Tag: London

London: The coworking market sees signs of a price war looming

Hector Kolonas is the founder of Included.co, an online platform organising group purchases for a network of over 200 coworking communities in the world. The service helps the spaces to buy supplies and services at a discounted price, thanks to the generated volumes.

As a London-based startup, which initially started to work with the London coworking ecosystem, Hector is ideally positioned to depict the evolution of the coworking market in one of the most innovative and dynamic cities of Europe and the world. The competition is becoming fierce, as somehow confirmed the discussions which took place at the recent eOffice London Coworking Conference.

Hi Hector. The coworking offering strongly increased, during the last three years London. What are the main drivers of the growth, according to you?

Hector Kolonas, Included.co

Indeed, we enrich over 50 business communities across London, up from just 2 when we launched in the city. This is at a similar pace to the number of new spaces opening up. This growth includes serviced offices adapting space into open-plan, flexible workspaces; new coworking brands; expansion of existing coworking brands; and new takes on what coworking could look like for different niches.

There are two main drivers behind the rapid growth of coworking communities in the city, namely economic and social.

First up, rent in London is crazy expensive, as can be expected for any thriving capital city. So the notion of ‘sharing’ office expenses like rent, electricity, coffee and workspace management is a no-brainer. The increasingly flexible terms (mostly month-to-month) allow for businesses to invest in growth and their staff, instead of into sunk costs normally associated with office rentals. But that’s the same everywhere, and a reason why coworking has exploded across the globe.
What’s most interesting in London though, is how rapidly the workspaces that ‘get community right’ are growing. With the growth in popularity of entrepreneurship in the UK (and Europe) a lot of passionate and brilliant people have converged in London.

What’s most interesting in London though, is how rapidly the workspaces that ‘get community right’ are growing.

At the beginning, everyone went at it alone, hiding the lessons they’d learned as competitive advantages for their businesses. Community-focussed coworking spaces broke down these barriers and showed members that they could grow faster by sharing knowledge, experiences and contacts.
With this combination, it’s no surprise that London has begun exporting some of their coworking brands across the UK, and into Europe. It won’t be long until a few start launching in the US too.

With this combination, it’s no surprise that London has begun exporting some of their coworking brands across the UK, and into Europe

Are major brands supporting the development of the coworking market or is it fueled by the multiplication of more and more independent project?

The Sillicon Roundabout, in London, around which gravitates a number of startups focused coworking.

The two seem to be resonating in London, creating opportunities for each other.
The big brands (both in the coworking sector and from other enterprise-focussed businesses) are creating huge spaces that create a buzz in the media and promote the fundamentals of sharing workspaces on more flexible terms than traditional rentals.
The independents are either becoming large brands in their own rights or carving out perfectly built oases for specific business niches. Whilst we’ve definitely seen a few independent spaces having to shut their doors, a vast majority are working on the expansion, with 2nd, 3rd or even 4th locations opening in the coming 12 months.
Businesses are increasingly switching between the two, based on the kind of employees they want to attract; customers they serve, and the additional costs they can shrink.

How about the profile of the new tenants: mainly freelancers, startups, SME’s or corporations?

As London is a melting pot of epic proportions, there’s a space (or subset of spaces) for almost every profile. From large polished spaces for consultants, professional services and the likes; to workspaces built around reclaimed furniture in warehouses.
Some spaces limit membership to specific niches or business types, others are happy to accept any member that doesn’t create negativity in the workplace.
There is definitely a growing shift of corporations moving autonomous teams into these coworking communities, but there’s still a lot to be learned about how to integrate these teams with the other non-corporate members, in a way that isn’t detrimental to the corporation.
Wherever there are startups, there are passionate and creative people, and thus a growing number of freelancers can be found in and around the most buzzing coworking communities in the city.

Is the demand growing fast enough to absorb the growth of the coworking offering in London?

Work.Life is among the coworking brands expanding fast in London.

The growth in the flexible workspace is astronomical. We’ve literally lost count of the number of shared workspaces available or being used in London, with new coworking spaces opening almost every day or two.
We’ve been exploring when market saturation will occur and helping the operators of our partner workspaces to prepare for the coming dip in demand.
At the current rate (and according to our back-of-a-napkin calculations) there should be enough demand to sustain the current workspace growth for the next 20ish months. From their workspaces who only offer wifi and desk space will start haemorrhaging members to the community-lead spaces who’ve attained enough economies of scale and additional revenue streams to push down their membership fees.

From there workspaces who only offer wifi and desk space will start hemorrhaging members to the community-lead spaces who’ve attained enough economies of scale and additional revenue streams to push down their membership fees.

With some of the traditional commercial real estate players also exploring the coworking sector, the fight for not only tenants but brand loyalty will move from location and price to tangible value and stability.

Speaking of pushing down membership feels, some players noticed the beginning of a price war in the coworking market. Do you see this? 

Even though I’m confident that the ‘war for tenants’ will be fought on the value and community front, there is definitely signs of a price war looming in the London ecosystem.
Operating costs for coworking communities are growing due to business rate increases; the gentrification of specific burrows; and the ‘sexiness’ of coworking sneaking into rent-renewal negotiations with landlords.
This opportunity has been seized by some of the bigger players to drop prices, offering what are essentially loss-leader memberships to attract tenants and potentially starve off competing spaces. We’ve had reports of members within some space being directly targeted with unsolicited marketing about workspaces “at half of what they’re currently paying”.

We’ve had reports of members within some space being directly targeted with unsolicited marketing about workspaces “at half of what they’re currently paying”.

With more and more sales teams being hired to fuel expansion, being able to absorb losses to acquire potential long-term customers is becoming a weapon of choice.
But the line between sales and community is also being crossed more and more. With some members even reporting having received messages congratulating them on personal milestones (possibly mined from private social media channels) before offering them a free tour or discounted membership as a gift.
I should obviously note that this isn’t the whole industry though, as many coworking space managers are actually and actively collaborating behind the scenes to help each other out.

