March 2016

The first official coworking space in Malta

“We opened our doors just before Christmas and are already starting to consider whether or not we are going to expand”- Oasis Offices, Malta

Andrew McGrath has been working in digital media for the better part of the last decade, and he loves it. Having a flexible schedule is a big part of his job satisfaction, but it doesn’t come without coworking. When one of McGrath’s clients, TAP Digital Media started looking to move to a new office, they both realized that this change could be the perfect opportunity to start a coworking space, and that’s how Oasis Offices was born!

As the coworking community in Malta is a relatively new one, we reached out to McGrath to find out a bit more about the challenges that faced by a relatively isolated community of workers, and also the perks of bringing coworking to Malta.

Hi, Andrew. Would you say that you are the first official coworking space in Malta?

There are only one or two other options on the island, but they’re better suited for small enterprises, which are looking for turn-key office space. At Oasis Offices, we really are geared to the individual digital nomad who’s looking for a desk and cool environment to work from. In that sense, I think it would be fair to say that we’re the first coworking space in Malta, truly designed for the individual.

We officially opened our doors just before the Christmas holidays, and only a few months later we’re already started to consider whether of not we are going to expand due to the volume of interest. Amazingly this has happened with basically no marketing or community outreach at all, so we’ve been very fortunate.

When not familiar with coworking, people can often be apprehensive, what were some of the challenges you faced?

Whenever I meet people who haven’t heard of the coworking concept I’m reminded of how insulated we can be from the “real world”. While there’s a huge amount of hype around “entrepreneurship” in pop culture these days, it’s important to remember that the actual concept of “working for yourself” is abstract to most people. Throw in the word “coworking” and you’re bound to be met with blank stares. Yet, by definition, those aren’t the people who are looking for a desk at Oasis Offices, so I’m not too worried.

Why are coworking spaces so important in non-urban centers?

The web has created a tremendous amount of opportunity for anyone with even the most basic levels of interest and ambition to ditch the standard 9 to 5 in favor of working for themselves. Those same people will find themselves missing the social benefits of a “workplace”, whether they’re in a big city, or on a tiny little island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s no surprise those same people are often behind projects like Oasis Offices.

How do you personalize your space to your own unique community?

We started with the basic concept of “home meets office”. My idea of home is a welcoming kitchen, and a cozy, naturally lit living space, full of original artwork, lush plants, and people just getting along together and chatting. So that’s what we ultimately aimed for.

One of our main collaborative workspaces at Oasis features the kind of table and chairs you’d expect to see a family eating dinner around in their home. It looks great, and when you’re working there, it really doesn’t feel like you’re “at work” or “in the office”. Personally, it’s my favorite spot.

Do you cater to digital nomads? If so, how? 

Totally! We believe in openness, collaboration and functionality and those core values are actually reflected in our office’s design.The layout of the office is open and unconstrained and features 10 meters of floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing us to look out at and be looked at by the people going about their day on the street.

The layout of the office is open and unconstrained and features 10 meters of floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing us to look out at and be looked at by the people going about their day on the street. Carlos-Almansa-Nexudus

Our all-glass meeting rooms, which, importantly, are also totally soundproof are another great example of the open vibe that we foster here. Overall, it’s just really nice, working here, and I’m saying that because I mean it. This is by far the most pleasant place I’ve ever worked from!

Does your coworking space go outside of the office in regards to collaborating with non-members?

Not really, as of yet, but that’s not to say it’s not on our radar! We’re currently focusing our energies on optimizing the business side of things before getting into the more recreational side of it all. But we absolutely look forward to hosting the community of digital nomads in our cozy digs in the very near future.

Since opening your space have you seen any tangible changes taking place? For example, are more people working together, new projects cropping up, etc?

Absolutely. I can report that we’re seeing very happy and productive people, here! It’s still early days, but we fully expect that as our family continues to grow, so too will the opportunities for collaboration.

What are some of your expectations for the future of professionals and creatives in Malta in regards to coworking? 

Our feeling is that Malta is on a huge upswing, the real effects of which are only just starting to be felt. While the rest of Europe is limping along with the weight of an economic crisis around its ankle, Malta is steaming forward like a freight train, and not simply because it’s a “tax efficient” destination (those advantages benefit foreign-owned corporations which set up shop here, not the people employed by them).

Also, the wave of foreigners relocating here brings a whole new talent pool brimming with experience and innovation. These individuals are contributing to the rapid modernization of the cultural and social landscape here. The appearance of innovative small businesses like Oasis Offices and countless others over the last few years is evidence of this and has created a positive feedback loop which ensures the trend will only amplify over time. Malta has a very bright future indeed and we hope you’ll be joining us for the ride!

