Small businesses who can’t yet afford their own office space can opt instead for flexible coworking spaces which could well be the future of working life
The coworking movement has enjoyed a rapid rise since its inception back in 2005. The market for flexible workspace is now worth an estimated $26bn, while in London alone, flexible workspace locations totalled 11.5 million sq ft last year.
Coworking spaces are particularly well suited to small businesses, which can’t yet afford their own permanent office space and can opt instead to rent a desk or area on a flexible basis. As well as taking advantage of spaces that inspire innovation, collaboration and productivity compared to traditional office layouts, small businesses can also benefit from low upfront fees rather than getting tied into building contracts. When Laura Giffard was looking to set up integrated creative agency Perq Studio in London two years ago, she initially sought serviced office space but, disappointed at the lack of networking on offer, she decided to try a coworking space instead. Now working from Holborn-based LABS, Perq Studio has clients like Mars under its belt – and zero ambition to take on its own office space. “LABS delivers amazing perks that I’d not be able to offer my team otherwise: a gym, a bar with free drinks every week, gorgeous meeting spaces and impressive breakout areas to bring clients to, all at a fraction of the cost a dedicated office lease would incur,” Ms Giffard explains. “It’s this level of financial agility that enabled us to introduce a four-day work week for our team.”
Meeting your needs
Looking for a coworking space designed for a specific sector is a good first step. Rocketdesk, which was launched at the Surrey Research Park in 2016 as a coworking space specifically for gaming developers, is now full. It operates an affordable, flexible membership model and proximity to other technology businesses and facilities. Neil Johnston, co-founder of Rocketdesk, says: “We have developed a relationship with Enterprise M3, a local enterprise partnership based on the park, which acts as a partner to advise and support our members, and an accountant is on site once a week for members. “The coworking space works perfectly for our members, some of whom have met at Rocketdesk, work collaboratively and have set up business together as a result.” Two men and two women working in a coworking space Prime location: many coworking spaces are situated close to other relevant businesses CREDIT: GETTY It’s not just desk space on offer, either. Emma Selby owns a coworking space in Hampshire, which offers desks, meeting rooms, small offices and 2000sq ft of semi-industrial space for manufacturers. With a craft gin distillery on site and social events like breakfast networking raves, it’s no surprise that SiGNAL is already full. “Our success is down to the community that we built first and the weekly business training that we offer all local businesses. Having different workspaces for different types of businesses combines all our skills and expertise,” Ms Selby explains.
Consider options carefully
While the benefits on offer are clear, business leaders should pick their coworking space carefully. As these spaces have become more popular, some providers have been taken over by larger corporates who are keen on reducing their property portfolio, rather than contributing to a community. Louize Clarke, curator at Reading-based membership space The Curious Lounge, notes: “We’ve seen smaller and micro-businesses treated pretty badly by some providers when they’ve wanted to offer a space to a bigger business. So the people that coworking was designed to help get pushed to the bottom of the food chain.” Awareness of these potential pitfalls means SMBs can target the right space and thrive on the true benefits offered by coworking. As the number of flexible workspaces is expected to grow at an annual rate of 13pc until 2022, it’s clear that coworking is not only here to stay, but could even become the default office space of the future.
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