With London’s center being so dense and expensive, do you see an expansion of the coworking offering in the suburb? Are those spaces different (size, positioning…) from those located downtown?

Second Home has opened a location in Lisbon

There are actually two interesting trends here.
Firstly, great community-focussed spaces from outside Zone 1 and 2 are opening new workspaces towards the centre or on other sides of the city. By leveraging their knowledge, brand equity and operational experience they can offer more affordable or valuable workspace offerings. These workspaces can either be smaller satellite-style offices or grander whole/half buildings with new features designed specifically based on the requests/needs of their existing members.
Secondly, larger brands are diversifying their market exposure, potentially hedging against the coming market saturation and price wars. This means they’re opening locations in cities like Dublin, Manchester, Lisbon, Barcelona and others. In smaller cities, the new workspaces are normally larger due to lower rentals and operating costs. A number of local coworking brands have also raised VC funding to fuel this growth.
Whilst no brand wants to ever be seen to be ‘fleeing’ the centre, some communities are moving further outwards to keep their businesses feasible. With superb community coordinators, and when well explained, this can happen without any long-term detriment to the brand, and can sometimes even strengthen members’ relationships to the community.

You mentioned it above. Coworking spaces diversify their revenue sources. What can you say about it?

From all the communities we observe, assist and enrich, we’ve picked up on 3 different avenues for revenue diversification. These are excluding the renting out of registered addresses and meeting rooms, which can be expected in any thriving metropolitan ecosystem.
The first is sponsorship, which is arguably the most attractive, because who wouldn’t want to have ‘free money’ thrown at them? Professional service and technology brands are happy to write cheques to community coordinators, to lock in the exclusive promotion of their offering. What we’ve found is that around 75% of the time, these offerings are not what the member businesses need or even want, but the community manager’s hands are tied by the agreements with sponsoring firms.
The second is the merger of partnerships and affiliate revenue. Normally delegated to community managers, this creates a bottleneck for the operating team. Not only do they have to deal with a huge amount of non-stop inbound partnership requests, but they also need to somehow figure out if:
a) the service/product supplier is legitimate,
b) the offer will create value for their members,
c) the workspace will make enough revenue to recoup this invested time.
The third is actually where we work every single day. We handle inbound partnership requests, negotiate on behalf of 200 communities, and ensure that the workspaces get a fair apportion of generated revenue on a long-term basis. As we don’t offer any exclusivity, members will never be tied to a single provider, allowing them to discover solutions that their coworkers are using, and saving money with.
This means that the members of each space in our network get access to a growing set of solutions, and the community coordinators can focus on implementing creative ways to connect their members to the solutions. Some of our partner communities are saving their members £1,000’s in unavoidable expenses each month, driving up their own long-term revenue and building great brand loyalty at the same time.
With the price war looming, and the costs of operating increasing, it’s no wonder why so many coworking communities are becoming included too.

Coworking spaces in the EU getting ready to welcome UK leaving companies #brexit

Last week at the Social Workplace Amsterdam 2017 Conference, Eduard Schaepman, CEO of Tribes, told the audience that 26 companies from the UK already reached out to them to prepare the partial transfer of their team and activity to the Dutch city.

Eduard Schaepman, Tribes

“London established companies are using the passport multi-location flexible office brands offer to commute between cities and prepare themselves up for when the Brexit will be completed”, said the representative of another major network, based in The Netherlands.

For sure, coworking spaces in Europe are preparing themselves for a flow of requests coming from companies currently based in London, Birmingham or Liverpool.

One can more speak of a round of observation than a real rush, though. So far.

Dublin: most of UK company enquiries come from FinTech’s

Mike Hannigan, Coworkinn

Mike Hannigan from Coworkinn, in Dublin, the city where the upcoming Coworking Europe 2017 is to take place, made a small poll, last week within the Irish coworking scene.

Here is main feedback he received from his fellow spaces regarding the expected impact of the Brexit on their operations:

  • There have been a lot of enquiries, but few major moves yet.
  • A number of virtual offices are being opened, helping boost presence and quantify benefits of potential move
  • The majority of enquiries from financial and Fintech companies
  • An increasing number of Digital Marketing and Web development agencies are “talking” about moving to Ireland by 2019
  • Definitely more enquiries than actual moves. This might change now the Brexit process has started – but we need to wait and see.
  • A large volume of enquiries are from Northern Ireland.
  • Some existing Irish companies have reported securing new contracts as a result of Brexit, presumably beating competition from UK based competition.
  • Very small coworking spaces have seen no effect at all
  • On the Northern side of the border (i.e. in U.K. territory) they have seen an influx of Irish companies setting up virtual offices in the UK. This balances out the apparent rush to set up virtual offices in the South. The UK will remain an important market for S.Ireland.
  • Spaces on the border see opportunities in that their N.Ireland (non-eu) clients will be very close geographically to S.Ireland (eu).

A big move out to be expected in 2019?

The story seems similar elsewhere in Europe. More enquiries than real moves, yet.

That said, we all are getting ready, say representatives of some coworking spaces in France, for instance. 

“As far as we are, we certainly expect an increase in the demand of companies moving from the UK to France due to the Brexit, especially once we will have opened our new location at La Defense”, tells a spokesman at Kwerk, a coworking spaces network operating in France. La Defense is the country’s biggest business district.

The attitude remains as pragmatical in Berlin. The city is often told to be the main competitor of London in Europe as far as the startup ecosystem is concerned.

“So far, we didn’t receive more enquiries that what we deal with on a usual base”, tells Stéphanie Bison, from Ahoy! Berlin, a major coworking space based in the capital of Germany. “That said, everybody speaks about it, here”.