Source: Coworking Europe

Nobody is born knowing how to use Twitter or Excel! Embracing flexible working environments isn’t an impossible challenge – Nick Colman, Towergate Insurance

Established in 1997, Towergate Insurance has set itself apart from other agencies by providing specialist insurance products to sections of the market that require out-of-the-ordinary cover, such as skydiving insurance.

Towergate caught our attention when they published an infographic titled: An Infographic guide to coworking for Businesses. As we explore the future of the workplace, coworking is a major part of the evolution of the workplace, and we wanted to now a bit more about how traditional business sectors, like insurance, experience coworking. We caught up with Nick Colman and Kira O’Sullivan from Towergate to find out more about their experience with coworking and the changes in the workplace that are affecting some of the most traditional businesses today.

Towergate employs experts in various fields of insurance. What are some of the major changes you have seen taking place in contemporary company culture?

Our offerings change to reflect and to also address the constantly evolving business insurance requirements.

One area of change has been with regards to more and more mobile businesses, which usually have employees who work flexibly between different offices, and also those who use coworking spaces. These people all require coverage that meets their needs while move, for which we’ve created specific insurance coverage.

Do Towergate employees work in a coworking space?

Being a large company of over 4,000 employees, we don’t work in coworking spaces. However, we have increased the number of hot desks throughout our offices, as more and more employees work in between offices and often interact with different teams. We have break-out areas in our offices that also allow teams to get together and bounce ideas off one another in a space more conducive to creativity.

The majority of our working days are spent at the office, however we also do try to make the most out of our local area. For example, we might go to a local coffee shop for a quick meeting. We also organize team days at dedicated spaces such as ETC venues and attend seminars and talks, which are often held in coworking spaces.

Your infographic, “A guide to coworking for businesses” touches on a topic that is at the forefront of discussions regarding contemporary workspace culture. In your opinion, will coworking, or flexible workspaces, be an integral part of the future of big business and corporations?

We see both the economical and creative value in coworking and flexible workspaces. Workspace is certainly at a premium in urban areas, and as we’ve seen at Towergate, which is also likely the case with many national and international companies, employees often work with those based in different locations and often need to be more mobile.

Towergate Insurance Infographic

Towergate Insurance Infographic

As a result, these employees don’t need a desk in one fixed location. Coworking and flexible workspaces also enable employees to meet individuals that they may not work with directly, which should encourage innovation and a more cohesive company culture.

Have these workplace transformations changed the insurance sector?

Being a relatively “old school” scene, the insurance industry hasn’t yet been fully impacted by the workplace transformation. However, as mentioned earlier, we do see a change in the way employees interact more frequently with those based in different locations. Flexibility fosters creative thinking, cross-team collaboration and a more pleasant work environment.

Do you think it’s more difficult for more conservative businesses (like real estate, banking, etc.) sectors to adopt?

Yes. As much truth as there may be some stereotypes, the misconception that flexible workspaces are only suited to trendy start-up style companies just isn’t the case. However, change takes time and well-established businesses often just need more time, and, particularly in the case of banks and insurance companies, to fully understand the cost benefits of such changes!

According to your infographic, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials by 2025. What does this mean for the future of older workers?

I don’t see any particular reason as to why older workers need to struggle. It all comes down to understanding the tools that you are working with. That can sometimes be a struggle but isn’t necessarily a generational issue.

Nobody is born knowing how to use Twitter or Excel! Those who are open to learning and embracing progress should have no difficulty with change – and this applies to all ‘change’, including the general move towards more flexible working environments.


“This is the most exciting time in history to be a part of the workspace industry”-Jamie Russo, Enerspace

“This is the most exciting time in history to be a part of the workspace industry”-Jamie Russo, Enerspace

2015 was a big year for coworking expert, Jamie Russo. The founder of Enerspace Coworking, was recently appointed the executive director of the Global Workspace association, giving her the chance to bring the coworking movement into the greater community,

Enerspace was founded in 2011, with the first location in Chicago opening that same year and a Palo Alto location in June 2013. Enerspace places emphasis on workplace well-being, and provides various fitness courses right within the workplace.

We caught up with Jamie to talk about work/life development and the influence that shared workspace has had on the real estate market.

Hi, Jamie. You run a coworking space and you were also recently appointed Executive director of the Global Workspace Association. What would you say is the most interesting about experiencing the transitioning workplace? 

