your desk, head over to a couch or communal table. There’s likely an area that will make you feel right at home.

Tell us, how do you make your coworking space work for you?

A few weekends ago, I was at my business partner’s birthday gathering, lightly facilitating some sharing of his impact—what we appreciated in Edmond, what we saw in him that he might not see in himself. A friend of his commented that most people don’t get this level of appreciation and celebration reflected back to them until they are dead. At funerals, people give themselves permission to bring their emotions, to reminisce about favorite memories, to share the life-changing impacts that person has had on them. It feels cathartic and connecting—but the person who has passed isn’t hearing a word of it.

Why we should skip ahead to the good stuff

Too often, we wait until there is an ending or closing to say kind words, or we don’t give appreciative feedback at all. The ending doesn’t have to be death—it might be when a beloved employee announces she’s leaving a job. Heartwarming emails pour in in response to the farewell email, or some words are said at the company all-hands, or people write emotional notes of appreciation.

When I left a recent job, I received brief but beautiful emails from people I had interacted with only once or twice, sharing that even in their different function, they were inspired by seeing me show up as a senior woman at the company. I hadn’t known that. One of my direct reports showed up a few minutes late to our last one-on-one because she was writing a letter—a handwritten letter! I was also presented with a foam board with more notes from the engineering team and other coworkers.

Take the first step in creating a culture in which sharing appreciation and gratitude in the moment is as natural as showing up for daily stand-ups or checking email.

I treasure those words. They reflect to me what I already know, which is that in an imperfect system, I have lived and acted true to my values and what long-term success means to me. At the same time, I wonder what might have been different for me if I had deeply known the appreciation throughout my time there.

The impact of appreciative feedback

A few months ago, Edmond and I conducted a few dozen interviews to find the patterns in frustrations, pains, hopes, and dreams of engineers, tech leads, engineering managers, CTOs, and VPs of engineering. What struck us is that so many people cared deeply about doing well and were trying to do their best, but we heard this over and over again:

“I don’t even know if I’m doing a good job.”

When I reflect on moments in my own career that I’ve received meaningful appreciative feedback, a few come to mind. In written feedback at Google, at a time when I struggled with a feeling of having “snuck” in through their internship program (rather than the normal full slate of rigorous interviews), my manager told me the work I was doing was on par with what was expected of more-senior engineers. That gave me a concrete calibration of how I was doing, so I was able to leave behind a lot of those feelings of uncertainty. A year or so after I left Google, I had lunch with a senior engineer who had been my mentor there. He mentioned in conversation that he felt like my career was a rocket ship and soon he would see me as a CTO of a large tech company. He showed me a glimpse of how he saw me as a leader before I saw myself that way.

There was also the time after I returned from my second maternity leave. I felt like I was doing all right, and as I transitioned from four days a week back to five, my manager told me, “It feels like after your maternity leave, you leveled up a huge step. I bet a lot of people didn’t even know you were working only four days a week.” The impact was that I had a better sense of the perception people had of me and my work—and that rather than just doing all right, I was kicking ass.

In each of these instances, something that was clear as day to the other person was obscured for me, and by sharing what they had seen or noticed in me, it shifted how I viewed myself.

Kicking off the gratitude loop

Companies are starting to catch on to the importance of expressing gratitude. Anil Dash, the CEO of software company Glitch, wrote on Medium about how Glitch fosters a culture of gratitude, and Camille Fournier shared how they did this at Rent The Runway. And Jen Dennard of Range Labs, a company that facilitates better communication and strengthens relationships among teams, wrote about building a culture of gratitude through high frequency and gratitude catered to each individual. Edmond and I try to express gratitude when we feel it and also reflect in our monthly debriefs with a prompt around what we’re grateful for.

When I started training to become a coach a year ago, the coaching skill of “acknowledgment”—noticing something positive about the other person and saying it to them out loud—was the most difficult for me. It felt awkward, inauthentic, contrived. Positive feedback in the form of “good job” felt like a pat on the head—condescending, almost. I imagine it feels that way for many people—and so we shy away from it, hoping that people already know what we appreciate about them.