The big move could definitely happen closer to March 2019, once the Brexit will have formally taken place…

COWORKING EUROPE 2017 (Dublin, November 8-9-10) : REGISTRATION IS OPEN

“Barely a day goes by where I am not visiting a coworking space”-Joe Griston

After many years of working around the world, Joe Griston joined freelancer.com as the Director of People & Talent. For the last 3 and a half years, Joe has been responsible for all HR and Recruitment operations globally at one of the biggest job finding portals for freelancers. In this time, Freelancer.com has grown to have 500 staff in 7 offices across the globe.

After moving back to his hometown of London earlier this year, Joe is now focusing on the growing user numbers and operations in Europe. We spoke with Joe about how freelancer.com is changing the way freelancers find work, but also about how these digital platforms will greatly contribute to overall innovation and growth in Europe’s professional landscape.

Hi, Joe. Many freelancers today use online platforms to find work. Since there are so many out there, how does Feelancer.com provide results and also protection for independent workers?

Our freelancer profile pages act as an effective CV, but one that provides thorough and detailed metrics to promote the freelancer’s skills, abilities and past successes to potential employers. Traditionally, a freelancer’s CV will say they are ‘hard working’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘good at solving problems’, but these words actually prove nothing. But, our metrics do. It is up to the freelancer to make sure these metrics are as strong as possible, which in turn allows for greater results in being hired.

We also have similar metrics for employers, ensuring security in every way possible. Our desktop app tracks hours worked and we also recommend using our Milestone Payment System, which gives payments to freelancers throughout their work rather than just upon completion of the project.

You are based in London. Why do you think that the freelance community in London is not only growing but also thriving when compared to less successful communities around Europe?

The gig economy is upon us and England and London are very expensive places to live. However, average salaries in these areas have not increased in the same way rent and living costs have. Therefore, we have a number of freelancers also in full-time employment who earn money to supplement their existing income. We also have a number of freelancers who started this way and quickly realised that they can earn more money than provided by their regular traditional employment. They also saw that earning money in this way and being your own boss was a far better lifestyle for them when compared to the 9-5 grind.

This is one of many reasons why London and the UK and growing in numbers, however, I do not think there are any unsuccessful freelancer communities in Europe. This is a solution for everyone and growing in all regions. We facilitate the connection to employers from all over the planet, this greater choice of work benefits everyone.

Do you believe freelancers need a community, like a coworking space, to help them grow? 

It depends on the freelancer. We have many who are working remotely, with the likes of companies like Udacity, etc. Thus the wealth of the world’s knowledge is now online, allowing anyone to learn and up-skill themselves. Their social situation or cultural background may prohibit any other form of work. However, teams of freelancers can be very happy physically working together and that is why coworking spaces are now all over every major city around the world.

Joe Griston- freelancers

Joe Griston

Also, many communities in London support themselves, not only in working together but in how to grow a successful business and then become employers of freelancers themselves. Barely a day goes by where I am not visiting a coworking space and the communities here are very supportive to one another. The choice of how to work has never been greater. Studies vary, most claim 50% of all workers should be completing some form of freelance work by 2020.

What does this mean for the future of work?

It means that platforms like freelancer.com are the future of work. How do you get a job by sending in a text CV that sits in a pile of 300 other CV’s on someone’s desk? Trying to get a job in a big corporation in a big city is far harder than trying to get a job on freelancer.com. Technology allows us to work together in a far greater capacity than ever before.

Do you believe that an increase in freelance workers overall is better for innovation and professional progress? If so, why?

Yes. Imagine that you are a small business and you would like a logo designed. Do you employ a full-time graphic designer permanently that you can’t really afford? Do you allow yourself to be pitched by a design agency for enormous amounts of money? No, it would be better for you to  post a contest on freelancer.com and have greater choice and knowledge about with who and how you want to collaborate. Working together with freelancers in this way allows business to grow and makes room for greater flexibility on how to spend your revenue.

Also, we have seen a number of businesses now totally operate on freelancer.com. The product is designed, the website created, the SEO and sales all arranged and completed online. The only limit to work in this way is your imagination. You mentioned professional progress, and this is an example of how to help both the employer and freelancer to work in a far greater capacity. To illustrate the scale of working successfully, we, for example, partner with NASA, who use us to aid in space exploration. So, freelance platforms are not just for low-paying small job. High quality and well-paying work is everywhere. This is the absolute future of work.

“People come to colive for various reasons, but they stay for the community”-Stephanie Cornell, Old Oak Collective

In 2010, Reza Merchant was in his last year of university, having a hard time finding an affordable place to live that wasn’t in shambles. Over the years, Merchant and his team started to see more and more issues within the housing market and a lack of supply for a growing demand.

We caught up with Stephanie from the Old Oak Collective, the latest member to join London’s coliving movement, to learn more about what direction coliving is moving and what this concept will bring to professionals living in urban areas.

Hi Stephanie, Can you please tell us about the Old Oak development process and what we can expect from this coliving concept?

We started to purchase derelict buildings and refurbishing them, which is when The Collective brand was created. We identified a gap in the market for high-quality housing for young professionals, who crave a hassle-free way of living, hence our all-inclusive service offering. For example, a single monthly bill covers rent, council tax, all utility bills, room clean, linen change, 24/7 security, and wi-fi. This convenience element is designed to give time-poor professionals more free time to pursue their passions/hobbies or simply to enjoy some more free time.

During this time we gathered feedback from members and conducted surveys which reinforced what we believed; namely that increasingly our generation are more willing to invest in experiences over material possessions, and to share these experiences with a close community of like-minded individuals.

How did the design play a role in the process?

Refurbishing existing buildings had prevented us from providing the communal space needed to facilitate these shared experiences and interactions, which became a priority when looking for space to build our first purpose built co-living building.

When we bought the site in Old Oak we were excited by the opportunity to deliver a wealth of communal space and amenities, as it is 12,000 sq ft in total!

