Working Close to Home: Community Co-Working Spaces In UK Are In Fashion

Working Close to Home: Community Co-Working Spaces In UK Are In Fashion

UK ( Parliament Politics Magazine )  The co-working giant WeWork may be facing bankruptcy in the US, but this doesn’t signal the end of the co-working trend. Rather, it seems to be undergoing a transformation, benefiting local High Streets in towns and suburbs.

WeWork’s Bankruptcy: Co-Working Spaces Evolving Amidst Challenges

Jill Parrish, employed by a market data consultancy in central London, shares a small apartment and a hybrid working space with her husband. Distractions like household chores and her husband’s presence made remote work challenging. 

 Instead of enduring a two-hour commute to the City, she opts for Patch, a nearby co-working space in Twickenham, south-west London, twice a week. Her employer covers half of the costs, recognizing the positive impact on her productivity. This reflects the growing trend of “working near home” rather than exclusively from home.

Once valued at an impressive $47 billion (£38 billion), WeWork experienced a dramatic rise and fall, culminating in its recent filing for bankruptcy protection in the US and Canada on Monday.

Despite this setback, WeWork assured that its co-working spaces, known for their upscale decor and situated in large, security-controlled, multi-floor buildings in densely populated inner-city areas, remain open and operational in the UK. In contrast, alternatives like Patch focus on residential areas, offering a convenient walk from people’s homes.

Community-Centric Approach to Co-Working

Several companies are now competing for the local community co-working hub market. ARC Club is establishing a network around the outskirts of London, while Platform 9 is developing similar spaces in Brighton.

 Edinburgh-based Desana has raised significant funds for its concept, creating a national membership network by partnering with existing community co-working spaces and connecting them to large employers.

WeWork’s decline was partly attributed to users transitioning to remote work during the pandemic. While many appreciate the absence of a daily commute, working from home isn’t universally smooth. Loneliness and distractions, ranging from pets to spouses, make the kitchen table office less than ideal for some.

Freddie Fforde, the founder of Patch, advocates for “working near home” as a viable third option. Patch currently operates hubs in Chelmsford, High Wycombe, and Twickenham, with plans for expansion next year, including sites in the north of England.

Co-Working Hubs in South London Getting Popular

Designed as community spaces, Patch’s locations offer open access to the ground floor, featuring cafés and event areas suitable for various purposes, such as children’s parties and workshops. Local businesses, including bakers and flower sellers, also host pop-up events.

The upper floors of each building serve as workspaces for numerous individuals on a hot-desk or fixed-desk basis, providing access to meeting rooms and quiet booths. Some opt for a more private setup with their small office space at a higher cost.

A significant draw is the proximity to childcare facilities for working parents, such as childminders, nurseries, or schools, typically located close to home. This appeals to Isabel Pollen, an actor-turned-performance coach in Twickenham, who values being near her home and her seven-year-old daughter’s school. She appreciates the added benefit of having her community of friends nearby, making it easy to invite them for coffee at times.

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Working Space Hubs In London Catering To Needs Of Workers 

Entrepreneur Vibushan Thirukumar has established Oru Space hubs in Sutton and East Dulwich in south London, with support from local councils recognizing their positive impact on the community.

These public spaces go beyond traditional co-working setups, featuring a restaurant serving cuisine from Thirukumar’s native Sri Lanka and rooms hosting regular meditation and yoga classes. Members enjoy discounted access to these classes, and some are even offered for free to the wider community.

Described as a “wellness hub” as much as a co-working space, the East Dulwich location was formerly an NHS mental health assessment center. Thirukumar emphasizes the importance of combating the isolation of working from home, catering to freelancers and the 40% of his members who are employees. To foster connection, he organizes “Chatty Wednesdays,” encouraging members to gather in the library room for socializing.

Thirukumar’s vision aims to replace the traditional commute, allowing people to work within their local communities. He believes that increased local engagement leads to a reinvestment of money in the local economy.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.