The popularity of coworking spaces is one of the most significant business trends of recent years, offering startups, corporations, freelancers and self-employed professionals the chance to work side-by-side in a collaborative space. This sense of community is integral to morale, idea generation and employee satisfaction — and that will play an increasingly important role as we emerge from the pandemic.
So what is coworking space? Well, here’s a basic definition: a workplace where different companies share the same facilities such as equipment, utilities and services. However, modern coworking space offers much more, from one-to-one mentoring to events, workshops and accelerator programmes. There’s a community spirit and energy of productivity that’s generated by the mix of businesses and individuals supporting one another to grow.
So, that’s the top level, but how else does coworking space help businesses flourish?
1. Flexible work practices
The first thing to note is that flexible work practices are set to become more common now that remote working has been proven a success. Many businesses now recognise that flexible work practice inspires productivity among the workforce and better brand reputation when it comes to acquiring or retaining talent. It’s a place where teams can come to collaborate, socialise, develop company culture and host clients.
2. Networking opportunities
After more than a year working from home, businesses are clamouring for the chance to network, strengthen business connections, raise their profile and access that spontaneous knowledge sharing that only comes from meeting other businesses. Coworking spaces are great for that, whether it’s a chance conversation in a breakout area that sparks a lightbulb moment, or a more formal partnership that comes out of an organised event.
While remote working is great for some, others find it difficult to stay productive and motivated. Using a coworking space provides structure and an environment that can help individuals get things done away from the distractions of home. When everyone around you is there to propel their business forward it’s hard not to follow suit.
4. Additional support
When you hit a dead-end, need advice or want help hiring staff — coworking spaces often have support mechanisms to help. Eagle Labs, for example, offers members benefits ranging from one-to-one mentoring, learning content, events, funding advice and a nationwide digital community for networking.
Some coworking spaces take this one step further and offer startup incubators and accelerators to fast track your growth. You can learn more about Eagle Labs’ range of programmes here.
Traditional offices are expensive to rent, equip, insure and maintain. Running an office is a distraction from the important matter of growing your business. Coworking spaces take care of all the boring stuff – plus they often offer facilities from top-end printers and fancy coffee machines to prototyping tools and workshops. The best are bright, light spaces with funky décor that help create a high energy vibe – and many offer private offices, high-tech meeting rooms and event spaces.
While the pandemic has had a significant impact on coworking space in the short term, in the long term it is likely to be a boon for many businesses who want greater flexibility and more control of costs. The adaptability of coworking space helps businesses as they scale up or down, with ample space to accommodate additional staff if needed.
How would you describe the atmosphere or environment in your Lab?
Katie: It’s got a bit of a buzz around it, especially during Pizza Fridays – I’m looking forward to the return of that tradition! And there is always someone there to talk to, which is lovely.
Alex: The atmosphere is what you make it. As a team of four who regularly meet up in the Lab, we have a space that we gather each week that has become our own. We have the music on, coffee on the go and even a view out to the sea, which is great to stand in front of when on a long conference call.
The team in the Lab are always on hand for anything that you want support with and they are always available to talk to about ideas. You don’t get that kind of service often.
Which facilities or services you appreciate the most in your Lab?
Katie: The people. They are a great bunch and we feel very lucky to have great relationships with all the Barclays’ team. Not having to worry about buying milk, teas and coffees is also super helpful, and the event space is hugely appreciated and will be utilised when we can start running events again. Soon hopefully!
Alex: All the facilities are really top-notch and the ability to drop in and out with flexibility as desired is exactly what the business needs. Having a service that is always supporting us as individuals and the business with events online or in-person in the dedicated events space is really valuable.
What would you say to a founder considering moving to a coworking space?
Alex: Speak to the people in the Labs who run the space. They are great at making connections with other businesses within the Lab, but they also have many business connections within Barclays that can help you overcome the challenges of a startup.
Katie: Do it! It is a great way to make contacts, especially when you are starting out, and you get so much support. The risk of tying yourself into years of renting an expensive office is just not worth it.
CEO at Silicon Reef.
Founder and Managing Director at Street Agency