Covid-safe shared workspaces in Hackney on flexibility without formalities
- Credit: Jermaine Francis
Shared workspaces across Hackney are emerging in residential areas as traditional offices remain dormant.
Provided they meet Covid-19 safety standards and are only open to members who cannot work at home, ARC Club says these spaces can stay open under the current lockdown restrictions.
ARC Club is one of the first post-pandemic co-working spaces; it opened in summer 2020 on the ground floor of a housing block in Homerton.
"Our model was the neighbourhood workplace, the idea that you could walk or cycle to work,” said its co-founder, Hannah Philp. “We were only looking outside of Zone 1.”
When researching what people valued about a workplace, Hannah discovered very few workers missed the long commutes, smart attire and intimidating reception desks found in traditional offices.
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“What is actually useful to people is a quiet space, comfy seats, exceptional wifi...what people don’t care about are all those formalities,” said Hannah.
Michele Cuccovillo, founder of the Salty Commune workspace in Hoxton, agreed: “I think co-working spaces, especially the ones that are in residential areas, will find themselves doing pretty well.”
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Salty Commune is based in a deconsecrated church. It rebuilt its membership after the first lockdown by targeting people in creative industries living within walking distance of the workspace.
“If you have a look at the surveys, the British population is the least happy to go back to our traditional offices in the whole of the western world,” Michele said. “You’ve got a population that has discovered that working from home or from a local workspace could work better for their own lives.”
Hyper-flexibility is another feature of the new generation of co-working spaces. “You can start with low commitment,” said Bhush Wadhwani of the CoBalance Cafe in Shoreditch. “You use the space whenever you want to. There’s no contract to be signed, you just pay for the time.”
Bhush is considering launching an evening pass to accommodate night owls’ working habits.
"We adapted the layout of our coworking space to accommodate to the new regulations and keep on welcoming coworkers in a safe environment, ensuring social distancing, while we were allowed to open," said Helena Baes, who works for The Co-Dalston, near Dalston Kingsland.
To stabilise the business, The Co-Dalston came up with a kitchen incubator program, which sees the front of the workspace become a takeaway bakery and the downstairs kitchen used by small food delivery businesses to prepare meals and scale up their operations.
These spaces can be booked through an app called WorkClub.