I’ve found that more-specific prompts guide me and make it feel more structured and less awkward to share appreciation and gratitude.

  • What quality do you see in this person that they might not see in themselves?
  • What is the most noticeable change you’ve seen since you started working with this person?
  • What qualities do you most appreciate about this person? What do you see as possible for them if they lean into these qualities more fully?
  • What is your favorite memory of this person?

If you want this type of feedback, ask for it. Before your next one-one-one, take a moment to consider these prompts and share a piece of appreciative feedback. And then, in whatever way feels comfortable for you—perhaps in the same meeting, or in a Slack thread or email request—tell people that you’re looking to better understand your strengths and the impact you have on the those around you, and would love if they could answer one of these prompts. Take the first step in creating a culture in which sharing appreciation and gratitude in the moment is as natural as showing up for daily stand-ups or checking email.

Jean Hsu is a cofounder of Co Leadership and a member at Berkeley’s WeWork 2120 University Ave.

Celebrity stylist Karla Welch knows the importance of having a style uniform—and what happens when you try to fight it.  

Welch, dubbed the No. 1 power stylist by The Hollywood Reporter—with clients including Amy Poehler, Ruth Negga, Karlie Kloss, and Zooey Deschanel—recently booked a crack-of-dawn flight from Los Angeles to New York for an event at WeWork 205 Hudson. Bleary-eyed at 3:30 a.m. and prepping for her flight, Welch packed exactly one outfit: a dress. At the last minute, she threw in a favorite pair of jeans. Just in case.

When she landed in New York, she slipped on the dress to wear to the panel discussion about WISHI, the on-demand personal-styling platform she co-founded with stylist Cleo O’Hana. But the dress was all wrong, she says. Backup jeans it was.

Celebrity stylist Karla Welch’s own style uniform consists of three items: jeans, a blazer, and a white T-shirt.

That’s the power of a personal style uniform. “It’s a security blanket,” says Welch, who wears a white shirt, jeans, boots, and blazer during most of her nonstop days spent styling clients, consulting on advertising campaigns, and designing custom pieces for Justin Bieber’s world tours.

There’s a reason uniform dressing is catching on: When you streamline one aspect of your life, it frees up your brain to focus elsewhere. When you’re busy or building a company from the ground up, says Welch, “your mind is needed for other things.”  

At WeWork, Karla Welch shared the stage with fashion names like WISHI cofounder Clea O’Hana (left) and B Sides Jeans cofounder Stacy Daily (right).

Famously, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Barack Obama have all admitted to wearing nearly the same outfits every day; now entrepreneurs and ambitious workers are following suit (while ditching the suit). How to begin? First, take a deep breath. “The thing is, it’s just clothes,” Welch says. “You don’t need to stress out.”

Keep it supersimple. Ask yourself, What are you looking for? advises Welch, who says it’s the first question she poses to clients. For example: “clean lines, not too fussy, something to move around the city in.” Creating a style target helps narrow your options. Welch’s own uniform consists of three items: jeans, blazer, white T-shirt. Yours could be a slight variation: stylish trousers, say, or sweaters during the winter.

Consider your days. Are you in and out of meetings? Does your commute feel like it’s 100 degrees, even in the winter—except when it’s not? Your uniform should be adaptable and feel comfortable in a variety of situations. “A uniform is a time-saver so you can do better things,” Welch says. It should never be a source of worry.

Start with what you have. Uniform dressing seems like a minimalist endeavor, yet it’s easy to think you need to buy a new wardrobe. Don’t, says Welch, who advocates wearing pieces for years. Start by shopping your own closet. It’s less expensive and more sustainable—plus, creating a style identity from familiar pieces you already own makes it more likely you’ll stick with it.

Ask one crucial question. Pick items that make you feel powerful and build from there. Ask yourself, “Do I feel good in this item?” If the answer is yes, add it to your rotation. If the answer’s no, consider donating it.

Look to the greats. Channel inspiration from artists, cinema, and celebrities. Rei Kawakubo of Commes des Garçons dresses almost exclusively in black, save for the occasional white shirt. And the artist Georgia O’Keeffe was notoriously rigid with her self-created wardrobe—so much so that her iconic androgynous silk, cotton, and wool outfits have been showcased in museum exhibits.

