The demand for co-working space in London seems to be insatiable at the moment. WeWork’s new Moorgate location, which opened in July, is its largest yet with space for 3,000 members across eight floors. This gives the New York-based company four sites across the capital, with a new Spitalfields site due to open soon.
WeWork is just one of many operators jumping on the co-working bandwagon. Regus’s Spaces in Oxford Street offers co-working to people who want to “take a desk and work among like-minded people with an open, collaborative feel”. The Office Group is offering co-working space as well as serviced offices on floors 24 and 25 of The Shard.
So, is the rise of co-working evidence of a new product in the market place? Or is simply serviced offices by another name?
WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey sees co-working as the future, and one that is distinct from the existing serviced office model.
“Traditional corporate offices, towers full of fluorescent lights, grey carpets, and draining environments—no one wants to work that way anymore. Co-working spaces are providing an alternative workspace setup and a more social atmosphere that allows people to choose a different way of working,” he says.
The WeWork view is that people want more than just somewhere to work. “We believe workspaces are best when they go beyond providing just physical space, but also provide the infrastructure to support all of the key aspects of business development for members, including access to services like IT support, payroll and legal services which you won’t find in similar spaces elsewhere,” says McKelvey. “It’s about allowing entrepreneurs to focus all of their energies on building successful lives, both in and out of the office.”
But this view of ‘workplace as community’ isn’t supported by everyone in the industry. Servcorp’s chief operating officer Marcus Moufarrige has pointed out that WeWork began by offering co-working exclusively but now also offers private offices.
“The co-working membership model is still unproven,” he says. “Can you build a sustainable business out of the kind of tenant that it attracts? Not everybody wants a scooter in the hall or a ping pong table at work,” says Moufarrige.
Despite Moufarrige’s misgivings, Servcorp has co-working space at its London centres. But Servcorp say 12% of its co-working customers go on to take serviced offices and this is why it offers co-working.
Camden-based operator WorkLife offers hot desking, dedicated desking and private offices. Managing director David Kosky says this mix is driven by demand from customers.
“Hot desking suits early stage businesses, the next stage is a fixed desk and then as a business grows they want the privacy of their own office,” he says. “We see the demand for flexible working space only increasing. There are more and more freelancers, creatives, digital businesses and entrepreneurs. That is where the demand is coming from.
“It’s all underpinned by the collaborative environment. The serviced office environment doesn’t offer what today’s entrepreneur wants,” he says.
“Work is becoming a consumer experience. People ask what does a job offer me? We spend most of our time at work and people want to enjoy being at work. The traditional serviced office is very bland and doesn’t appeal to today’s generation of freelancers and entrepreneurs.”
What’s your view? Is co-working simply serviced offices with glass walls? Or is this is a new business model that will see serviced offices split into one direction and co-working into another. We would love to hear your opinion.