Is Your Business Centre on the Coworking Map?

Club Workspace - Kennington
Club Workspace - Kennington

With Club Workspace leading the UK’s business centre/coworking charge, and innovators like NearDesk pushing the concept ‘out there’, there has never been a better time to get your business centre on the coworking map.

Coworking is growing at pace. Not so long ago we referred to it as a form of alternative workspace – and now it seems to be in the fast lane to mainstream recognition.

The latest stats from coworking publication DeskMag are quite startling. Over the past 12 months, the number of global coworking spaces has grown by 83%, serving a total of 117% more members. Based on workdays alone, on average, 4.5 new coworking spaces have appeared daily and the number of coworking users has increased by 245 since this time last year.

That’s not even the full story, as many so-called coworking spaces are left out of DeskMag’s count if they don’t appear to fulfil the ‘true’ criteria of coworking. Traditionally, business centres have struggled to gain recognition as a coworking space – and the debate continues as to whether business centres can offer a truly beneficial coworking environment.

The answer? Yes – of course they can. What’s more, business centres are in a unique position to offer clients not just coworking, but virtually every other style of flexible workspace under the sun, too. Shared space, hot desks, touchdown space, business lounges, meeting space, virtual offices, coworking space, serviced offices, managed and conventional space… You name it, the industry has got it. What more flexibility do you need?

I recently met Tom Ball, a visionary and CEO of NearDesk – known as the ‘Oyster card’ for desk space. NearDesk is a pay-as-you-go card that lets mobile workers swipe in and out of participating coworking spaces quickly and easily, which does away with cumbersome paperwork. Instead, users keep track of their usage online and simply pay the bill at the end of the month. It’s smart, it’s online, it’s mobile, and it’s backed by some pretty savvy technology – which means it’s perfect for Generation Y.

Billed as “a new way of working”, NearDesk aims to bring a wide range of locations onboard all over the UK (and potentially further afield) to enable workers to be no more than a few minutes from the nearest desk. Business centres are key to this vision, and for centres that want to provide more alternative workspaces, the NearDesk model is likewise a key part of making that objective work.

Of course, RJmetis’ latest innovation – Spacedadi – is another tool to help business centres sell empty space in a Gen Y-friendly way.

If you’re still wondering whether or not business centres are well suited to coworking, look no further than Club Workspace. I visited Club Workspace Kennington recently, and had the chance to hear first-hand from MD James Friedenthal on what makes Club Workspace a success. In truth, it’s a combination of factors that club together to make the brand a success.

Diversity is key, as is clever workspace design. At Kennington, there’s a cafe at the front of the building which attracts potential clients through the door. The lobby is open and airy, with a lively reception area. A diverse range of workspace is positioned throughout the building, with the buzzy coworking section – Club Workspace – on the ground floor facing the entrance. Other more permanent spaces are positioned further back and on higher floors.

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As part of the Workspace brand, Club Workspace has the advantage of growing from an established name that already has a diverse range of workspace, and in large spacious buildings too – which offers great design potential. Commitment is another key factor. Club Workspace isn’t a half-hearted attempt at coworking – it’s a fully committed strategy that has its own brand, its own team (with ‘hosts’ at each coworking location), and its own marketing campaigns.

With five locations on the map plus more to come, it’s clear that Club Workspace is an example of how to get the business centre/coworking blend just right.

In the words of Tom Ball, the flexible working movement is already happening – and now the technology is there to make it simpler. Business centres with spare meeting and coworking space, or those planning to launch coworking locations, should be making the most of these tools to put their business centre on the coworking map.

Does your business centre offer coworking space? What are you doing to market your space, and open it up to its full potential?