Solicit a second opinion. If you’re at a loss, hire an expert. It might be a better use of your time than opening 47 shopping tabs in your browser and searching for the right piece. On WISHI, each user is matched with a professional stylist. You send photographs of your wardrobe, and the stylist sends back suggestions from your own closet and from online stores.

Beat back boredom. Growing up, Welch wore a school uniform, but instead of resenting the predictability and sameness, she says, “it pushed me to be creative.” The same goes for an adult uniform. “The goal is to feel confident, not bored,” she says. “It takes a remarkable amount of confidence to wear something over and over again.” And if repetition can breed success, then a uniform could be your strongest style move yet.

Photos by Lori Gutman

Looking for one-stop shopping for everyone on your list? We’ve gathered together a few dozen of our favorite gifts from WeWork members that will satisfy your fitness-obsessed mother, coffee-loving spouse, bookish nephew, world-traveling friend, or workaholic boss without putting a dent in your wallet.

For the dreamer

Blox party: The GoldieBlox Craft-Struction Box is as much for big kids as little ones. The 275-piece kit, created by the member company at WeWork 1111 Broadway in Oakland, California, was designed to disrupt gender norms by introducing girls to STEM concepts like prototyping and problem-solving. Don’t bother looking for instructions—the only rule is to follow your imagination. $35

Totes amazing: Each of the memorable quotes on Time Travel Mart’s Student Quote Totes was written by a young author in 826LA, a nonprofit writing and tutoring organization in Los Angeles based at Pasadena’s WeWork 177 E Colorado Blvd. Gift the bright red bag to the budding writer for their manuscripts and books. $12

Best bud: Think too hard about the magic behind WinkyLux Flower Balm, made by a member based at London’s WeWork North West House, and you might go insane wondering how exactly they get that tiny chrysanthemum in the center—or how a clear balm can transform into the most flattering shade of pink ever once it hits your lips. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. $14

Written in the stars: Each set of Whiskey River Soap astrology pencils is filled with fun reminders of an astrological sign’s personality traits, from Pisces’ spot-on assessment as a “stray animal collector” to Capricorn’s simple and true description, “bossy AF.” $11

Color story: Help a friend fight blank-wall boredom with this limited-edition Mike Natter “Crayons” print from Art Sugar, an art collective based at New York’s WeWork 205 Hudson that gives a platform to underrepresented artists with large social-media followings. Feel-good bonus: At checkout, choose which charity will receive 5 percent of your buy’s proceeds. Starting at $20 without frame

For the adventurer  

Travel buddies: Ditch your long-held assumptions: Compression socks aren’t just for ultramarathoners and grannies. The tight fit can actually improve your blood and lymph flow if you sit a lot at work or are taking a superlong flight. These stylish versions from Comrad are the kind of socks that anyone would be happy to unwrap. $48 for three pairs

Quick-change agent: This nifty five-in-one universal travel adapter, which includes a USB port, is a lifesaver no matter where in the world you find yourself. The Flight 001 team, which works out of WeWork 109 S 5th St in Brooklyn, color-coded each adapter so that getting connected in your hotel room or WiFi café is easier than finding your connecting flight. $35

Light show: The lightweight Solar Puff is a waterproof, pop-up, solar-powered lantern that illuminates everything from camping trips to outdoor soirees. The product is brilliant in more ways than one: The brand behind the magic, Solight—a member at WeWork 123 E 23rd St in New York—is on a mission to provide sustainable light and power to areas of the world that need it most. $30

Sweet dreams: Any jet-setter worth their roller bag knows that the real key to enjoying a vacation is getting some solid shut-eye. The Good Night Sleep Tight Kit from new WeWork member Izola has all the tools to help you drift off: an eye mask, earplugs, bath oil with calming lavender, and a face oil to keep skin dewy, even on long-haul red-eye flights. $35

