“The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.”
Some people have an office which they go into every day. Others work from home. For more and more people, it’s neither of the above. From Starbucks to hotel lobbies, members clubs to park benches, everyone has their own formula.
This has been a month of changes for me, one of which has been moving into a new office, close to Piccadilly Circus. For some time before that, I was working from several locations, and so I thought that it would be useful to share a few of the good places I’ve found along the way.
Finding a new office can be a fiddly old process and so here are three organisations I found especially useful.
1) Talk to Instant Offices if you’re looking for serviced offices and more of a ‘plug-and-play’ solution. Instant, founded by Rob Hamilton, has been incredibly successful over the past few years. I was looked after by Chris Stewart who found us our space with Reflex (see below).
2) Reflex are the company we ended up with because they offer flexible licences in non-branded offices around Central London. Justin has looked after us extremely well.
3) If you are looking for something a bit longer terms (perhaps you’re moving your growing business to its new home), then I recommend Devono. Several years ago they found us an amazing space in the Piazza in Covent Garden and worked alongside me, visiting the properties, while we worked through what it was we were really after. The founder Robert Leigh has always been extremely helpful and it was good to catch up with him some time ago at the Growing Business Young Guns Awards.
Finally, if you’re just looking for a couple of desks to share or sublet within someone else’s office, have a look at Desk Space Genie. Within a few minutes I had found a couple of good options which I was visiting ten minutes later, as many people listing are happy for you to pop in and have a quick look.
All of this raises the question of whether you really need an office these days anyway, and for many people I think that the answer is no.
If you’re looking for something of a halfway house between coffee-shops/hotels or homeworking (by the way, check out the brilliant Emma Jones’ Enterprise Nation on that front) and a full-on office, then why not have a think about one of these options…
Adam Street is a private members club in London (just off the Strand) aimed at entrepreneurs and freelancers. I’ve been a member for years and like the team very much. They have great event spaces, a peaceful (small) library upstairs where you can pop in to work for an hour or two and fantastic food. They also have one of London’s best staff members, Jenny Cox.
One Alfred Place is a business club in Bloomsbury and is a terrific space. I’m on the committee, so I’m a bit biased. What I like about it is that it is divided into some wonderfully light, spacious areas. There’s a bank of workstations where you can just sneak away to graft on your laptop for an hour. There are comfy sofas. There’s a good restaurant and I can often be found enjoying an early morning breakfast meeting in one of the booths. It is pricier than Adam Street and tends to appeal to business people outside London who come in from time to time and need somewhere reliable to meet and entertain clients or get things done.
Like Minds Club; Newly opened by the excellent Drew Ellis, this is described as ‘a social space to make physical connections from virtual conversations’. It uses some of the impressive facilities of a good hotel on Northumberland Avenue including a great boardroom which members can book.
Other popular clubs include The Hospital in Covent Garden (for people in the creative industries), Soho and Shoreditch House (tricky waiting list but I think that Shoreditch House is one of the most impressive spaces in London) and Century on Shaftesbury Avenue.
The challenge with a couple of these places is that they are really just best for meetings and not so great if you want somewhere to plug in your laptop and get some work done for a couple of hours. If you are looking for more of a co-working space where you might spend half a day or more, then have a look at these three, all of which, by coincidence, use the word ‘hub’…
Hub Culture; Founded by Stan Stalknaker (an excellent chap), this is an online community which has several clubs (or pavilions as they call them), one of which is just off Carnaby Street in London. I was struck by how reasonable this is (membership includes teas and coffees, as does Like Minds above) and how refreshingly international the member base is.
TechHub; Founded by Mike Butcher and Elizabeth Varley (I must stop waxing lyrical about everyone I mention on this blog, but they too are great!) and sponsored by Pearson and Google, this is a co-working space just by Old Street tube, for tech companies looking for a place to base themselves (they also have hot-desking available).
The Hub has spaces in 12 cities. Its London bases are in Islington and Kings Cross and I hear that another is being plotted for Paddington. It tends to appeal to more social businesses and enterprises and hosts some excellent events. Guess what? Yes, the founder, Jonathan Robinson is a (seriously) fantastic chap.
Well a post like this would not be complete without me chucking in a couple of random and quite probably unfeasible ideas. So here goes;
Why doesn’t one of the UK’s endowment organisations launch its own co-working space? Here’s looking at you NESTA. And you Unltd. Also, why don’t some of the leading business networks have a go too? I’m sure that lovely Thomas and Penny Power at Ecademy have thought about this, however perhaps it’s just a question of the right people conspiring at the right time…
Wouldn’t it be fun to approach a bedraggled coffee-shop owner somewhere, and offer them a deal? Theywould keep owning and running it, someone else will promote it. Up go the new signs (Welcome to Cafe Unltd, Cafe NESTA, Cafe Ecademy). It’s a three month experiment. Based on some of the empty coffee shops I pass, how could the takings possibly go down?
So if you’re looking for a new office or a new place to work and meet people, hopefully there’s something useful in this post for you. Please let me know if you have other favourite places which people should know about!