Can coliving provide a real solution to rising real estate prices in London?

It’s an answer to both the increasing rental prices, which are alienating the workers who are the lifeblood of London’s economy. Coliving is also a solution that could cater to the changing lifestyle trends of our generation, who’s ambitions and expectations are very different to that of previous generations, and to whom the current rental market simply doesn’t cater to.

 How does the Collective Old Oak specifically help to meet contemporary needs?

At The Collective Old Oak we are offering all-inclusive bill and access to various amenities, including a gym, spa, and rooftop terrace. And of course, you are also gaining access to a ready- made community of people in similar stages of their life journey to you, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.You are not just renting a bed or a room; you’re buying into a lifestyle.

What has been the initial response to coliving in your experience?

It’s been so exciting to see them bring the space to life and take ownership of creating the sense of community, alongside our Community Managers.

Community library at Old Oak

Community library at Old Oak

Where there has been the occasional negative comment, it’s inevitably come from people who haven’t visited Old Oak and who don’t understand the concept of co-living.

From your experience, what are people looking for when they decide to colive? 

From what we’ve seen over the past couple of months is that people move in for various different reasons, whether it’s a bad experience renting in a shared apartment, or for the ease of the viewing and booking process for someone coming from abroad. Yet, once people have moved in, the reason they fall in love and ultimately stay, is because of the community.

Do you also offer workspaces such as a coworking area, etc.?

Yes. On the ground floor we have a large hot-desking area, designed to feel like a lounge area, where people can take their laptops, sit in one of the armchairs and work remotely. During the day it will also serve as a coffee shop type environment, transforming into a bar in the evening for more informal meetings or social gatherings.

There is also a separate coworking space on the first floor, which is targeted at local creative and ambitious businesses and entrepreneurs. Again, the same emphasis is placed on community, convenience, and quality, making the space an attractive place to work from a cost perspective, as well as lifestyle.

Have you found that people who chose to stay at Old Oak achieve a sense of work-life balance?

It’s about giving people the choice to work from home if they want to, as the younger generation are moving away from the tradition 9-5 jobs and are able to work from anywhere with a fast internet connection. While a lot of our members will want to go into their offices to get a degree of physical separation between their personal and professional lives, many will enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home. It is also important to create a variety of inspiring spaces that make room for creativity and productivity, so that when they do choose to work from home, they have enough options so that it doesn’t feel like they are just working from bed.

As we are exploring models of work in the new economy, we would like to hear the opinion/experiences of people who are actively engaging in these models. Would you say that coliving is an obvious transition from more traditional coworking?

I think there are definitely many parallels that can be drawn between the two – as I mentioned earlier the same emphasis on community, convenience and quality is placed on both, to cater to co-livers and coworkers demands. Both have the same start-up, social mentality at their core.

In terms of coliving and coworking do you think the marriage of these two concepts could risk blurring the lines between work/life balance? 

I think that more and more, our generation are pursuing their passions, following their dreams. So actually working long hours and always being “on” isn’t necessarily a chore, but a source of enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Of course, it can be a risk though and it’s incredibly important to strike a healthy balance, which is why our programme of events encourages people to get away from their desks and join a yoga lesson, inspiring talk, film night, book club or the regular free rooftop BBQ and drinks.

How could a coliving space help enable people to really embrace the sharing/new economy, through events, workshops, etc.

We actually have a very active Facebook page for our Old Oak community, which members use for everything from reporting a maintenance issue to sharing events with each other. A common theme that we’ve seen emerging is people using it to share the cost of, for example, buying their groceries. We have one member, Tracy, who regularly cooks amazing meals in large batches, which she then offers to others as dinner portions, at a very low price. It’s a win win for everyone!

Social Workplace Conference – Distilling communities of talents (London 2016)

The second year of The Social Workplace Conference in London opened with high spirits, leading a day of engaging talks, inspiration and of course, that wonderful feeling of community.

Pier Mucelli from eOffice kicked off the day discussing the origins of coworking and the pioneers that lead the way in distinct classifications such as public spaces and members clubs. The first coworking spaces in the world were launched in the early 2000’s. The format has since grown and now includes branded incumbents WeWork, our special hosts for the event.

SWCL16 Small 2

Whilst the likes of WeWork, Google Campus and Regus, to name but a few, are globally recognised brands in the sector, they collectively share only 15% of total market share, meaning that 85% of the market share is absorbed by independent providers. Giving a lot of opportunity for these independent providers to shape the culture and purpose of their co-working outfits.

“Distilling a community of talent”

But why are coworking spaces becoming so popular? Hillary Deppeler, Brand Marketing and Partnerships Director for WeWork EMEA, explained that the demographic shift of the way people work and want to engage means that the workplace must become vibrant places that provide connectivity, allowing members to focus on their work by taking care of the common facilities. Members are increasingly connecting through the WeWork app where they can post jobs, seek skills and meet new people in multiple directions, whilst leveraging the USP of their global community that has evolved organically. 146603524138223

Talking about community, the audience was awed with Sarah Turnbull from Bootstrap London who is creating a community by doing good. She illustrated the the story of doing good through selecting occupants with social and community based impact. Infectious inspiration that reminded us of how so many lives can be impacted by the communities we wish to build and the talents that can be nurtured within these communities.

“Building a community by doing good”

Is coworking a popular mode only for freelancers and millennials?!

SWCL2016 Small 4

According to JLL’s research on a new era of coworking, this is not the case. As corporations vie to retain talent and facilitate innovation, the real estate firm has seen increasing demand from corporates to utilise this work mode for its personnel. This can be achieved through various models, explained Karen Williamson and Maciej Markowski, from JLL : internal collaboration, coworking memberships and internal / external coworking spaces, with various benefits and downsides to each. Rob Fitzpatrick, Confluence Partnerships, highlighted the design of the workplace and its impact on the psyche, adding to the need for corporates and organisations to design environments that are conducive to the productivity, social connectivity and mental health of its workforce.