New flame: The soy-wax candles—based on U.S. states—from Homesick are fragrant reminders of a specific favorite vacation spot, childhood stomping grounds, or college hometown. (The Colorado candle, for instance, smells like spruce needles and spice.) Each uniquely-scented blend is hand-poured in the U.S. $30

For the foodie

Small fry: The 8-inch Chatham ceramic frypan from GreenPan, based at 1460 Broadway in New York, makes even simple morning eggs that much easier thanks to its nontoxic, nonstick finish. It’s dishwasher-safe and can be safely used with metal utensils. Insert prayer-hands emoji here. $40

Buzz feed: Take someone’s morning brew to the next level with Al Mokha Reserve’s Al Wudiyan coffee, which comes ground or in full beans. The medium roast has citrus and cherry notes, but it’s not just a tasty cup of joe; the company, which works out of WeWork Universal North in Washington, D.C., has a sweet mission: to promote economic stability and security in Yemen by creating jobs there. $32

Sugar rush: The Sabiya Gift Box from Elements Truffles is a chocoholic’s nirvana: It includes three chocolate bars, eight assorted truffles, and a bag of turmeric-infused drinking chocolate. Plus, all are Ayurvedainspired—which means they’re technically good for you (right?). $35

Authentic eats: The Classic box from Bokksu, a member at WeWork 205 Hudson, is chock-full of straight-from-Japan treats, such as hand-ground matcha and Hokkaido milk cookies. It’s basically like gifting someone a direct flight to Tokyo, minus the TSA lines and jet lag. $39

Joe on the go: Three busy dads, all members at WeWork 81 Prospect St in Brooklyn, came up with the idea for Stojo, a collapsible silicone coffee cup that’s commuter friendly—and keeps disposable cups from hitting landfills. Drink up. $25

For the fitness enthusiast

Save our strands: Pop the Hair-O-Scopes Brightest Stars set from Brigeo, a member at WeWork 27 E 28 St in New York, in a friend’s gym bag to save them from generic-gym-shampoo disappointment. The kit contains shampoo, conditioning spray, blow-dry cream, and a conditioning mask to help hydrate dry winter hair. $39

Write on: All it takes is five minutes a day for someone to write their way to a more positive outlook, whether that drives them to accomplish new goals in the weight room or finally commit to a half-marathon. The Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change uses psychology research to help the author focus on gratitude. $23

Clear winner: The sleek A6 bottle from Memobottle, a certified B-Corp company, is designed to be the same size and shape as an A6 memo pad—meaning it slips easily into a pocket or gym bag—making it a stylish reminder to hydrate before and after a workout.  $28

Fitness fixer-upper: You know your cycling-class buddy who always forgets their socks? The Pinch Provisions gym kit is for them. The pocket-size kit also contains earbuds, deodorant towelettes, electrolyte tablets, and more—so they’ll never be caught unprepared again. $24

Toe tappers: After a sock-soaking workout, it’s a joy to change into these Conscious Step Socks That Fight Poverty. The sustainably run company, which works out of WeWork 109 S 5th St in New York, donates to various charities around the globe. Each style benefits a different cause; this particular pair aids Global Citizens, a social-action platform to end poverty. $15

For the Workaholic

Save face: Help your favorite type A unwind with a little self-care. Oars and Alps, a brand started by two members at Chicago’s WeWork 220 N Green St, offers a starter kit of their favorite all-natural picks: face and eye cream, a rollerball eye stick, and mint lip balm. $48

Tag, you’re it: Show your favorite supervisor who’s boss with a keychain and tag that says it all. The hand-stamped brass tag from Art Ayaloka is a constant reminder of their confidence and success. $20

It’s lit: Lighting the Balsam Fir candle from Ranger Station, a member at WeWork 901 Woodland St in Nashville, is like setting yourself down in the middle of a balsam-lined forest and breathing deep. And the calm keeps coming: The candle’s burn time is 40 hours. $44

Fresh start: Help a coworker beat burnout with a Bergamot Bath Bar from Commodity, a member at WeWork 401 Park Ave S in New York. The scent was devised by a scientist with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and the blend of citrus and bright green notes is an invigorating way to begin every day. $24,

A good sign: The phrase “What Good Shall I Do This Day?” was a mantra of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin—a man who knew a thing or two about innovation. This enamel steel sign from Best Made is a brain-boosting addition to any workstation. $32

“Yes, this is a fish-leather skirt!” actress and activist Alysia Reiner proclaimed, gesturing at her ’90s-inspired black miniskirt as she stood in front of 150 people gathered at New York’s WeWork 1460 Broadway for the recent launch party of her Livari collaboration collection. “It’s from Brazil, from fish that’s been eaten,” she told the crowd. “[The skin] would have been thrown away—but no, [we said] let’s make cool products out of it.”

