Would you want to work all day in a restaurant? Or from someone else’s house? We check out the logistics of setting up workspaces in unusual locations.
We now live in a world where you can fire up your laptop and work from pretty much anywhere. As a result, workspaces are breaking out from the constraints of an office to utilize underused spaces.
Restaurants that once stood empty during off-peak hours are now being transformed into bustling centres for work. Offices and libraries with a spare few desks are opening up their doors to coworkers. You can even rent out your home to digital nomads when you’re at work.
Every square inch of space is being swallowed up and, with the prospect of 5G on the horizon, this trend is showing no signs of stopping as we won’t even need speedy Wi-Fi to set up shop anywhere and everywhere.
It’s a clever premise and a revolution waiting in the wings for the world of work. Those working in this space have their sights set on rapid expansion in the coming months. But, would you want to work in a restaurant?
Spacious is one such operator (currently) based in New York that partners with the city’s restaurants to create work spaces when these eating establishments are closed. It’s careful to choose spaces that aren’t just visually stunning, but are adaptable for work. Preston Pesek, CEO and founder at Spacious, said: “Ergonomics is a key consideration. There are plenty of bars and clubs in the city but we will pass on that opportunity if they do not have the right facilities.”
Restaurants, on the other hand, have the furniture and layouts that workers need. “It’s a nice accidental coincidence that they are also beautiful and suited to the 21st century way of work,” Pesek added.
For example, restaurant booths are suitable for breakout meetings, a cocktail bar is also a suitable standing desk and this variety allows workers to move around the space freely, which is also, according to Pesek, one of the core advantages of using restaurants.
By using this we are able to offer a space to work at a fraction of the cost of other coworking spaces
Blending these two service industries is easy to facilitate. All you need is the “three pillars of work” – high-speed Wi-Fi, a power supply and free coffee, according to Pesek, and it is not difficult to retrofit a restaurant to provide these amenities without disrupting the everyday activities of such eating establishments. Spacious is planning to expand in the coming months outside of New York and has other US and international cities, including London, in its sights.
New Bloc is also opening up closed bars and restaurants across the UK to freelancers and nomadic professionals as coworking spaces. Its cofounder, Michael Ford, explained: “Although our spaces are fully functional restaurants it works because the space is either unused or empty during the day. New Bloc is about utilising this unused space in a mutually beneficial way. By using this we are able to offer a space to work at a fraction of the cost of other coworking spaces.”
“It works most simply because the space is typically unused. Though at busier periods it fits that perfect middle ground of being quieter than a coffee shop, yet more relaxed than an office,” Ford added.
New Bloc is also focused on building communities, despite the disparate nature of its spaces. Ford explained: “Events will play a huge part in building our community. We recently had our launch party which was absolutely great, we had all sorts of different people there from established entrepreneurs to freelancers beginning their careers. I think at events people are always much more open and happy to share their experiences, both positive and negative.
“The events we have will really vary, including networking events, talks from creatives and social evenings.”
New Bloc launched recently in Edinburgh, with Glasgow, Manchester and London lined up as its next locations. “Then the aim for us is to grow rapidly around the UK, with at least two or three locations in all the major cities,” Ford added.
Seats2meet offers co-workspaces, meeting spaces and/or desk spaces – but using a very different business model compared to other operators. The co-workspaces are open accessible; to make use of it people have to pay with Social Capital, sharing knowledge and helping each other out.
Lenneke van Rossum, head of International Relations at Seats2meet, said: “Everybody with a location (think of a coworking space, coffeeshop, library, hotel, corporate offices, etc) who wants to be a relevant location where people connect, collaborate and grow, can register their location at this market place. The selection will happen by the users, when/if it’s a relevant location for them to go to or not.”
Seats2meet uses a range of tools to ensure its spaces are conducive to work. For example, there’s an online booking system for users and the location will have a management system with access to all information of the bookings to take care of all logistics. The company also created a matchmaking and data algorithm, called The Serendipity Machine, to match people in real-time to a location based on their needs for that day.
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All locations are also offered a TV content screen that shows real-time data including who’s at the location, what’s happening there and what knowledge the current residents have.
When hosts connect themselves to these coworkers, both will empower each other and the primary industry will flourish
Van Rossum added: “Every location can create an event and publish it in the event calendar for more exposure in the whole network. Within the management system we show location data and insights of their users, based on this data they can create the most relevant events or programs for users as it is based on their needs.”
Its registered coworking space locations include corporate offices like Lab55 (of Achmea), schools (such as Agora in Roermond), libraries, theatres, hotels and even people’s houses (S2M for locals).
This blending of industries bring benefits to the host and coworkers, as Van Rossum explained: “When hosts connect themselves to these coworkers, both will empower each other and the primary industry will flourish. For example, at Lab55 of Achmea they invited people to come to their headquarters to cowork, Achmea connects very well to these people and within a year of doing events and programs for and with them, they had five relevant new startup ideas they put on the market in collaboration.”
Seats2meet plans to “create a worldwide Serendipitous network of people connecting, collaborating and growing together,” according to Van Rossum, who added: “These locations become relevant locations in neighborhoods with multiple functionalities and in this way we connect local communities with global movements. What we believe is the future of society.”
A home away from home
It’s not just public spaces that are capitalising on the nomadic workspace trend. How would you feel about renting out your home to coworkers?
That’s exactly what UK-based home/workspace mashup Spacehop does. It’s effectively the Airbnb of workspaces. Matt Beatty, its CEO and cofounder, said: “Advancements in technology mean it’s actually a lot easier than you may think to do this. Almost every home has Wi-Fi, which is all the modern worker really needs for a solid day’s work.
“If you have decent Wi-Fi and somewhere comfortable to sit, that space can be used to work from. Having some nice extras like good coffee and a view always helps.”
Spacehop blends the office and home environments by giving the host (aka homeowner) complete control over how people use the space. “You set the hours, the capacity and determine what bookings you’d like to take. Most hosts open the space up for freelancers from 9 to 4 or 5pm so that they are gone in the evening. This means you have the home to yourself and your family at night. This makes a pleasant change for those who are used to hosting on Airbnb and never really getting that privacy,” Beatty added.
Introducing The Coworking/Events Hybrid
Coworking spaces are cashing in on this trend too with many opening up their doors as events venues. It’s a clever idea, in part because event organisers will have access to a readymade audience through the coworking space’s community.
For example, The Farm’s Event Space in SoHo NYC capitalises on its sister “The Farm Coworking Brand” to boost overall revenue. The space’s founder, Lucas Seyhun, said: “The event venue income will assist in boosting overall brand equity, which ultimately turns into new members.”
“Brand equity is necessary for the roadmap to expansion. Events are a marketing medium that bring in revenue,” Seyhun added.
Whether you use a coworking space that doubles up as an events venue, choose to work in a restaurant or host a meeting in someone else’s front room, nomadic workspaces are here to stay as we all look for ways to cash in on the gig economy ethos.
The reason this blend of industries works is because there’s a natural crossover. The events, coworking and hospitality industries all have one thing in common: collaboration. And the more inter-industry collaboration, the more dilute the notion of the office becomes.
The rise of the nomadic workspace has only just begun.