Use of coworking spaces is becoming significantly more popular. According to one estimate there were some 11,000 coworking space locations worldwide in 2016, but that could increase to more than 26,000 in 2020. In 2007, there were just 14. And while there were some 976,000 coworking members (ie businesses and individuals using coworking spaces) in 2016, that could soar to 3.8m in 2020 (source: smallbusiness.com).
Coworking spaces provide a shared working environment for businesses and individuals, whether start-ups or more established enterprises (many multinationals now use them, too). Coworking spaces can offer excellent networking opportunities and they are particularly attractive to entrepreneurs, freelances and contractors who would otherwise have to work in isolation at home or a local coffee shop.
Coworking spaces are springing up across the country and range from small spaces offering hot desks to whole buildings where you can rent office space, conference facilities and meeting rooms. A quick online search will reveal hundreds of spaces across the country to suit any budget or business type.
Founded in New York in 2010, WeWork provides more than 130 coworking spaces in 38 cities in 14 countries and has more than 100,000 members (including more than 10,000 companies). It currently provides 12 coworking spaces in London.
Members can either rent a private office space (most expensive), a dedicated desk (mid-budget) or hot desk (cheapest). More space, meeting and conference rooms can be rented when required. Super-fast broadband and free refreshments are available to all; there are private phone booths if required, and spaces include furniture and use of photocopiers, scanners and printers.
There is also a range of onsite events from catered lunches, where members share their expertise, to one-to-one sessions with investors and industry leaders, weekly happy hours and more formal networking events.
Carla has drinking chocolate to thank for her business now being based at the WeWork coworking space near Old Street in Central London (pictured above). “Previously, I was spending way too much on drinking chocolate while working from coffee shops after launching my business, Stripey Spanish in April 2016,” she smiles.
Trying to establish her new business from coffee shops wasn’t ideal. “I needed a more professional base,” Jones admits, “so I tried another coworking space, before taking a fixed desk at WeWork Old Street in September 2016. Having a Central London business address is impressive, while the location is convenient for my customers. I run social events and courses for people who want to learn Spanish,” she explains.
Jones says the professional environment of WeWork Old Street made her dress, act and think more professionally. “Being around other small-business owners means you can exchange knowledge, including how others have overcome challenges you’re facing. As well as talking to people day to day that you bump into, there are always so many events – I wouldn’t have that so readily in my own separate premises. It’s a very social environment – very inspiring, too.”
If you are starting an office-based business, Jones recommends coworking spaces. “Even if your budget is limited, you may be able to sacrifice on location, but still enjoy the benefits that coworking spaces offer,” she says. “Even if you just pay to hot desk, you still get a professional business address, shared amenities and infrastructure, networking, etc. WeWork has been great for my business – and I can take more space as and when my business grows.”
Chris Adams is the co-founder and chief operating officer of social marketing agency, The Honey Partnership, which is also based at WeWork Old Street.
“Greater flexibility is the number one benefit we enjoy,” he says. “We don’t have to commit to a long-term lease, and we only need to give a month’s notice. While enabling us to control our overheads, we gain from being around other businesses – some of which have become our clients or suppliers.
“Although we could find cheaper options, the location, atmosphere and facilities at WeWork have enabled us to hire better people and significantly boost our revenue,” he enthuses. The Honey Partnership pays a monthly fee for a 12-person space. “A significant part of our business is helping Chinese companies grow and globalise, so an address in central London makes a big difference to us,” Adams adds.
“We’ve just taken WeWork space in San Francisco and New York, because we’re expanding to service our Chinese clients in the USA. But the flexibility we enjoy means operational costs are much less of an issue for us. Using coworking space suits our needs perfectly,” he smiles.