The future of the office looks to be changing. Co-working spaces, where freelancers, entrepreneurs and start-ups can rent out desk space in a communal office building, share wi-fi and hang out, are starting to attract big business.
There are now more than 800 co-working locations in London alone, three times more than in New York, and they are growing at a rate of 10 per cent a year, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield.
The evidence highlights that young and innovative workers in the tech, media and creative industries no longer want to occupy space in a high-rise tower with a five-year lease but are turning instead to landlords that offer flexible working space in buildings that are designed to be hip, often housed in former warehouses or factories.
This had led to the emergence of co-working chains, which offer stylish offices — often in buildings where artisanal coffee and beer is on tap, furniture is quirky, and table football and pool tables proliferate — and most workers swap a suit for jeans and a T-shirt.
The Californian company Wework, which has a market cap of $15 billion, has 11 co-working offices in the UK. The FTSE 250 company Workspace, which was formerly an owner of small industrial estates, has transformed its portfolio into one that now offers co-working spaces across London. It launched Club Workspace three years ago, offering individual memberships that provide access to shared office spaces across the city.
One of the biggest providers of co-working spaces in the UK is The Office Group, which has one million square feet of space. Founded by Olly Olsen and Charlie Green, the two believe that co-working spaces will only grow because they offer the chance for start-ups to build relationships with other companies that they would struggle to develop in a traditional office space.
Mr Green said that co-working could be described as a “physical Linkedin”, where a company in need of a graphic designer or website builder can find one a few desks away.
This in turn has started to attract big businesses keen to rub shoulders with the young tech set and attract staff with an entrepreneurial mindset.
The Office Group provides space for the likes of Santander, Boston Consultancy Group, British Gas and AOL.
Accountancy firms including KPMG are also moving teams in to develop relationships with start-ups.