Highlighting the evolution of the workplace and architectural design of workspaces throughout time, Oliver Marlow from Studio Tilt succinctly argued that space, creativity, community and innovation are symbiotic by-products impacted by the physical environment. Creativity and collaboration as social capital can be fostered in environments where emotional intelligence and flow form a part of the design and community building process. Mischa Schlemmer emphasized the need to be authentic in order to build a community, but to also engage and serve the community in order to attract and retain members or for corporates, their personnel.


As if that wasn’t stimulating enough, the afternoon workshops were engines for thought and discussion. Followed by a heated debate on the closing panel, where our American counterparts, Frank Cottle from Alliance Virtual Offices and Liz Elam from GCUC finally agreed that community is a feature of a coworking space, and needs constant development, maintenance and aligning values. Community was a much talked about topic for the day, highlighting the humanistic need to belong and relate to others. This human characteristic has not changed in millennia. As we enter a new age of industrial revolution, the future looks like a great forecast for community not only in our personal lives, but also in the workplace.

Written by Letitia Seglah on June 15 2016

Pictures by Deskmag

Find the different presentations here below or here.

“Our tenants have the unique opportunity to establish their own retail space in our space, from which they can showcase their products”- Vanessa Butz, Interchange, London

We caught up with Vanessa Butz, Managing Director at Interchange, a new full-service coworking and events space based in the heart of Camden, London, which provides companies and entrepreneurs with the ideal framework for creativity and growth. Before working with Interchange, Vanessa helped build up the community at Factory, one of Berlin’s largest tech spaces to date.

London is a major business center and also home to numerous large corporations. Would you say that your space is marketed to this crowd? If so, why?

Interchange is mainly aimed at creative, fast-growth companies, who are looking for an inspiring working environment that will support them from startup through to scale-up. However, we have also had interest from companies of all sizes, including major corporations, a number of which have moved specific innovation teams into our space.

Would Interchange be defined as a facility, service, or a hospitality provider? If so, why is that?

It’s is a mix of all three really. Interchange is a coworking office, as well as an events and networking space. We also provide our tenants and visitors with a range of other facilities, as well as access to advice and support.

Furthermore, the main Interchange sites are located at the heart of Camden, which has over 28 million visitors a year, and is London’s third largest business district, after the City and Westminster. The location helps our tenants to stay connected via the central location and great transport links.

What types of members do you have so far, and are any of them new to the open workspace model? If so, how are they adapting to the concept?

We have a wide range of members, spanning industries such as design and marketing, healthcare and fintech, including accelerators and VC companies. Some are new to the open workspace model and some have moved from other coworking spaces, but all are adapting well. Ultimately it’s about finding the right fit.

Some of our current members include a healthcare startup, Doctify, who help to connect patients to healthcare professionals. We are also home to Osper, a mobile banking platform for young people, and IncuBus, which is a pre-accelerator for startups.

Has it been challenging to attract people to the space? And what do you think needs to happen in order to educate potential members about the benefits of Social Workplaces?

We generally feel that in London especially, that there is high demand for shared workspaces that meet the needs and expectations of potential tenants. Most companies and individuals, particularly startups, have a good understanding of why it’s beneficial to work in shared spaces, including the access to support, networking opportunities and inspiring atmosphere they can provide.

When you were developing Interchange, was design a major consideration? What types of design influenced the process? For example, did you focus on different types of third spaces such as a restaurant of a café? 

Vanessa Lee Butz , Managing Director at Interchange

Vanessa Lee Butz , Managing Director at Interchange

One of our buildings, ‘Atrium’, is still under construction, but once complete, Interchange will offer over 84,000 square foot of coworking space. We will also have a number of exciting facilities available on-site, including a restaurant, cafe, bar, and gym.

The Camden buildings have been designed by DRS under the creative direction of Tom Dixon, an acclaimed British designer whose past work includes Shoreditch House and Mondrian Hotel.

In your opinion, why do you think that corporate players are now looking to leave their offices? What are they missing in the more traditional environments ?

We’ve definitely seen a trend over the last few years of larger, corporate companies becoming interested in what startups are doing and the way in which they work, particularly in relation to innovative business practices and new technologies. Coworking is a big part of this, as it encourages openness, creativity and collaboration. Interchange provides a framework for these elements and is therefore an ideal space, whether for a one-man startup or a satellite team of a larger company.

Do you provide any additional services for your members? Have you curated these programs to certain types of professionals, or are they more open?

As part of the wider Interchange offering, we run regular events, workshops, talks and training sessions from our events space, which anyone can attend. Additionally, our tenants also have the unique opportunity to establish their own retail space in the iconic Camden Markets, from which they can showcase and sell their products.


“Space cannot just look different it needs to also feel different through the way people engage with one another”

Globally renowned expert on the impact of the built environment on business performance, Despina Katsikakis, is a major player in transforming how we understand today’s workplace. Interested in the ways in which physical environments affect both user experience and their impact on business, Despina has worked with developers, funds and their design teams on how to “differentiate and future proof award winning schemes globally”. Recently a speaker at the first Social Workplace Conference in London, we spoke with Despina about the ways in which the contemporary office can create all inclusive work environments and why events like Social Workplace are so important to the future of work.

Hi, Despina. You have a lot of experience helping large enterprises, like Barclays, to reinvent their idea of the workplace. What types of projects are you currently working on?

I worked with Barclays to help them understand the best way to utilize space as a way to change behaviors, support innovation, as well as co-creation. In addition to that project, I am doing a similar project with another bank at the moment.

I am also the design curator for a new 1.5 million ft.2 [139.354,56 m2] tower in the City of London. This is a very exciting project as the objective is to design a vertical village, which will be a real-time social network that will embrace the sociability of how we work today. The aim is to create a different model for what a building can offer, from providing a variety of work areas and amenities, as well as a platform for connection and community with places and events that support collision, collaboration, curiosity, and wellness.

