Coworking spaces and members’ clubs are an alternative to the traditional office or home study. But what are the benefits of signing up and which are the best, asks Jenny Southan.
By 2020, it’s estimated that as many as one in two workers in the UK will be freelance or self-employed, collectively contributing more than £51 billion to the economy. The same trend is being observed in the US. And it’s not just the self-employed; being adept at remote working has become an essential skill for anyone frequently operating out of overseas locations.
The parallel rise of coworking spaces and private members’ clubs has made it easier for locals to access office environments and professional networks in their home territories, but when you are travelling it is not so easy to find out what your options are or even gain entry to these facilities. Often you make do with working in your hotel room, the executive lounge or a coffee shop with free wifi.
However, finding a temporary workplace is being made easier by platforms such as Copass (copass.org), which gives access to more than 750 hubs around the world from €49-€299 a month, and Coworker (coworker.com), which lists 7,000 spaces in 125 countries complemented by user reviews. Another exciting innovation is the launch of invitation-only website Onda (ondalife.com), which offers entry to private members clubs, health clubs and coworking spaces around the world
for £80 a month.
The venues it lists are “carefully vetted”, says Luca Del Bono, founder of Onda (and the South Kensington Club in London), and include sites such as Camp David in New York, The Bureau in Paris, The Stack in Cape Town, Griffin Club in Los Angeles and Alma in Stockholm. Del Bono says: “With the ease of remote communication that technology has given us, entrepreneurs and start-ups are on the rise, and so is the need for a versatile working environment. More people want to share time in places they feel comfortable in, and that offer facilities and activities that suit their lifestyle, while being part of a community.”
London undoubtedly leads the way when it comes to clubs and coworking. Recent openings include Allbright (for women only), White City House, Mortimer House and, of course, We Work, which is expanding rapidly with new locations throughout the city. Next year, London’s Home House founders will be debuting a new concept called Home Grown (homegrownclub.co.uk), in Marylebone.
Why will Home Grown, which will also have 35 hotel rooms, suit business people? Andrew Richardson, managing director of Home House, says: “Raising capital and growing a business is a skill and we aim to create the exclusive go-to community for enabling this. We will have an extensive events programme that covers how to secure funding, mentoring sessions with renowned business leaders, and collaborations between investors, high-growth entrepreneurs and innovators. The club will also have a range of beautiful private meeting rooms, pitching spaces, executive lounges, a chic restaurant, study café and bar.”
TEN REMOTE WORKING SPACES AROUND THE WORLD
1) NeueHouse, Los Angeles
Located on Sunset Boulevard, two-year-old NeueHouse LA (pictured previous page) has become known for hosting Hollywood after-parties. But it has a serious side too. The venue is vast, with enormous industrial-sized halls (Studio A was once used for radio broadcasting and is fitted with a high lumen full HD projector, 30-foot screen and theatrical dimming system), stylish work zones, two restaurants, a penthouse with a built-in bar, a cinema and al fresco deck for up to 400 delegates. There are various hyper-slick meeting rooms too and all of these spaces can be hired. If you come to LA a lot, Reserve members can book conference space, sign up for events and use the communal work and social spaces five business days a month plus evenings and weekends. NeueHouse also has a club in New York – day passes are available for members of the LA branch and vice versa.
- Reserve membership US$400 a month
2) Ministry of New, Mumbai
Conceived by a pair of Dutch expats, Marlies Bloemendaal and Natascha Chadha, the Ministry of New was one of the first collaborative workspaces to arrive in Mumbai when it debuted six years ago. In 2016, it relocated to 19th-century building Kitab Mahal on DN Road. Beyond its blue-tiled exterior, there is a boardroom and library that can be rented by the hour, a Skype pod, lockers, a kitchen, restaurant, outdoor terrace, showers, a lounge and even standing desks. Expect white walls offset with splashes of colour, displays of curios, plantation shutters, designer furniture, pot plants, lots of light, patterned textiles and even an indoor swing. Members include coaches, consultants, SMEs and digital nomads.
- One day pass Rs 1,500 (£17), ten days a month Rs 11,500 rupees(£128)
3) Crew Collective, Montreal
Opened in 2016, at the heart of this club is an open-to-all, 100-seat café serving local micro-roasted coffee and a menu that is updated live (you can order online and have your vegan brownie delivered to where you are sitting). Located in the original 1926 Royal Bank of Canada headquarters, the historic hall has long communal tables and free wifi. Crew Collective rents out meeting rooms for up to eight people from C$15 (£9) an hour and also has private desks. Although anyone can join, the club is aimed at creative professionals – from developers to architects – and has an informal, relaxed vibe. The interiors are stunning, with marble floors, brass light fittings, bronze-plated walled booths and ornately decorated ceilings. Access is 24/7.
