Even though co-working is still a relatively new phenomenon, in London alone there are already 800 co-working spaces – three times as many as New York. This accounts for 31,000 jobs, adding £1.7 billion GVA London’s economy, and it’s growing at the rate of 10% a year.
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of being on a panel at Co-work, work, work, work, work, hosted by the Camden Collective. This event brought together a diverse group of operators and providers from across London to talk about their unique takes on co-working, and share insights on the current state of the industry in London and beyond.
Here are my key takeaways from the day:
The co-working industry is booming for a reason. We’re seeing a fundamental attitudinal shift in the work that people are doing and the way that they’re doing it. The future of work, especially post-Brexit, is all about flexibility, and freelancing is on the increase. People want the ability to work when they want and how they want, and co-working spaces are facilitating this by providing all the perks of an office with the flexibility, creativity, and community that this new way of working demands.
We’re going to see spaces moving further and further outside of Central and East London towards areas where people live, as well as more regional spaces opening up outside of the city.
Until very recently, freelancers had been relegated to their kitchen table or coffee shop, and the prices of many of the spaces in Central London were prohibitive for small businesses. Smaller spaces like Work.Life give freelancers and small businesses the opportunity to access co-working spaces that are close to home, won’t break the bank, and avoid the sweaty and stressful commute.
One of the more interesting trends we’re seeing in the industry is the number of big businesses choosing to set up in co-working spaces around the world. As corporates start to focus more on innovation and have an increasingly remote workforce, we’ll start to see more and more setting up satellite offices in co-working spaces.
At Work.Life we have the likes of Dr. Martens and MTV working right alongside start-ups and freelancers, and the benefits of a co-working space for businesses of all sizes are clear.
Co-working provides an ‘out of the box’ service for businesses to offer to their staff for a fraction of the cost of setting up alone: beautiful spaces, amenities, and an often close-knit but diverse community. All of these perks help with staff retention and morale, which can make a huge difference to a generation that places huge value on work culture and finding happiness in what they do.
One of things I enjoyed the most at Co-work, work, work, work, work, was listening the unique take each provider had on co-working. For the consumer, this level of choice is absolutely fantastic.
With more and more people becoming digital nomads, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, it’s important that they’re able to find a space that suits them and their business needs.
I spoke about Work.Life’s focus on freelancing and our revolutionary Flex membership option. While the majority of co-working spaces offer a day-rate, this can often prove to be prohibitively expensive for many freelancers, while also not offering people the benefits of full membership. Flex offers pay-as-you go access to our spaces (with all the perks) from just £3.50 an hour, making co-working more accessible and affordable than ever before.
As rents are ever on the rise, affordable space in London is harder to come by. Additionally, business rates in the UK are increasing this year. These will both have a knock-on effect to co-working providers, which in turn will be passed on to clients.
The industry will also be keeping an eye on what happens over the coming years when we start learning more and feeling the repercussions of Brexit. So far small businesses have been pretty resilient, and we haven’t seen a slowdown or a change in the work that people are doing, but it’s something to pay attention to.
Thank you to Camden Collective for having me on the panel, and everyone else who was there. It’s really great to see the level of creativity and diversity in the spaces that are on offer throughout London, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this industry develops over the coming years.