Traditional offices may soon become merely a memory, as homeworking and shared offices become the market’s hottest commodities.
Warnings of a regional office space crunch have been buzzing around for the last year or so. It’s all down to very little new space emerging, while leasing has reached its highest point in the last five years.
Which presents a fantastic opportunity for small businesses and freelancers. What better way to create your own schedule? For industries that can accommodate it, flexible working is the future, giving you and your employees the freedom they want.
Evolving businesses are finding they have to look beyond traditional private office space and explore more flexible options. But what’s best, collaborative co-working or working from home?
Creative co-working space
Co-working offices are taking off across the land, as the demand for affordable office space rises (anyone else’s rates making them sweat?) and the business world continues a trend towards collaboration.
These are the places where several businesses share a premises – or even desks within a single office space. They’re particularly popular with start-up entrepreneurs, who often like to network and discuss strategies with like-minded individuals.
The business benefit is that co-working spaces are flexible and low-risk. They usually come fully equipped with internet and phone services (plus tea and coffee if you’re really lucky, like me!), saving you additional admin headaches.
These creative co-working communities have sprung up in clusters across Britain’s entrepreneurial hotspots, with companies like Be Offices expanding out from London to Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast and beyond.
They’re great for breaking down workplace silos, brilliant for interacting with like-minded freelancers and superb for escaping the lonely life of working from home.
On the downside though, it can be an expensive solution. Watch out for noise levels too; while most people are respectful, half a dozen businesses on the phone at the same time can be pretty distracting.
Home sweet home
Despite the popularity of co-working spaces, homeworking is at an all-time high. More than 4.2 million Brits now work from home, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Not too surprising really. It’s brilliantly flexible for anyone juggling a busy home and work life, there’s zero commute (unless you count the steps from bed to desk) and there’s usually a lack of interruption, meaning huge potential for productivity.
For employers, it means you’re not limited to recruiting to a specific radius, giving you more scope to find the perfect person. Not to mention the cut in workforce costs, such as office rates, utilities and commuter fees.
Take the rose-tinted glasses off though and you’ll see that it isn’t always such an ideal option. In fact, working from home can be isolating and a little lonely.
Staff may miss the banter with colleagues and the opportunity to mix with new and exciting people. Some also find it blurs the line between work and home, so you slip into the trap of working 24/7.
When it comes to working from home, there are three golden rules:
- Only work in an assigned space; not your bed or your sofa. Go for a desk.
- Vary your surroundings every so often, before you go insane and start talking to the walls.
- Give yourself a break. It’s easy to forget when you don’t have a mate urging you to pop out to lunch. Everyone needs a rest, even those working from home.
Let’s not avoid the elephant in the room. As an employer, it takes a lot of trust to allow employees to work remotely, without supervision. But if you have a team that is motivated, dedicated, and willing to go the extra mile to see the company succeed, it can be a great idea.
Speaking for myself, I’m fortunate enough to work in a co-working space, with clients who don’t mind where I am based.
I stay home when I really need to fire through tasks like there’s no tomorrow, tripling my workload as there are no distractions!
But as a sociable creature, craving interaction and friendships with colleagues, I’m usually in the office.
The best thing is the balance – and the autonomy to choose.
What do you think? What are your experiences of co-working and/or homeworking? Ultimately, it depends on your personal style.