- The human approach and the ability to forge relationships is making a positive difference to the world of coworking.
- Sustainability is a key part of Creative Work’s manifesto. This organization is putting its values into practise and encouraging others to do the same.
- Collaboration and interconnectedness with local communities and other coworking spaces is key to the future success of the industry.
Based in London’s East End, Creative Works (CW) was established in 2019 by the founders of London’s largest creative college, Big Creative Education (BCE).
Elena Giroli, as CW’s Change and Community Engagement Manager, is instrumental to ensuring that the company’s values have a far-reaching impact on the local area. Elena is no stranger to the industry, having previously helped to establish the London Coworking Assembly alongside Bernie Mitchell in 2014.
Allwork.Space spoke to Elena Giroli to find out more about the future of coworking and discover how Creative Works is pushing an agenda of collaborative working and community engagement.
Allwork.Space: What is the importance of the human approach to coworking and why is it so integral to the success of CW?
Elena Giroli: CW has always been about people over profit. These values can be traced back to when BCE was founded in 1999. We are not in the business of merely renting out desks – we offer an experience based on an inclusive service. We have created a support system for many of our members – support that goes beyond the offer of a physical space in which to work productively.
We offer various in-house training and seminars to our freelancers and small business owners – such as our lunchtime Master Classes offered to members for free by transformational coach and business mentor, Dr. Yvette Ankrah MBE.
Our members recognize that we will go the extra mile. We strive to be customer-led and actively listen to our members and try our best to meet their needs through skills training workshops, the provision of free business services to start-ups, informal networking events, finance clinics, and Master Class sessions.
My role is essential in ensuring that we pay attention to the finer details. For example – locally sourced coffee, a healthy breakfast, yoga classes, and frequent social events and gigs are included in the price we charge our coworking members.
Essentially, we connect our clients with one another socially as well as professionally (30% of our members have already collaborated with each other within the building – and this number is constantly rising).
Allwork.Space: How did CW cope during the pandemic last year and what were the key lessons learnt?
It was certainly a learning curve for Creative Works. In March 2020, lots of coworking spaces in London were forced to shut. We had to become extremely hands on and flexible in terms of how we managed our space.
We recognized that we needed to develop new automations to cope with the upheaval caused by the pandemic. Fortunately, we have excellent software that enabled us to achieve this. Existing and prospective members wanted to know exactly what services they would be paying for during this time. We were able to provide them with a rapid response to their queries through new and advanced automated processes.
Alongside the automated responses, we were able to offer a personal approach; for example – conducting follow-up calls to automated queries. We were also able to extend significant discounts on space and some free business support on a case-by-case basis (depending on how our members’ work and sector had been impacted by COVID).
Our focus was to be able to support our members through a really difficult period. This human approach became even more significant during lockdown.
At CW we are constantly adapting to change. We are currently operating at a capacity of around 90%, after a period of slow growth caused by the pandemic. Last year was a period of trial and error. We adopted some new approaches, retained what was working, and replaced or discarded anything that was no longer viable.
Allwork.Space: You’ve been described as a Change Agent. What does that mean to you and how is CW connecting with its local community?
It goes back to what I was referring to earlier. This role is about much more than offering coworkers a space. At CW we are determined to make a genuine difference to our local community. It is my role to ensure that everyone in our space is on board with our ethos and organizational values. The Community Manager role is essential to building relationships between Creative Works and the local community.
We have begun to collaborate with a diversity of organizations, from large groups such as William Morris Big Local to small start-up businesses. We are fast becoming valued and trusted members of our local community. We hope that eventually CW will feel like a social hub where remote workers and members of the local community can find a sense of belonging and share their own knowledge and expertise (as well as gain some new skills).
We are also a local leader in terms of our commitment to the environment. 80% of the furniture in our space is made from recycled or reclaimed materials and we often use a local carpenter to build our furniture in-house.
In 2019, we agreed to commit to the UK Government’s Clean Air Strategy by signing a pledge to reduce carbon emissions. Delivering on this commitment, we provided bike storage and showers at CW to encourage members to cycle to work.
We are also committed to sourcing locally grown produce and supplies as much as possible. Our daily fruit is sourced from a sustainable start-up and we reduce unnecessary waste by using unsold food from a local cafe. These are just a few of the myriad examples of how we are setting positive coworking trends.
Allwork.Space: What does the future hold for Creative Works and what values do you intend to take forward?
At CW we are striving to adopt an even more service-based approach. Our focus will be on greater interconnectedness within our community – in addition to helping our members thrive.
Next year we hope to stage events around local producers/ suppliers and showcase the local area. We will continue to strive for long-term sustainability and remain committed to the environment. Social values are so important to CW and local community engagement is crucial.
An inclusive mindset and being open to explore new possibilities are vital in this industry. Post-pandemic we are exploring our long-term vision and aims.
One thing that we would like to explore is how we can help to create spaces for a greater number of women, as well as members of marginalized communities. One way to meet this target is to open a nursery within CW. This would ensure that members with preschool children could have affordable and accessible childcare during their time on our site.
Collaboration with other coworking spaces has already begun. We see this as vital to our future success. We aim to build bridges and become part of a larger network of likeminded coworking spaces (who believe in adding value to their communities).
Allwork.Space: Thank you, Elena, for taking the time to talk to us today. Do you have any closing thoughts to leave us with?
I am firmly of the opinion that coworking spaces could be transformative in terms of bringing communities together and creating long lasting relationships between diverse groups of people.