- GCUC, the global coworking conference series, makes its UK debut in London on 25th and 26th September 2018
- According to Producer Justin Harley, hot topics including wellbeing, hospitality, and the flexible workspace market cycle
- London is home to the world’s largest flexible workspace market – but with Brexit looming, the event will examine what the future holds for the UK market
This September, the global coworking conference series – GCUC – is heading to the UK for the first time. The event will touch on a huge range of topics including wellbeing, sustainability, workplace technology, raising capital, and the steady merger of flexible space and hospitality.
Perhaps the most pressing topic of all is the flexible workspace market itself.
It’s been a decade since the global downturn and since then, the flexible workspace industry has seen phenomenal growth and diversity. Serviced offices once had to battle for their share of commercial property; today it’s a different story. Property landlords are keen to introduce flexible space into their portfolios through partnerships or own-branded ventures, and significant investment into the sector – for both workspaces and suppliers – continues at pace.
The inevitable question is when, and to what extent, the market will slow down. And with Brexit fast approaching, this question is particularly pertinent to those with a UK interest – particularly as London is now home to the largest flexible workspace market in the world.
“When we began looking into bringing GCUC to London, we spoke to a lot of people in both flexible space and commercial property – and this was their big question,” says Justin Harley, Producer of GCUC UK.
“Is the bubble going to burst? Mat Oakley from Savills will be leading a panel on this topic, and he’ll be looking closely at some of the ways in which UK real estate can incorporate flexible space and what the future looks like for coworking.”
According to Justin, coworking certainly has a positive future – but workspaces must innovate and find ways to differentiate. “I believe we’re going to see a lot more specialist and niche spaces, alongside more ‘multiple’ brands like IWG’s Spaces.”
Justin founded RJmetis, a provider of software solutions to flexible workspace, in 1999. The company was later rebranded as Hubcreate and acquired by essensys in 2016. Justin worked with the essensys team until October 2017, and is now spearheading GCUC’s UK debut.
“I’ve been to virtually all of the GCUC events as a sponsor, including China. Liz Elam [GCUC founder] has wanted to bring the event to London for some time.”
As Justin noted in a recent interview with Cat Johnson, the time is “absolutely right” for GCUC UK. “We have a Business Centre conference and small meetups in the coworking world but we don’t have an event that allows all shapes and sizes, all different types of coworking spaces, to come together, share, collaborate, network, learn from each other – we just don’t have that.”
A Fruitful Future?
It’s a particularly interesting time for UK flexible workspace as the nation gears up for Brexit – the UK’s formal departure from the European Union – on 29th March 2019.
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“In many ways, Brexit has been a good thing for the serviced office industry here,” said Justin. “Flexibility is key during times of uncertainty and combined with the huge amounts of investment and surge in demand for flexible space, it has made the last 2 – 3 years very fruitful for our industry.”
One of the key roles that GCUC UK will play in September is to bring different areas of the flexible space industry together. Independent coworking owners and new market entrants will have the opportunity to learn from traditional serviced office operators – many of whom have traded for one or two decades and experienced their fair share of market turbulence, including the 2008 recession.
“It’s a tough place to be,” noted Justin. “A lot of coworking owners haven’t traded through a downturn. Many spaces have evolved out of accelerators and benefited from investment into tech startups; if the tech money dries up, they stop coming and it puts huge pressure on the workspace. Traditional operators have been there before, they know what to expect, and at GCUC both parties will have the chance to share and learn from those experiences.
“Likewise, there are some brilliant coworking operations around London and these operators will have the chance to impart their own experiences and perspectives. We’ll also get to see some of these spaces ourselves during the coworking tour on the third day.”
Health is the New
In addition to the flexible space market, the agenda focuses on health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Victoria Lockhart, Director at the International Well Building Institute, will moderate a panel discussing how sustainable green building practices can enhance wellbeing and human experience in the workplace. She will be joined by Chris Hiatt, Director of Landid, whose Porter Building in Slough was the first in the UK to achieve WELL Core and Shell Certification.
Having achieved the WELL ‘Gold’ Standard certification in late 2017, Hiatt noted that wellbeing “will simply become part of the language of office design” and expects all new office buildings to seek WELL certification within five years’ time, “in the same way that new buildings today are expected to adhere to the highest sustainability standards.”
Another hot topic at GCUC UK is hospitality. Giles and Niki Fuchs, founders of Office Space In Town, recently purchased a holiday resort at Burgh Island in Devon and they’ll be discussing the blurring of the lines between flexible workspace and the hotel sector during GCUC UK.
Of course hospitality isn’t the only industry crossover up for discussion; The Office Group’s Olly Olsen and Charlie Green will be openly discussing their thoughts on the future direction of flexible space, which will undoubtedly involve greater collaboration with commercial real estate owners and investment companies.