It’s out with stuffy, grey offices and in with bright interior-designed offices lush with greenery and room for your personal trainer. The Resident takes a look at the London coworking spaces helping us to nail that work-life balance
Coworking spaces are changing the way we work, especially in London, one of the highest growth markets for flexible office space in the world a new coworking space opens on average every five days (according to workplaceinsight.net).
It’s out with bland, grey office environments, battles over the air conditioning, a limescale-encrusted kettle, and in with plush, interior-designed spaces filled with plants, natural light, the latest tech, kitchens, restaurants, concierges, breakout areas and rooftop terraces with views over the city.
It’s almost enough to make you want to skip to work on a Monday morning. But why now? The Greater London Authority, together with Capital Enterprise, produced a regeneration guide on Creating Open Workspaces back in 2015 which stated that ‘there are over 800,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), including micro-businesses, in London. Together they make up over 99% of all businesses and account for around half of London’s jobs.’
Half of London’s jobs! And yet how many SMEs can afford central London’s extortionate office rents? Coworking spaces provide the perfect answer – flexible working space, from hot desks to entire floors, that grow (or shrink) as your company does. Plus, they come with wired-in infrastructure, postal services, concierges and more, so you don’t have to worry about the daily admin – not even watering the plants.
But in this new and very competitive market, how does one stand out? Well it’s all about establishing your niche. Not all SMEs and freelancers are the same, after all.
‘It’s all about establishing your niche. Not all SMEs and freelancers are the same, after all’
So it may be that The Ministry in Elephant & Castle – launched by the Ministry of Sound specifically for those working in music, media culture and tech – appeals to you, or perhaps AllBright, a women’s-only members co-working and community club complete with beauty salon, does it for you. Then there’s ONDA, not a physical space, but a global network of workspaces and members clubs across the world – perfect for the global nomad.
And of course, wellbeing is high up on the list of many such places, with the likes of Inhere, London’s first drop-in meditation studio, launching meditation pods inside Uncommon’s workspace in Borough Market.
One brand that’s making a concerted effort to address work-life balance is Fora, which now has eight locations across London with another three sites planned to be opened by the end of the year. The brand’s latest launch – in none other than the old Hearst Building in the beating heart of Soho – has wellness built into its core, as does all of its branches.
The idea is to make ‘working’ a ‘constructive, healthy and inspirational’ experience, and given that British workers spend an average of 3,515 full days at work over the course of a lifetime, it’s a total no-brainer. After all, productivity is the name of the game, and healthy happy workers are more productive.
‘As the work/life boundaries continue to blend, we all need to be mindful to look after ourselves and make sure that we are giving enough time to our own wellbeing’
Fora offers its residents (which include the likes of Dropbox) yoga studios, on-demand personal trainers, on-site gyms, bicycle storage for those who like to peddle in rather than endure the tube crush, beautifully decked out reading rooms with carefully curated literature and diverse event programming with talks on subjects such as gut health and sensory awakening. The Soho branch also has modern kitchen areas on each floor, where little plates of fresh fruit appear magically throughout the day.
‘As the work/life boundaries continue to blend, we all need to be mindful to look after ourselves and make sure that we are giving enough time to our own wellbeing,’ says Fora Co-Founder Katrina Larkin, who has been dubbed ‘London’s experience entrepreneur’.
‘Life is busy, deadlines loom and the further away the wellbeing activity of choice is from the desk, the less likely it is that we will put time in the personal wellbeing-bank, which ultimately means that we will have less energy to give to those crucial work commitments.’
It’s a very valid point. Back when The Resident had offices with an onsite gym, a jolly core of us would trot down for a lunchtime HIIT or yoga class two, three or four times a week, returning to our desks either zenned out and free from the stresses of the morning, or rather sweaty yet ready to tackle that difficult phone call you’ve been putting off all morning. Since our office move last year, my nearest gym is a 20-minute walk away. How often do I go at lunch time now? Never.
‘Throughout my career I have sought to elevate people’s experience of leisure time and I believe that work time is crying out for the same kind of creativity and innovation’
Plus, Larkin knows a thing or two about work-life balance. Her impressive career ranges from founding The Big Chill Festival in the 90s when she was just 25, to working with Brockton Capital on the redevelopment and rebranding of Camden Lock Market in 2014, and working with MarketTech for the launch of their co-working office space The Interchange. One of the 1% of female entrepreneurs in the UK, Katrina then went on to found Fora in 2017 with Enrico Sanna. That’s quite a mix of business with pleasure.
‘Throughout my career I have sought to elevate people’s experience of leisure time, opening their minds to new expectations, and I believe that work time is crying out for the same kind of creativity and innovation,’ says Larkin.
‘The Fora approach encompasses everything from the physical design of the space to the curation of people and experiences. It isn’t rocket science: if you create nicer environments people will be happier, and if they’re happier, they’ll be more productive.’
Other coworking spaces offering workspace wellbeing, and doing it well, include Mortimer House in Fitzrovia, which offers members access to a dedicated meditation room, a fitness studio offering yoga, reformer Pilates, barre and TRX classes, a contemporary gym and the option to subscribe to nutritionally specific menus, as well as the aforementioned AllBright, which created the first wellness destination exclusively for women in Mayfair with state-of-the-art fitness studio, holistic wellness rooms, beauty salon and private roof terrace.
Going to work simply never felt so good.