This sustainable ethos permeates every design from Livari, the ethical, zero-waste fashion label Reiner cofounded with stylist Claudine DeSola and designer and Women’s March organizer Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs. Their new collection showcases style and sustainability with every piece: ballet flats created in collaboration with Oka-B ($60) are made with Microplast, a recycled tmaterial; limited-edition fabric sleeves for sustainable glass straws designed in partnership with Simply Straws (from $20); a leather clutch made with Elvis & Kresse (£160) is crafted of leather scraps discarded by Burberry, reclaimed blankets made from material used in the printing industry; and hot orange parachute panels from discarded (actual) parachutes.

“Fashion is wearable art,” says Reiner, who works out of WeWork 8 W 126th St in New York. The actress, best known for her roles in Orange Is the New Black, The Deuce, and Better Things, developed an appreciation for fashion early in life. “My grandmother was a huge lover of clothing and would buy clothing from all over,” such as a piece of embroidery from Istanbul, Reiner recalls. “She really taught me about workmanship.” Her grandmother used to take her to the Piggy Bank Shop, a second-hand store in Westchester County, New York. “I learned about reusing and not having to buy new to find incredible things,” says Reiner.

Alysia Reiner (center) joins Livari cofounders Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs (left) and Claudine DeSola (right) at an event at WeWork celebrating the launch of her collection.

Today, as a stage/TV/film actress, she gets to work with top costume designers, like OITNB and Girls costumer Jenn Rogen. “[She] taught me how a character can be informed by a costume,” says Reiner. “Once she put me in stripes, saying, ‘You are like a ref in this scene.’”

Reiner’s passion for style and artistry brought her together with longtime friend DeSola—a stylist on OITNB, House of Cards, Jane the Virgin, Younger, and other shows—and St. Bernard-Jacobs shortly after the 2016 election. What began with a focus group of women talking about their favorite pieces of clothing evolved into their first Livari collection, a mixture of everyday and statement pieces with a practical twist (think pockets and adjustable waists).

When press coverage and reviews exceeded their expectations, the three cofounders—each balancing their respective first careers with their new venture—were faced with a serious question: “How do we sustain this idea?” After all, Reiner’s acting career shows no signs of slowing down; her next feature film, the comedy Egg, is due out in theaters and video on demand on Jan. 18.

The women soon found their answer: “We decided to do collaborations,” Reiner explains. With the added goal of incorporating a nonprofit component into every piece, the trio set out to find partners—and causes. The Oka-B-collaboration ballet flats give back to Still She Rises, which benefits incarcerated mothers (Reiner is on the board); the Livari-designed glass-straw sleeves benefit oceans organization Lonely Whale; and the leather clutch designed with Elvis & Kresse benefits Barefoot College, which specializes in training female solar engineers.

It all adds up to a brand that embodies so much of what Reiner believes in personally. “I think Alysia is very thoughtful about her platform, and she uses it to highlight clean living and speak about us having an impact in the world around us,” says St. Bernard-Jacobs.

Their recent pivot into collaborations has allowed the three women flexibility in more ways than one. They can tap categories such as lifestyle, jewelry, and activewear—and, through strategic partnerships with nonprofits, expand their mission. “Our goal is to be wherever people need us,” says Reiner, “to support charities and to be at the frontline of design—fearless and at the cutting edge.”

But where can we get a fish-leather skirt like hers? “Skirts are custom at this point,” Reiner says. “Being zero-waste, we don’t manufacture anything without a request.”

Photos by Scott Rosenthal