An increasing amount of corporations are attempting to adapt this model, but it’s not as easy as it might seem on paper. Why do you think some corporations fail when they try to implement the social workplace into their company?

I think that there are several reasons for unsuccessful adaptation. Number one, there is always a disconnect in large corporations between workspace and what motivates attracting and retaining talent. More often than not, the space comes from a traditional perspective, and the main objective is always to reduce costs without measuring what impact it might have on people’s engagement and productivity.

The times I have seen a social workplace successfully implemented into a corporate landscape is when the senior leadership recognize the role and value that physical space has in conveying the culture and values of the organization. However, in order to make it happen, it requires bringing together HR, IT and real estate in order to create an integrated people-centric experience.

What needs to happen in order to guide corporations in the right direction in regards to the future of work?

There are several elements. When you are helping people embrace something different, you have to get them to understand what they are currently doing.

80 percent of large corporations will still try to provide efficient office space, which will be adequately designed and laid out, but will still assume that people will come in and work at their desk all day long. The reality is that desk space tends to be utilized on average 40 to 50 percent of the time on a typical day. People today work in a variety of locations, and they are not always sitting at their desk, thus the space remains under utilized and does not support collaboration nor inspire employees. When in these situations, I ask what it is the company is trying to achieve and try to hold up a mirror to reflect back to them the actual messages that their current space communicates.

Despina Katsikakis

Despina Katsikakis

By creating awareness, companies can understand the disconnect and clarify what their message should me. Addressing changes in the physical environment is always aligned with guiding them through a process of creating the right culture and behaviors to support their business. Space cannot just look different it needs to also feel different through the way people actually work, interact and engage with one another.

How has the development of Social Workplaces changed the way that corporations value and find talent? Have there been some setbacks, i.e. difficulty finding appropriate employees?

I think the issue with talent is always independent from the economic cycles. Whether there is a crisis or not, organizations are always looking for talent, but what has shifted in the last few years is that employees want to have choice and flexibility, as well as authentic sociability and a sense of well-being. For that reason many individuals are now choosing not to work for big corporations because they have the flexibility to fulfill a variety of roles. Thus, it has become much more difficult for employers to access talent, so now they need to embrace a dispersed talent network which is not hierarchical but rather more reliant on skills and open sourced innovation.

Like major corporations, has this transformation affected the real estate sector? Are there ways that they can adapt and make space more readily available? What do they need to do to meet the needs of contemporary lease agreements?

Yes, definitely. Much of the current innovation taking place in the workplace comes from outside, like coworking environments, and the real estate industry recognizes that. Corporate occupiers are now looking to increase their real estate flexibility and access talent in different ways. Also, the same organizations will want flexibility through ‘spaceless expansion’, which is interesting because it means that from a real estate point of view, they will need to move away from traditional fixed leases and space in order to embrace flexible and on-demand space.

The workplace transformation is obviously benefitting businesses and employees who are already somewhat established, but what about those who do not have access to these types of resources? Do you think that Social Workplaces could create an equal playing field for various demographics?

I do. This makes me think back to Edu Forte’s presentation at the Social Workplace Conference about shared workspace. The idea that we are working towards creating places where you can bring together various individuals and generations to work side by side and create community creates more room for mobility and is very exciting.

It is always talked about that Millennials want flexibility, but so do Baby Boomers. We need to re-tap into these types of work experiences that inspire and attracts those from all demographics and age groups.

What was your impression of the first Social Workplace Conference? How do you see the conversation continuing? And what would be the necessary steps to ensuring we build a workplace environment that actually meets these needs?

The first conference was really good. Events like Social workplace are hugely important in terms of educating corporate occupiers, investors and users of space, of what the opportunities are. Also, the ability to hear these experiences first hand is very rich.

I think that we are at an amazing time of innovation and change in terms of rethinking how we live and work today. We have more opportunity to collaborate and co-create new environments, and the conference plays an important role in pushing these changes in the workplace today.

Amanda Gray 

A look back at the inaugural Social Workplace Conference, London, 2015

Last Friday saw the inaugural Social Workplace Conference, an event that aims to create content and bring insight based on “strong models taking root in community managed workplaces to a wider audience of professionals from the real estate industry and corporate world”. Experts from the fields of design, coworking, finance, and corporate innovation all gathered in London’s design-centric shared office space, The Office Group, for a productive day of talks and workshops.

The Social Workplace is shifting the way we view physical space

Presentations addressed topics such as a non-traditional user-centric approach to architectural design, which Oliver Marlow from Studio Tilt, a design and architecture studio known for its unique codesign methodology, explored in relation to the current systemic changes taking place in the workplace.

Attendees at a Workshop, Social Workplace, 2015

Attendees at a Workshop, Social Workplace, 2015

Despina Katsikakis, of Barclays Corporate Real Estate, brought to light some important statistics taken from a recent Gallup study, which states that 80 percent of office space still hasn’t changed over the past 10 years, thus continually limiting choice and control.

Despina’s presentation offered alternatives to addressing how to deal with these setbacks, by comparing contemporary office space to cities. Like the urban environment, “the office of the future should act as a social condenser that is exciting, spontaneous, and non-linear”, she explained.

Social capital matters more than monetary gain in today’s work culture 

The general feedback from most participants was focused on an interest in the developing relationship between the corporate and coworking world. Alex Hillman, founder of Indy Hall, a successful coworking space based in Philadelphia, brought home the point that the Social Workplace Conference is a chance for people working in various industries to hear each other out and work towards actual change, not only in their offices, but also in their communities.

Edu Forte, founder of Betahaus Barcelona, discussed the process of cocreation. Through this process, the coworking model allows room for the community to develop the physical space as well as programs that meet their needs.

