In recent years we have seen a shift in thinking among companies – no longer are competitors seen as rivals, but rather as potential co-collaborators. We believe the rise of coworking practices have been a sizable part of this movement. But what is coworking and why have so many companies started adopting this approach? WeWork has certainly proven that coworking is big business. Now even the most unlikely high street candidates, from banks to retail stores, are jumping on the bandwagon. Here is everything you need to know…
Cambridge is a centre for learning and ideas, so it feels only right that ‘Eagle Lab’, Barclays’ flagship incubator, landed there. Before the branch at Chesterton Road was an integral cog within the Cambridge ecosystem, the branch, like many branches before it, became a ghost ship down to a skeleton crew. Banks around the UK told the same ghost story – as business moved online physical branches ceased to exist. Since a refurb in May 2016, the now lively branch has a sleek industrial coworking space, with desks available for rent between £99 and £349 a month.
For large companies like banks and retailers locked into long leases with increasingly unprofitable physical properties, coworking partnerships make commercial sense. Head of Eagle Labs Benjamin Storey says “Closing stores generates bad publicity but helping local businesses has the reverse effect.” There are whisperings that other UK retailers will soon follow suit. John Lewis was reported to be mulling over a deal to put coworking spaces into its older stores with poor footfall. A decision will be made in early 2018.
Everything is an office
Our neighbourhood in Central London is home to almost 8 million sq ft of flexible office space, an increase of 73% over the last eight years. The increase of gleaming coworking spaces from WeWork, valued at $20 billion, puts them in league with Palantir and SpaceX as the most highly valued private US tech startups, runners up to the behemoths of Airbnb and Uber. Startups are increasingly willing to work out of unconventional, often temporary offices – examples of which are springing up all over the place.
Ofixu, the self-proclaimed Airbnb of office spaces, is a shining example of a broker that connects workers looking for space with shared offices at a moment’s notice, from as little as £7 per day. Dan Hinden, CEO of Oxifu, believes his and similar companies can play a deeper role than merely providing quiet spaces. There is also a chance to connect Ofixu users who have similar interests or that want to be around like-minded people to create a sharing economy.
Temporary, short-term use or ‘meanwhile use’ is fundamental for cities and urban growth. “A lot of offices have empty meeting rooms at night or a bank of desks they’re not using,” says Andrew Cribb, co-founder of 3Space.
Often combative commercial landlords and paralysing property developers are increasingly happy about giving over their empty space for ‘meanwhile’ use. Properties that are waiting for planning permission take years to fill with new business. This means property developers with these sites are particularly good targets as there is no other obvious use for the space.
3Space, a non-profit urban agency, is helping provide ways to get more out of buildings that are often poised for demolition or restoration, giving them new purpose as hubs for the community. By working with 3Space, developers can benefit from an 80% discount on their business rates, and avoid the cost of safeguarding these empty sites and putting responsibility on 3Space and their inhabitants.
There is a huge branding opportunity for these derelict and unloved spaces to be used again by freelancers and ‘solopreneurs’ looking for their own space to work.
Open for all
Several startups are hoping to build businesses out of empty space, Haus is one such company making this vision a reality. Kanyit Rayev, founder of the flexible coworking scheme, has started with the hospitality sector. Kanyit says “There are about 200 restaurants in greater London that are only working during the evening period.
Haus’ plan is to enter into partnerships with evening venues such as restaurants to create a network of coworking spaces. 100 Wardour Street which opened its doors to Haus on the 10th January is just one of these spaces. The restaurant which is usually closed until 5pm Monday to Friday in Soho is a beautifully designed setting that allows inhabitants to really focus on getting work done 9 till 5. Haus charges just £95 per month, making it the cheapest coworking space in London.
We are all social animals at the end of the day. Freelancers and ‘solopreneurs’ who want their own space to work often work in isolation. Coworking spaces are an excellent form of community, allowing discussion of a wide variety of subjects or simply a chance to bounce ideas off each other. For many, coworking spaces are the nearest they can get to a conventional working life.
These coworking trends show a serious demand for fresh thinking in this sector and we look forward to seeing which of these coworking space approaches becomes the most mainstream in the year ahead.
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