Club Workspace: Can coworking and business centres really co-exist?

Club Workspace: Can coworking and business centres really co-exist?

Coworking is fiercely protected. It's not just "the office" - it's about building a creative, inspirational workplace. A strong sense of community is no. 1 on the agenda, and users place more emphasis on the people around them than the workplace itself.

For business centres it can be challenging to break into the coworking market. Business centre employees are busy people. So how do you create a coworking space that fits into this mould - is creative, inspirational, community-focused, fun, and above all, profitable?

It's possible. Workspace Group is doing it, and they're on the verge of opening their 5th coworking space this year.

Set up in June 2011, London-based Club Workspace is the coworking arm of the company. It's run by Managing Director James Friedenthal who, as Workspace Group's former Divisional Director of Marketing, is familiar with both sides of the coin.

"Not just spare space"

"Running a coworking space requires a completely different mentality," said James. Crucially, he adds: "It's not just filling spare space - it's bespoke space."

All too often, coworking is seen as a way of filling vacant space. But as Club Workspace has shown, if managed correctly, it can become a successful part of the business centre.

"Coworking is completely different from a business centre, but the two actually complement each other," said James.

Rather than launching in standalone buildings, all Club Workspace locations are inside existing Workspace centres. This led to successful business opportunities between both sets of clients, and some business centre clients now use the coworking area as overflow space.

With flexible space at its heart, business centres have plenty to offer the coworking community, and Club Workspace was created out of a need for even greater flexibility.

How flexible is "flexible"?

"We started Club Workspace because we noticed a change in what our clients were looking for," said James. "More businesses were looking for alternatives to semi-permanent space. A lot of these were homeworkers and independents who wanted to take their first steps into commercial property, and escape the monotony of working from home, alone."

It's based on a simple monthly "gym membership" model - which allows clients to use multiple Club Workspace venues across the capital. Commitment is low, and users can choose a level of membership to suit their budget. This appeals to freelancers and start-ups, but it also attracts mobile workers - and not just from small businesses.

"This took us by surprise," said James. "We were expecting plenty of sole traders and creative start-ups. But we weren't expecting so many corporate members. When a large company relocates out of London they often leave a mobile workforce behind, so a lot of employees from multinationals are using the space. It's more cost effective and flexible than a permanent office."

In response to rising demand, Club Workspace plan to add more locations - creating a wider network of membership-based coworking spaces across the capital. In the coming weeks Club Workspace will launch two new locations - Enterprise House, and Barley Mow Centre in Chiswick. This brings the portfolio to five, and there are plans for up to five more in 2013.

On the future of coworking itself, James added: "I believe that coworking will become an increasingly important part of the commercial property market."

With coworking and flexible space firmly under the spotlight, Club Workspace is lighting the way - showing how these two markets can complement each other and create new opportunities along the way.

Club Workspace are not just breaking into the coworking market, they're breaking the mould.

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