Stefan Kiss, who has been working in the office furniture industry for over 25 years, and Séverine Blanchard-Jazdzewski , executive of the Orange Digital Transformation program, brought up several point as to why corporations today might be struggling. Stefan discussed the relationship between design and the “human factor”, which he believes once more harmonious, will help transform the current workplace. As for Séverine, she talked about the ways in which companies can meet the need of their employees and their ultimate goal of transforming Orange into an incubator for new collaborative workspaces.

What does the future hold?

Nathan Waterhouse, OI Engine

Nathan Waterhouse, OI Engine

The Social Workplace wrapped up the day by giving attendees that chance to interact and participate with the speakers. Several workshops were given, tackling topics such as “How to create value from the social workplace model: Programming, events and cross-fertilisation to ignite culture”, led by Simon Pitkeathley of Camden Town BID.

The Final panel, which was led by Kursty Groves Knight, featured Tom Day, from Travel Tech Lab, Steve Pette of Central Working and founder of London’s Bow Arts, Marcel Baettig. As Kursty is an expert in helping organizations to cultivate progressive cultural and physical environments, the panel reflected on the day’s events, discussing everything from catalyzing a community, to monetizing the workspace through partnerships that work with one’s personal philosophy.

Overall, attendees expressed their excitement in regards to future events. As conference goers headed down the bar for a bit of wine and networking, Alex Hillman of Indy Hall, reflecting on the conference, remarked: “The Social Workplace conference marks the beginning of a conversion that needed to be had, but the most exciting part is what comes next”.

Presentations from the conference are available on Slideshare and also Linkedin.

Amanda Gray

“We have built an unprecedented network that’s the Pintrest of the design world”-Kontor

William Hanley is a Vice President at Kontor, a “visual search and discovery platform for workplace design.” Together with Kontor’s director of European business development and architect, Florian Bolle, William will be participating in the premier Social Workplace conference, taking place in London, October 16th.

Kontor was founded by Kevin Ryan, “a luminary in the New York tech scene”, who also started Business Insider, Gilt, and various other successful companies. Kontor founder and CEO, Mia Lewin is a seasoned entrepreneur with a passion for design, alongside Andy Parsons, who is also a founder and CTO, who has a strong background in photo and search technologies. The company launched a private beta preview in June, and is preparing for a public launch in November.

We caught up with William and Florian to learn more about the visionary design platform and to find out why design plays such an essential role in the workplace of the future.

Hi William, can you please tell us about Kontor? Please describe the design of the space and how you realized what worked best for your community.

Kontor is a visual search and discovery platform for workplace design. We have built an unprecedented network that connects visionary companies, great architects, and innovative product makers using a combination of beautiful project photography, expert metadata, and a proprietary, design-focused search algorithm.

On Kontor, everyone involved with a workplace project can showcase their contributions, and anyone can discover interesting projects, create collections of images, and share them with each other. Think of it as a platform similar to Pinterest but tailor made for the design world.

Our own main office is a surprisingly spartan loft in Tribeca New York and our European headquarters, where Florian is based, is located in a coworking space in Paris, which is occupied by several other design-focused businesses.

How does Kontor envision the Social Workplace and how does it meet the needs of contemporary work styles?

Thanks to a combination of mobile devices, geographically distributed teams, and the global nature of contemporary work, the office has become less of place for performing tasks within a set window of time and more of a social space that facilitates personal interactions and serendipitous conversations. It sounds cliché, but fostering collaboration has become the workplace’s primary role now that we can all work anywhere.

You can find many examples of how this has shifted the design of the physical workplace on Kontor, but generally we see fewer and fewer partitioned work areas, and certainly fewer private offices, in favor of more flexible spaces and a range of different types of lounge-like spaces—from informal meeting areas to cafés to alcoves and hideaways that facilitate small gatherings.

How are the expectations of the modern workforce different today than they were 5 years ago?

The ability to work anywhere has changed how our professions and the ways that our lives intersect. At its worst, this had led to a lack of work-life balance, as we are now seemingly available at all hours of the day. At its best, it has created a sense of work-life integration that allows us to build a schedule that suits both our personal and professional needs. The key to staying on the positive side of this condition is flexibility and that also extends to office design.

How does Kontor address the needs of employers and employees today?

More than anything, employees expect the workplace to accommodate the ever-blurrier boundaries between their personal and professional lives—whether that means a specific set of amenities, a design aesthetic that fits their sense of professional identity, or a space that speaks to a particular office culture. We are a far cry from soulless rows of cubicles or even a generic open plan.

What types of modern design/technologies do companies incorporate into an “outdated” office space?

William Hanley

William Hanley

Contemporary companies require spaces unique to their businesses, brands, and the working style they wish to cultivate. How companies incorporate amenities into the office is a great example of how varied workplace design has become. Some employees might prefer things from dining to laundry to be accommodated inside the office—allowing great plans to be hatched over impromptu coffees or on-site happy hours—while others prefer an outward looking office with easy access to shops, cafés, and other amenities, where the formal workplace becomes a hub in a larger urban system.

How have these changes in the way we work influenced workspace design? 

This has led to a proliferation of office types and design ideas, and a huge range of them can be discovered on Kontor. With work by 300 design firms and 100 product brands tagged in the context of built spaces, the platform shows the breadth of contemporary workplace design. It is full of surprising architectural moves and innovative ideas from around the world. You can find anything from playful tech offices to button-up law firms and you can also search for designers or products that have similar qualities.

When we officially launch, you will also be able to share images that you find with colleagues and clients and to follow designers, brands, and people in the interiors world to get updates on their work.

What types of clients typically gravitate towards the designers of innovative offices? Why do you think that is?

Technology has enabled the new ways of working that we just discussed, and so it’s not surprising that many of the innovations that we’re seeing in workplace design started there.

