Why co-working spaces are on the rise
Updated: Apr 15
Companies are reaping the benefits of working from home.
Productivity seems to be on the rise, and for those of them closing their offices, the cost savings are huge.
In a Financial Times article, Sir Martin Sorrell, the advertising boss from S4 Capital says, 'I spend around £35m on property in a year. I’d much rather invest that in people than expensive offices.'
Companies such as Twitter and Facebook are so happy they are allowing their staff to work from home forever.
For some employees it is working very well too. They are saving a lot of money, and a lot of hours, not having to commute. They can spend more time with family and loved ones, and have more time to spend on their own interests outside work.
Some are even rejoicing about not having to listen to their boring colleagues all day!
As we navigate the far reaching changes that COVID-19 is likely to bring to all of our lives, it looks like home working is here to stay.
Changes are plenty...
but they are not all positive.
The morning commute may have been a struggle, but routine also represents normality. We feel safe and protected in its predictability. Without it we may feel lost.
We have more access to our hobbies and interests, but we also have more access to the office. There is nowhere to escape from the endless to-do list and pinging work emails.
While there may be boring colleagues, the office is also a place to make great friends with whom to exchange ideas, or to socialise. Without them we can be left feeling very lonely and isolated.
In a guardian article about the loneliness of working from home, Simon Usborne writes:
"...offices provide space to share ideas, socialise and maintain a work-life divide that has become hopelessly blurred"
Working from home may boost productivity for a while, but according to Nick Bloom, a British economics professor at Stanford University in California '...it’s so costly in terms of creativity and inspiration. We’re all suffering from Zoom overload and feeling worn down.'
We are social learners
The workplace is a community. And the need for this will never go away. We are social creatures. Creativity and inspiration zing when we are face to face. Ideas simply don't flow as well over a screen or on the phone.
Just like we know that children learn much better face to face with adults than they do watching the same information given to them from a screen, we know that we grow through trial-and-error with our fellow humans. This need doesn’t go away just because we have moved to our home offices.
The co-working solution
Co working spaces have been around for a long time, but are not talked about all that much.
Drew Mason runs Pynes Hill Business Centre, a co-working space in Exeter.
'The shared model is going to come out of lockdown, for example co bikes and co cars, or like Netflix. We are moving away from people needing to own everything. I think the UK is slightly behind the times and is only just catching up now.'
The popularity of these co-working spaces is set to grow as people are now starting to understand the intense impact of long term home working, and are looking for solutions in a COVID-dominated environment.
What is a co-working space?
A co-working space is a shared office environment that anyone can use. They are perfect for small companies, freelancers, or even employees of companies who want to break up the monotony of an entire working week at home, to hear the hum of the office and feel people moving around and to catch a chat with someone.
It has everything you need from an office… desks, meeting rooms, kitchen facilities, but the vibe is a whole lot more relaxed than a regular work environment.
There are social areas for ideas generation with colleagues and associates, or for just relaxing, quite often with a pool table. Venaspace offers Free Beer Fridays.
Co-working builds a community
Co working spaces place a lot of emphasis on socialising, and organisations put a lot of effort into making sure their spaces are an essential tool for the well-being of those who use their spaces and the wider community as a whole.
Liz Finnie, Neil Finnie and Jim Strong set up The Generator Hub in 2011. As it says on their website: ‘They wanted a flexible work space where they would be inspired and motivated by other driven professionals from a range of industries that could create a foundation for collaboration and an organic support network in the Exeter area.’
The social aspect of their workspace is hugely important to them. They inspire an upbeat, relaxed and friendly environment by organising events such as...
‘Wing Wednesdays’ - where everyone goes out for lunch (when we could!)
‘Friday Beers’ - (when we could!)
Social groups, cycling groups, games groups, curry club…
They even organised a ‘Christmas Countdown’, where individuals were challenged to sing songs to the local community and they gave away local prizes.
The Generator Hub is also very community minded and offers an apprenticeship programme. They take on several young people a year for 2 years and train them up in business admin.
‘It is an invaluable experience for someone getting started in the world of work to be surrounded by so many professionals from so many industries. They learn so much and they wouldn’t be able to get such a variety of learning anywhere else.’ says Liz Finnie.
Liz is passionate about the unique benefits a co-working space provides that a regular office space doesn’t.
‘The massive diversity of businesses under one roof means that the potential for creative conversations between industries is huge. People from different companies bouncing ideas off each other that wouldn’t normally interact means that problems are solved in a unique way.
Our breakout community areas offer a relaxed space for networking, and often a random conversation will spark inspiration in someone else.
Businesses in general are experiencing a massive lack of creativity because there is a lack of these conversations happening in their own offices.’
‘Relaxed’ is a key word when talking about co-working spaces. Liz and her co-directors work hard to maintain the flexibility of their space. They understand that every individual or organisation have different needs so they try hard to give people what they want and arrange the best pricing plan that works for them.
Liz explains why the relaxed atmosphere of spaces like the Generator Hub also have huge mental health benefits for their users.
‘There is no hierarchy in a shared working space, everyone is equal. There is no one person owning the office, or one person in charge, so therefore people are free to do as they please. There are no strict times for people to come and go, and no one monitoring what you are doing like in a regular office. There is also no competition between employees, so everyone is on an equal footing.'
Another mental health benefit is it gives people a reason to leave the house. Even before COVID a co-working space gave those working on their own a routine and a reason to get out of their pyjamas and make an effort.
Now, during COVID, people are still using co-working spaces as it stops them from going stir crazy at home.
We the directors are there on a daily basis interacting with the community, listening to people, and always trying to better the space.’
People who are employed are also using co-working spaces during COVID as an escape from the monotony of being stuck at home. Liz says that around 15 – 20% of their users are employed.
‘Some companies are willing to pay the cost as they recognise how important it is for their well-being’
She also says she has noticed that freelancers and smaller companies in lockdown are still supporting the Generator Hub because they want to make sure they have a space to come back to.
‘They are invested in the space and the community. Bigger companies are not so much.’
Co-working still requires a home office
Even if you are heading out to your co-working space regularly, you still need to find a space at home to act as an office and a safe space to store all of your office equipment.
In this article from office fitters Morgan Lovell, they explain how we can adapt to a modern, flexible way of working. As we seek our social interaction and creative inspiration outside of the home, we will still need a home space where we can put our ideas into practice, comfortably and without disturbance.
'We will see a demise in traditional workstations as the focused to-do list will continue to be undertaken at home. This will result in an acceleration towards multi-purposed activity based working.'
The home/work balance is a priority issue. You need your office space to be organised and a permanent feature of your home without ruining your home.
NEXT DESK can help you separate your work from your home life. This is an entire office pod in one piece of furniture.
Keep all your valuable equipment and documents safe from the rest of the household as you head out of the house, and quickly set up your workstation when you come back to implement your ideas.
NEXT DESK also allows you to store your entire office out of sight. No more feeling the unease of sleeping with your work, if you work in the bedroom, or sharing TV time if your office is in the living room. Put your working day completely out of your mind.
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Photo credit: - Beer photo by Paloma A. on Unsplash