In my opinion, this is the most exciting time in history to be a part of the workspace industry. The increase in flexible work policies on the corporate side, freelancers and small business owners embracing the shared economy and the technology to support mobile work, is driving a demand like never before.

As coworking spaces are cropping up left and right, how have these shared spaces influenced the real estate market?

Shared workspace, particularly in the form of executive suites, has been around for decades. What we’re seeing now is the modernization and popularization of this model due to almost unlimited mobility enabled by personal technology, the mainstream adoption of the shared economy. We are also seeing shifting expectations of workspace experience, which is driven by the Millennial generation.

The confluence of mobility and the rise of the shared economy is impacting the real estate market in several ways. Commercial real estate users, such as small business owners, startups, and large corporations, are now realizing that they are not tethered to a home or corporate office and that they want the flexibility to access on-demand workspaces that will fit their shifting geographic needs. The supply side is adjusting at various speeds to this shift. Shared workspace users are enjoying an increase in demand but also an increase in competitive pressure to be current in their design, amenities and focus on community-building.

How has the industry already started to adapt to the shared workspace model, and what needs to be improved?

Jamie Russo Enerspace

Jamie Russo

Commercial real estate still loves a high-credit, long-term lease. But that world is starting to realize that even those tenants want contemporary, flexible space with shared amenities and community space within the building.

Liquidspace just launched a program called altSpace, with locations in San Francisco and Mountain View. These spaces are in partnership with The Swig Company, a progressive corporate real estate company looking for ways to monetize unused building space and experiment with flexible office space.

I think over the next few years, we’ll see an increase in corporate real estate owners looking to convert traditional space into more flexible layouts, provide common, shared spaces as tenant amenities and partnering with shared space experts such as coworking space owners, to operationalize the spaces and optimize the community building within spaces.

How are more corporate entities adapting to workspace change? What are some setbacks for them and how have they changed for the better?

Corporate real estate owners are looking for models that fit their culture, provide flexibility for employees but that also compel them to spend some time at the corporate office. Genentech is a great example of a large company that has brought the principles of flexible, shared workspace into a state of the art corporate building. Their “Building 35” is a case study in the best current thinking in shared space design along with a corporate change management program to support the move. Landlords and REITs are struggling to shape their portfolios to fit the quickly changing demands of tenants for modern, flexible space.

As the GWA includes everything from hotels to coworking spaces how do you manage the relationship between such different types of industries?

There are a wide range of players in this space, including shared workspace owners, hospitality providers, building owners, corporate real estate users, and service providers that sell products and services to these groups. One of our roles is to connect the resources and approaches that one player uses and find if those would fit with another.

For example, the hotel experience for a member of a loyalty program has improved exponentially in the past few years with the addition of mobile check-in, keyless room entry, etc. We can think of this and ask: How does that member-centric, technology-supported mindset translate over to a workspace membership?

In the future, do you think we will be able to differentiate between coworking spaces and traditional offices or will all workspaces take on a similar aesthetic?  

I think we’ll see a hybridization of workspaces. As we’re learning more about optimal design as well as optimal financial models, the current thinking is that variety supports both.


Source: Coworking Europe

“A growing number of firms consume offices as a service”, Mark Eltringham, Workplace Insight

Workplace Insight is one of the most widely read magazines concerning “the built environment”. We spoke with Insight’s publisher, Mark Eltringham, to get an idea of what the future of work looks like from the perspective of one of the biggest magazines covering the movement today.

You have been working as a writer, editor and marketing professional for over twenty years, what are some of the major changes you have witnesses in the workplace from this perspective?

One of the interesting things about the sector is about how much it has changed and yet also how little. Many of the debates that rage now about things like flexible working, wellbeing, inclusive design, collaborative work and making the business case for office design have been with us for decades. At the same time, we have seen the office’s role shift dramatically, not least in becoming just one of the spaces in which work gets done The workplace now is both physical and technological.

In terms of the physical design of spaces, the most important change has been the growing irrelevance of the desk. Just as people now work increasingly at home, in cafes and wherever, so offices now look more and more like those spaces. People still work at desks, but not as much as they did and they certainly don’t work on vast workstations with tons of paper and huge desktop computers. That is why it’s interesting to see sit-stand desks gain such relevance.      

As a publisher, why is it so important for us to have written commentary and regular discussion about the workplace?