- C$20-30 (£12-17) day passes for weekends/weekdays
4) The Work Project Midtown, Hong Kong
Another club to launch in 2016 was the Work Project Midtown (pictured below and bottom) in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay “Knowledge Hub”, where neighbours include Apple, Facebook and Google. It has almost 3,000 sqm of coworking space and serviced offices, a full-service pantry with happy hours, meeting rooms and function space for 120 people. The interior design is a blend of corporate greys and natural wood, with contemporary exposed pipework on the ceilings and living walls of foliage. Coffee is free and members are given a secure keycard for round-the-clock access.
- Day pass from HK$350 (£34), part-time hot desk (ten days a month) HK$2,250 (£325)
5) Tiny Empire, Cape Town
This new arrival entered the scene earlier this year, and resides in a renovated 100-year-old tea warehouse on Buitenkant Street. Catering to “serial entrepreneurs, startup junkies and business gurus”, there is a communal Work Lobby and Work Lounge for tapping away on your laptop or sipping coffee with clients. The club has a residential feel with hardback books on coffee tables, whitewashed walls, post-modern Brazilian armchairs, abstract art and Aesop products in the showers. There are individual workstations in the Reading Room for those who visit more often, as well as suites for teams who want a more permanent base. The meeting booths are handy for interviews and taking calls.
- Day pass R250 (£15)
6) Fosbury and Sons, Antwerp
Following the trend for inspiring architectural locations, the Belgian city’s Fosbury and Sons took over a portion of 1960s modernist building the WATT Tower in 2016. The 5,500 sqm club is located on the first floor, and like many other ventures described in this feature, is far from being a sterile, uninspiring office environment. Contrasting with the plentiful use of concrete, steel and glass, are timber desks and lush green foliage. There are numerous inviting spots to settle yourself for the day – from bleacher seats to airy mid-century studios – as well as social spaces to congregate in such as the mezzanine zone with its red pool table and in-house bar. The common space includes “focus booths”, a silent room, open kitchen, library and changing rooms. Workshops, lectures and forums are scheduled regularly. Fosbury and Sons Brussels is coming at the end of the year.
- Membership from €35 a month for a one day pass, extra days €15 (up to five)
7) The Farm SoHo, New York
NYC can bleed you of money, but this co-working space is surprisingly affordable and even gives discounted rates on conference room hire. Taking its design lead from the farmlands of southern Missouri, there is an emphasis on using oak salvaged from old barns, corrugated tin, sackcloth cushions and cartwheels mounted on exposed brickwork. It’s not what you might expect in New York, but it works well. The club is on the second floor of a building at 447 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, which should be convenient for most business people, and amenities range from printing and scanning to projectors and phone booths.
- Day pass US$25, seven days US$100
8) The Great Room, Centennial Tower, Singapore
Located on levels 17 and 18 of Centennial Tower, this 3,344 sqm communal office has panoramic views of the city, and opened in early 2018. Its modestly priced day pass gives members the chance to work from its comfortable lounge, while reclining on a sofa, or at one of its hot desks. It has the look and feel of a smart, five-star hotel executive lounge. Lighting designers who worked on Four Seasons and Aman projects were brought in to get the illuminations right. There is an on-site café for refreshments. The Great Room also has clubs at One George Street and Ngee Ann City in Singapore, as well as Gaysorn Tower in Bangkok.
- Day Pass S$70 (£39)
9) Canopy Pacific Heights, San Francisco
Unveiled two years ago by designer Yves Béhar, this boutique space features a combination of shared tables, private desks and dedicated offices depending on your needs. A sophisticated set-up with Herman Miller ergonomic chairs, parquet flooring and black marble, users will find plenty of natural daylight, concierge services, Shinola journals and pens, Blue Bottle coffee, a kitchen, boardroom, and even HD video-conferencing. Canopy also has a club on Jackson Square in San Francisco, as well as one coming to the Financial District soon. Its focus is on building a “diverse community of thinkers, creators, builders and innovators”.
- Nomad membership US$275 a month for 60 days’ access a year
10) The Office Group, Thomas House, Victoria, London
Luxurious yet functional, Thomas House is one of 33 coworking venues across London, Leeds and Bristol in The Office Group’s portfolio. It was designed by architectural firm Soda, who applied a “clean and simple” philosophy to overhauling the 6,650 sqm open-plan space, which occupies a Regency-era building on Eccleston Square in Pimlico. Highlights include a gym, bar, library, roof terrace, music room and meditation studio, in addition to lots of desks (and power points) to sit with your laptop. There are also dining areas, bike storage and showers so you can freshen up after your commute. Meeting rooms can be booked with ease from £20 per hour.
- Lounge membership £75 per month (32 hours) at a choice of 27 locations