Co-working spaces are emerging all over the UK and globally, but why are they so popular?
Co-working spaces are emerging all over the UK. When I first took my innovation team off-site, away from a hospital setting to work alongside technology startups, these spaces were more rare. But now, some 6 years later, I hear about many new spaces opening in cities at any one time. Some co-working providers like We Work open more than one facility in a single city simultaneously. But why are they so popular?
With the UK’s gig economy having an estimated 5 million self-employed people, with an ever-growing group of solopreneurs and early-stage startups means that facilities are required. People who run their own small business must choose whether to work at home, rent their own offices or choose a co-working space to base themselves between servicing their clients on location.
What space an entrepreneur chooses to occupy will often depend on what budget they have for shared facilities, or if there is even a co-working facility in their desired location. But the benefits of the co-working space are not all financial.
So what are the tangible and intangible business benefits of working in a shared space? From experience, co-working space supports community and wellbeing, creativity to thrive, provides practical help and they can nurture business growth.
Community and wellbeing
- Being part of something bigger. While you may run a small business, co-working space allows you to feel part of a bigger team and as someone said to me today, “even if you work alone you get to have a Christmas party!”.
- Loneliness is avoided. With the opportunity to participate as little or as much of the community activities you like, you have a chose whether to mingle or work alone.
- Creative environment. Co-working spaces are often managed and hosted in such a way that they are pleasant environments from which to work and hold meetings. Creativity is stimulated in a way that is hard to reproduce in a home office in particular.
- Productive atmosphere for innovation. Building further on point 2, while dependant on what business are co-located together, positive and contagious energy is often present in these spaces. This can lift the energy and productivity bar of all participants in the room.
- Business support. Many facilities often run a schedule of activities to support their client companies. This can often extend to having access to support services from accountants to mentors. Small businesses benefit from the economies of scale.
- Helping cashflow. Payments are often phased on a monthly basis, making it more affordable than finding large deposits that some landlords demand for dedicated office space
- Economies of scale. The shared communal facilities can be out of reach for an individual business. Having breakout space, boardrooms and access to refreshments means a small business can still service their clients professionally even when unable to afford these communal spaces for their own business.
- Part-time space. For businesses who spend a lot of time with clients and do not require a 5 day per week space, co-working is a great option for the necessary one to two days a week without having to cover the cost of full-time office space.
- Collaboration can thrive. The co-location of a wide variety of businesses allows for collaboration and/or serendipity between otherwise isolated business working in different markets and sector. The space creates an excuse to meet and learn from each other and often attracts likeminded people with whom collaboration will be attractive.
- Bridging the growth gap. There is often a tipping point when a small business can no longer rent desk space and it needs to lease its own facility. Co-working space is great for bridging the facilities gap as a business grows, particularly if adjacent grow-on space can be provided.
Lots of work is still done from home offices or coffee shops and both these remain a great option. But for anyone wanting to sample the benefits of co-working spaces, most offer a taster or a flexible plan which you can use alongside your existing arrangements. I am even seeing businesses give up their own dedicated premises to move into co-working to gain the benefits of participating in a supportive, wider and diverse community.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash