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Co-working is very much an idea whose time has come

Posted on October 9, 2013 by Paul Goodchild

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One of the surest signs that the time for a idea particular idea has come, is when people apply it instinctively, without knowing what it is called or the jargon behind it. The greatest example I can think of to illustrate this right now is the idea of co-working.This is a form of working that involves the creation of an activity based workplace shared by people from different organisations. In practice it can take a number of forms and the decision to apply it to any particular workplace is generally made on very practical grounds.

These can either be as a way of sharing costs or renting out unused space, as a way of fostering startups or creating enclaves of creative talent or because they make good business sense in other ways, for example as a way of working alongside clients.

As is often the case with facilities management and office design issues, the most progressive country in the world is the UK. London is the global epicentre of co-working with around 20 co-working spaces dotted  around the city. The most high profile of these is arguably the space set up by Google and a number of several local partners in East London last year. Called Campus London it is located in Tech City and was developed to help start-ups to grow alongside each other with mentoring from Google and the other partners. Similarly Media City in Salford has been designed to allow the BBC to work onsite with production companies and other creatives to help it create its programmes.

This innovative approach to office design is even evident in the UK public sector. Earlier this year the UK Cabinet Office announced details of a new pilot scheme covering 12 local authorities in England, including those in Hampshire, Bristol and Surrey which will encourage councils to work with central government departments and other bodies to share buildings and re-use or release property and land deemed surplus to requirements and so cut spending and free up land for local development. The ‘One Public Sector Estate’ scheme will also enable councils to share services and follow the path of central government which has its own schemes to cut costs and divest or find new uses for its property portfolio. The Cabinet Office who will be delivering the scheme together with the Local Government Association, also believes the scheme will boost the UK economy and encourage regeneration and development at a local level.

Each local authority is expected to apply local knowledge to make more informed decisions about the use, development and divestment of property.  The onus of the project is on delivering efficient solutions which might include the sharing of property or the sale of land as a way of boosting local economies and promoting development.

The issue of localism is often very important in the development of co-working spaces. This was certainly one of the most important factors in the development of the project Fresh recently worked on with Dewynters, the specialist marketing agency in the West End that helps to promote shows in Theatreland and the rest of the UK.

Although it was never referred to as such, there are unmistakable elements of co-working in the design of the offices that are based entirely on practicalities. Dewynters have made the collaborative spaces in the building available to their clients who may lack such cutting edge facilities of their own. They are typical of a growing number of businesses who are using office design as a way of improving the performance of their own organisation and the people who work for it, but also as a way of forging stronger relationships with clients and other stakeholders.