The important thing is to be part of a community. Traditional journals still have a role to play but they’re different beasts to what happens online. That is where the dialogue happens and it is where you discover the dynamics of a sector. One thing that I think goes underappreciated is just how influential this world is, because when we carry out our analyses of where people go to for information, we always discover that there are key individuals who command a bigger audience than the traditional trade media. It is these communities that shape the world.

Workplace Insight has published numerous case studies outlining developments from space design to the role that real estate plays in the future of work. Based on these studies, and your own experience, how has the role of the real estate industry transformed in relation to the contemporary workplace?

Mark Eltringham

Mark Eltringham

Up until recently, I don’t think it has. It has always had difficulty adjusting its business model to a rapidly changing world. In my view, the dead giveaway is its continuing adherence to the idea of space standards which are a relic of the days of one person and one desk. They are still useful, but increasingly irrelevant as offices become more about the utilisation of space and less about occupation.

I know the issue of lease lengths continues to be a challenge but I think it is the idea of space standards that suggests they are at odds with the realities of what firms – especially startups and TMT firms – want from offices.

I know the issue of lease lengths continues to be a challenge, but I think it is the idea of space standards that suggests they are still at odds with the realities of what firms, especially startups and TMT firms, want from offices.

This is the gap now filled by firms like WeWork who understand that a growing number of firms consume offices as a service.      

From the perspective of Workplace Insight, what are some of the needs of today’s workers? Are people becoming more satisfied with the way that they work, or are there still changes that need to be made? If so, what are they?

If anything, people appear to be less satisfied. You can speculate as to why that might be, but my guess would be the incursion of work into their once free time and the fact they often do this willingly and sometimes don’t acknowledge it. There is also a growing uncertainty about jobs and pay, alongside mundane working environments, an inability to escape the noise and intrusions of their coworkers, lack of opportunities, lack of flexible working in addition to the physical and psychological impact of modern working life.

We have come a long way from the days of workers holed up in their cubicles, and more and more offices are choosing the open space plan. What do you think was the catalyst for this change? Do you think the coworking movement has played a major role in how office space is designed today? If so, why is that?

Open plan is popular because it makes good business sense. I know firms like to sell it on the basis of collaborative work which is probably true in many cases, but their main drivers are clearly that it is cheap and easy.

I think coworking’s day is yet to come in terms of its influence on mainstream office design, although that will change very soon.

In addition to coworking becoming increasingly popular, many major corporations are adopting the coworking model as well. Do you consider these changes in the corporate workplace as effective, or do you think that larger enterprises still have a long way to go when it comes to changing company culture for the better?

I think I would have to challenge what is meant by “better”. I don’t think there is a continuum of evolution towards an idealised working environment and culture. What is exciting is the fact that firms have the choice of more forms of working and workplaces, even though many still may not acknowledge the fact and may not know how to match that up to their culture and ambitions.

Workplace Insight often covers design and the role it plays in workplace wellbeing. Can you tell us a bit about some of the trends you are currently seeing in workplace architecture? How does design encourage wellness in the workplace? And on the same note, in what ways does design improve productivity?

Design doesn’t improve productivity on its own. People can be happy and productive in badly designed offices and unhappy and ineffective in well-designed offices. The important thing is to create a working culture that meets peoples’ needs and then design a workspace that expresses that culture and fosters productivity and happiness.

I would make a similar point about wellness. Designed solutions are often important but secondary to managed and cultural solutions. The perfect example is sit-stand desking, which is a great product but only effective when people are encouraged to stand and move in the first place.

Many workplaces now have their own “third spaces” such as cafes, relaxation rooms. Do you think that this a positive change? Or do you think it blurs the line between work/life balance?

It’s been around for some time, and it’s undoubtedly positive as it allows people to shift their focus, work in a different way and even take time out. Whether this affects their work/life balance I have less of an idea. I think that it is something that we have to choose.

We are hearing rumors that the workplace of the future will be “office-less”. Do you think that we will one day be without a physical workplace? If so, do you think that this would benefit workers, or is having a meeting point essential to creating company culture and productive employees.

I’ve been hearing about the death of the office for as long as I’ve worked in the sector and it’s as much nonsense now as it was twenty years ago. The proof is in the lack of Grade A office space in major cities and also in the decision by companies like Google, Apple and Facebook to invest in huge new office complexes.

The reasons are both practical and linked to human nature. A lot of research has been done into what makes people happy, productive and collaborative, and a lot of it is linked to being around other people and feeling part of something. That is not to say that the role and emphasis of the physical workplace haven’t changed, but offices will be with us in one form or other while we remain human.