“TOG Abroad is an opportunity to take a holiday from London (if you can’t take a holiday from work) and make new connections with our extended community.”
If any workspace knows how to pitch a great idea, it’s The Office Group.
Their latest initiative gives clients the opportunity to work for free from six other coworking spaces around the world through a mutual partnership.
Although according to Alessa McNally, Head of Community at The Office Group (TOG), they prefer to call it “friendship” rather than partnership.
“It’s much less corporate. A partnership just sounds cold!” she explained during a telephone interview with Allwork. “Plus, we really are friends. We’ve visited each other’s spaces, which is how it all started.”
The idea for TOG Abroad first came about during a discussion at last year’s Coworking Europe conference. “We had visited some of the spaces before so we already had a relationship with them, and we found the others — in Ibiza and Barcelona — through recommendations,” said Alessa.
“It was a lot of fun to put together. We wanted to make sure we did it properly, so we weren’t in a huge hurry.”
To ask the obvious question, why? And why those locations?
“They’re gorgeous spaces!” Alessa replied.
“A lot of our own members have started businesses and they can’t spare the time to go on holiday. They can’t step away from work. So, we wanted to give them an opportunity to leave London and work in paradise.”
TOG members need only “flash their membership card” and drop into their choice of space, which includes: Camp David, New York City; CREC Coworking, Barcelona; Fosbury & Sons, Antwerp; EGG Japan, Tokyo; Nomad Workspace, Copenhagen; and Cowork Ibiza on the Spanish Balearic Island.
Members don’t pay extra for the privilege of working in these six spaces and likewise, members from the international network can work in selected TOG spaces in London, too.
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Currently, around half of The Office Group’s 36-strong portfolio is available to the international community as part of TOG Abroad. Participating spaces are generally “those with easier travel connections” and lounge areas or coworking spaces.
“It’s totally reciprocal. Our international friends can come to us and the great thing is that they know what they’re going to get. Our cultures are quite similar, everybody works hard and engages with the community,” explained Alessa.
“There are differences too. All the spaces are unique in their own right. Fosbury & Sons in Antwerp is very design-focused, that really shines through in their spaces and their events. Cowork Ibiza is the first coworking space to open in Ibiza, it’s a small and friendly space in a really great location.
“It’s great for members to experience different places and cultures. There’s no single specific type of member or industry. Our friendship allows us to liaise with great people in gorgeous spaces.”
As for TOG, it allows the company to further develop its brand and to demonstrate its “open arm approach” while building relationships (friendships) with other spaces and member networks.
Of course, TOG’s community managers get to enjoy the arrangement, too.
“It gives me somewhere to hang my hat when I go to New York!” said Alessa.
TOG began marketing its international community last month, and so far the reaction has been positive. “I was quite surprised,” said Alessa. “Right off the bat, it took off really quickly.”
One thing that contributed to its early interest is the ease at which members can book places abroad.
“Our members tell us where they want to go and we let the community manager know that they’re visiting. We put them in touch with each other so all our member has to do is turn up and show their TOG membership card. That’s it.”
“A huge amount of our members already travel to these cities regularly, so they’re thankful!”
As for next steps, Alessa says that members are already asking about other spaces in more locations.
“The more the merrier!” she said. “Right now, we’re allowing it to grow organically. Time will tell and we’ll do a sense check at the end of the year. If members like it, we’ll keep going.”
Briefly referencing Blackstone’s £500m majority stake acquisition of The Office Group, Alessa added: “There’s always something going on. These are exciting times and we’re looking forward to seeing what the future holds for us.”