We also see creative industries from design to advertising pushing new ideas about workplace design. It’s crucial in those fields to not only create an inspiring environment for employees but to also have a space that projects a company’s aesthetic and brand when clients visit. This is one of the reasons that we frequently feature the best of particular industries on Kontor. We want to show how designers are experimenting with different ideas in different fields.

What do you think that social work environment offers that a traditional one no longer can?

The workplaces that are built more on relationships and interaction rather than on a traditional, mechanical idea of efficiency, actually allow for more specificity in the way their inhabitants work. A space that allows teams to take control and to find unique systems and rhythms that help them achieve goals and develop new ideas will foster far better results for companies. 

How important is the role of design in the workplace? Do you believe that it influences productivity and worker wellbeing?

Whether you’re a startup huddled around a communal table or a global company opening your newest headquarters, having the right architect or designer is crucial. Everyone needs a complementary design team to creatively address the many, often competitive interests—from employee comfort to construction costs, as well as sustainability and ecological considerations—that go into a workplace project.

At base, a well-designed office can mean the difference between employees fighting with their surroundings and employees aided and inspired by them.

“Forward-thinking developers will incorporate a social aspect in the workspace” Sophy Moffatt, DTZ

Central London commercial property researcher, Sophy Moffat, is an expert in real estate market trends. She is currently the head of the Central London research team at DTZ  (recently merged with Cushman & Wakefield), which offers investors, tenants and developers industry knowledge, in order to help them find the best solution to their accommodation needs.

Sophy will be speaking at this year’s Social Workplace conference in London, and we caught up with her to learn more about her latest research project ‘How You Work’.


Hi Sophy, what are the current trends you are seeing in the real estate and commercial property market in London?

Firstly, there are attempts to attract and retain talent in the face of global skills shortages, which means many businesses are taking a more employee-centric approach when it comes to real estate. Ultimately, this means that they are placing increased emphasis on workplace strategy and design.

Secondly, the head count in high-cost locations is under review; many firms are thinking about what roles need to be located in New York, London and so on. Also, many businesses are opening or expanding into additional hubs in more affordable locations.

Thirdly, technology is of growing importance. It helps ensure that tasks are simple, space is optimized, and remote working and cross-border collaboration are possible. Making room for flexibility and fostering innovation, as well as technology helps to optimize space and ultimately reduces real estate costs.

Overall, the trends we are seeing are centered on workplace strategy and design, as well as technology-enablement, location, and cost.

What do today’s tenants expect from a commercial property? Have those expectations changed in recent years?

In London and other gateway cities, the majority of global businesses we work with seek Grade A office space. That’s usually a given. It’s the social aspect – outside spaces, work-hubs, breakout areas, atriums, gym-quality services – that are of growing importance. This is because the world of work is changing: the ‘social workplace’ is no longer sought by the tech, creative and media sectors alone, but by a growing pool of large corporate tenants. Additionally, technology companies may have been first to customize their own unique experience around a core product and there is also a growing expectation that property should work like that too.

How has the transition from traditional office space to the “social workplace” affected the property market? Has it been a positive change? If so, why?

Having a more social, employee-oriented office is generally seen as positive. Perhaps most exciting for gateway cities globally is the fact that the ‘social workplace’ is playing an integral role in urban regeneration. When we look at regeneration schemes and concepts including King’s Cross in London, Dumbo Heights in Brooklyn, Factory Berlin and Fuxing Plaza in Shanghai, it can be seen that flexible office providers like WeWork and The Office Group, who epitomize the ‘social workplace’ are early stage tenants of this movement.

Thus, forward-thinking developers will choose to incorporate a social aspect, knowing that the vital injection of business diversity that stimulates many of the economic and social dynamics is needed in the workspace.

Sophy Moffat

Sophy Moffat

What have coworking spaces and social workplaces done for commercial property? Have they improved their value? If so, how?

So far, there aren’t many hard and fast stats on coworking because it is a relatively new industry. But, it is clear that the adoption of Activity Based Working – which has been the subject of various research studies does create value.

In 2002, Deutsche Bank started to introduce ‘db Smart Office’ – a new way of working within the organization that provided a wide range of settings to support the full spectrum of working tasks, from collaborative team space, to heads-down working areas. The aim was to help promote a multi-functional use of office space, encouraging communication, flexibility and also privacy.

The benefits so far have include reduced occupancy costs, due to reduction in spatial requirements projected to be between 10-30%, recouping of associated project costs within only 24 months due to savings made. We have also seen improved employee productivity at work, better technology in the workplace, and the ability to increase employee populations without additional real estate expenses. So yes, encouraging communication and flexibility do seem to create value!

What changes does the commercial property market have to make in order to meet the needs of today’s worker?

As businesses adjust to the realities of increasing rents and the rapid pace of a globalized, technology-enabled market, one of the biggest challenges they face is people.  Businesses will find that ‘social workplace’ trends are not simply about creating open plan layouts or adding cafés, but also about giving people control and flexibility in their environment. This is all about enabling connections and creating a community beyond corporate meetings, as well as allowing employees to work in ways that give them meaning, and purpose.

The principles embodied by the ‘social workplace’ can help surmount a range of challenges. As Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards, puts it: “You not only want to have a smart phone today — you want to live in a smart building and a smart community”.  What the commercial property market has to do is keep up with tech, design, and new workplace strategy trends.

What will you be speaking about at this year’s social workplace conference?

I will be speaking about our latest research project ‘How You Work’ which, explores the trajectory flexible offices have taken by analyzing growth determinants and assessing the impact of modern cultural trends on the demand for flexible working.

The report shows how companies in New York, London, Shanghai, and Berlin are using flexible workspaces to share resources, reduce infrastructure spending and increase employee efficiency. It will also look at how talent recruitment and retention are critical drivers of the flexible office market.    www.dtz.com/howyouwork

Amanda Gray