From puppy therapy to bespoke interiors, Will Abbott, chief customer officer for Workspace speaks to Globetrender about the evolution of flexible offices.
What is Workspace?
“Workspace is London’s leading flexible office provider – we own and manage over 60 properties across London, with some of the capital’s most exciting and fast-growing businesses housed in a mix of heritage and new buildings.
“Workspace incorporates beautiful design, on-site cafes and activities such as puppy therapy, terrarium workshops and yoga. Most importantly, we create a sense of community that helps growing businesses thrive.”
When was it founded and why?
“Workspace was founded in 1987 on the pioneering idea that small and medium businesses require flexible spaces that allow them to flourish and grow. Workspace was one of the first companies to offer short-term leases to small businesses – a group of 12 investors began by acquiring industrial spaces around London and converting them to offices, and by the 1990’s had acquired flagship properties such as the Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey and Record Hall in Clerkenwell.”
How many Workspace locations do you have and where?
“We have 60 locations across London – from Chiswick to Hackney, and West Dulwich to Wood Green. Many of our properties are converted historic warehouses and factories which have fascinating stories behind them – for example, one of our newest acquisitions is Busworks in Caledonian Road, which was the site of the General Omnibus Company who built the very first motor bus.
“Barley Bow in Chiswick was the former home of Sanderson’s Wallpaper and one of the first-ever small business cooperative spaces, and Chocolate Factory in Wood Green was Barratt’s confectionary.”
Which are the newest locations/flagship sites?
“Our newest building, Mirror Works, is in Stratford just off Pudding Mill Lane. Built on the site of a former Victorian glassworks factory, it’s a modern space with beautifully designed interiors and a short walk from Hackney Wick.
“We have also recently acquired the Old Dairy, a mid-century landmark in the heart of Shoreditch. And one of our most historic buildings is Salisbury House, near Moorgate in The City, which is a Grade II Listed Victorian office building. It was formerly home to London Stock Exchange Brokers as well as serving as secure storage for jewellers.”
How does it compare to co-working brands such as WeWork?
“We think of the difference like a home versus a hotel. We give small- and medium-sized companies space to grow, be creative, and be themselves, with leases that run for two years with a rolling six-month break clause and the freedom to design and fit out their offices as they wish.
“We want communities to develop in our buildings, and you can see that working in the many properties where customers opt to keep their doors open rather than shut, and get to know each other at our social events. It fosters a real sense of togetherness and understanding.”
What kinds of companies use Workspace?
“We have customers across a range of industries, and the most popular sectors include tech, fashion, design and creative services. But what they all have in common is the desire for a space that’s their own and that can feed their ambitious growth and development needs.
“We have fast-growing smaller businesses, as well as medium enterprises like Wild natural deodorant, Gousto food delivery, Astrid and Miyu fine jewellery, and flower delivery company Freddie’s Flowers. Some of our larger customers are Papier, Hugo Boss and Gorillas”
What kinds of facilities are on offer?
“Each Workspace building has friendly reception staff, services, and facilities management, and many of our properties have cafes. We put on free wellness events in partnership with businesses who are our customers, from terrarium building workshops with Leafage, to play sessions with puppies with Paws in Work, which unsurprisingly sell out very quickly.”
How are companies recalibrating after the pandemic? Have you seen an increase in users?
“We have certainly seen our buildings getting much busier this year, especially in the last few months. We have also seen strong demand for space. While many are not working in their space every single day, the office remains central for teams to gather, work collaboratively and build culture.
“Anecdotally, we know that lots of businesses are also reducing desk space and increasing communal working areas as well as breakout and social gathering spaces. Our customers are very in tune with the need to ensure that now more than ever, time in the office needs to be high-quality, and this is down to the space they are in.”
What is hybrid working and what role does a permanent office have to play?
“Our customers have always worked flexibly, often working three to four days in the office and a day or two remotely. The pandemic has made this much more commonplace for all companies. Having a vibrant working environment is increasingly important to attract and retain talent. Whether people are working five days a week or three days, having a permanent home for the business where people can collaborate and be creative is more important now than it ever has been.”