What are the ben­e­fits of shared of­fice space?

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE - By TIM ALDRED

From pool­ing re­sources to us­ing a hive mind: co-workspaces can prove fruit­ful for en­ter­prises.

If run­ning a small business some­times feels like a lonely pur­suit, shared work­ing spa­ces could be for you. From net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to join­ing forces with univer­sity re­search teams, there are many ad­van­tages to com­mu­nal work­ing.

Kelly Mol­son found the Cam­bridge Business Lounge to be in­valu­able when she first moved to the city and set up her de­sign agency, Rub­ber Cheese.

Fol­low­ing a Face­book ad­ver­tise­ment, she found a mix of pro­fes­sion­als from a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries, the op­por­tu­nity to run and take part in work­shops, and spa­ces for net­work­ing, meet­ings and quiet time. It was af­ford­able and had good bis­cuits.

Ms Mol­son says: “The own­ers are in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive and made a big ef­fort to get to know me and why I was us­ing the cen­tre. Ev­ery time I worked there, they were able to in­tro­duce me to new peo­ple that they thought I’d get on well with, and po­ten­tially could work with too.”

1 Make the most of net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties:

“One in­tro­duc- tion led to co-found­ing a net­work­ing group, Grub Club Cam­bridge, which has been in­cred­i­ble. I’ve met amaz­ing peo­ple, gained new clients, raised my pro­file in the city, been a judge for the Cam­bridge Food & Drink awards, been in­ter­viewed on BBC ra­dio and made fab new friends,” she re­calls.

Ms Mol­son ad­vises ask­ing ques­tions of co-work­ers and tak­ing an in­ter­est in their ac­tiv­i­ties. “I’ve met new sup­pli­ers, friends and new clients sit­ting right next to me, along with a valu­able sup­port net­work.”

Barn­aby Lash­brooke, founder of vir­tual as­sis­tant plat­form, Time etc, is a big be­liever. When his com­pany evolved to a model more re­liant on re­mote work­ers, he of­fered his un­used of­fice space free of charge to start-ups and en­trepreneurs in Birm­ing­ham.

Mr Lash­brooke says: “It’s nice to be in a po­si­tion where we can give some­thing back. I’d have loved some­one to of­fer me a free co-work­ing space when I was 18 and run­ning my first business from my very cramped be­d­room at home, as it does get lonely at times.”

He’s in no doubt that work­ing along­side new peo­ple can be highly mo­ti­vat­ing. “En­trepreneurs tend to be in­spir­ing, go-get­ting types that are good to have around.

2 Think about col­lab­o­ra­tion, not just your own needs:

“You can get so much out of shared of­fice space if you view it as a com­mu­nity of peo­ple rather than sim­ply a ser­vice avail­able to your business. The knowl­edge and ideas stored in that com­mu­nity can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween your start-up suc­ceed­ing or not,” he says.

Some com­mu­nal work­ing spa­ces are open to all, while oth­ers are tai­lored towards spe­cific needs. Hub­ble, an on­line mar­ket­place for find­ing and rent­ing of­fice space in Lon­don, of­fers sec­tor-spe­cific shared work­ing spa­ces.

Varun Bhanot, head of business de­vel­op­ment, ex­plains: “The hope is that th­ese com­pa­nies help each other, and ben­e­fit from the perks of the en­vi­ron­ment such as ac­cess to in­dus- try re­sources, work­shops and talks by thought lead­ers in their in­dus­try.”

He has ad­vice for mak­ing the most of your work­ing ar­range­ment. “Shared spa­ces are de­signed to en­gi­neer fruit­ful net­work­ing and ‘col­li­sions’. Take ad­van­tage of those around you, as the chances are they are work­ing on a sim­i­lar prob­lem to yours, or your com­pany might be a so­lu­tion they are look­ing for.

“Spend time in break­out and com­mu­nal ar­eas. Go to events in the space, or host your own. The best thing about shared space is that there is al­ready a cap­tive au­di­ence which is likely to want to lis­ten to your pitch or use­ful ad­vice.

He also sug­gests ap­proach­ing com­pa­nies about pool­ing re­sources. This can go far be­yond co­mestibles such as the milk and cof­fee, there

Mr Bhanot’s key fac­tors in choos­ing your per­fect work­ing space in­clude scal­a­bil­ity: is more space avail­able when your com­pany grows? Are there enough meet­ing rooms so you can book time when­ever you need it? Also look for lo­cal ameni­ties, such as cof­fee shops and bars which are great for out-of-the­of­fice meet­ings with col­leagues and clients. And don’t for­get the perks, such as weekly fruit drops and pet­friendly ar­eas.

Uni­ver­si­ties can pro­vide a wealth of re­sources to SMEs. Lan­caster Univer­sity has business hubs ded­i­cated to tech­nol­ogy, the en­vi­ron­ment and chem­istry. Among its £35m in­vest­ment is the new Col­lab­o­ra­tive Tech­nol­ogy Ac­cess Pro­gramme, which gives busi­nesses ac­cess to a suite of cut­ting-edge in­stru­men­ta­tion and fa­cil­i­ties worth al­most £7m.

Com­pa­nies can re­lo­cate their en­tire com­pany, or just their re­search and de­vel­op­ment staff, onto cam­pus, or take a hot desk or lab space as and when re­quired.

Dr Mark Rush­forth, head of business part­ner­ships and en­ter­prise at Lan­caster Univer­sity’s Fac­ulty of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, says: “Rent­ing of­fices and in­te­grat­ing all or part of a business onto the cam­pus en­ables faster business growth by pro­vid­ing eas­ier ac­cess to our

You can get so much out of shared of­fice space if you view it as a com­mu­nity of peo­ple rather than sim­ply a ser­vice avail­able to your business.” Barn­aby Lash­brooke, founder of vir­tual as­sis­tant plat­form, Time etc

3 Give your­self room to grow:

re­search, knowl­edge, events, train­ing and fa­cil­i­ties. Com­pany staff, aca­demics and re­search groups are able to in­ter­act on a day-to-day ba­sis, co-de­sign new op­por­tu­ni­ties and have di­rect ac­cess to knowl­edge ex­change staff.”

Each business is al­lo­cated a re­la­tion­ship man­ager, who acts as a link be­tween busi­nesses and aca­demics, fa­cil­i­tat­ing joint re­search projects and ven­tures. Com­pa­nies can also ben­e­fit from stu­dent place­ments, ac­cess to international mar­kets through a col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing scheme, and ac­cess to other cam­pus fa­cil­i­ties such as li­braries and sports cen­tres.

Dr Rush­forth adds: “Ask ques­tions, share ideas, get in­volved, test new em­ploy­ees through stu­dent place­ments, tap into every­thing you can. There’s a lot of sup­port out there.”


Shar­ing of­fice space: Hav­ing other peo­ple to test ideas with can be in­valu­able.

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