Idea: Support local businesses and home working with shared work facilities and a mutually supportive community
Even before the restrictions of the Covid-19, there has been a culture change in work patterns with increased agile / home working. Its widespread adoption is likely to continue, for example, companies and institutions encouraging home working to reduce their overheads and increase efficiency, and people preferring to travel less.
Barnet ranks in London’s top 5 boroughs of people working from home, with 20% of residents working flexibly (Working Lives Report 2017) and according to the last Census around 13% of the working population using their home as their primary work location, which is higher than comparator areas. Barnet has a large number of micro businesses, who make up more than 94% of the total business base, emphasising the importance of SME workspace provision to the local economy. Chipping Barnet is well placed to offer such workspace with its strong transport connections and demand within the local population. There has been strong support for recent co-working proposals within the town centre, however, securing suitable premises has been an issue.
A co-working space in Chipping Barnet should reflect local demand; for example, it might be less traditional open-plan co-working space and instead focus on complementary facilities to home working. Providing a place to meet and connect with others with cafe-style working alongside ‘hire by the hour’ meeting, seminar, events, and consultation spaces. Also, potential to combine with childcare, e.g. in Whetstone there is a new co-working space that also has a crèche.
Why it is useful:
- Co-working space would provide both a place to work, hold meetings and offer a support network
- It would offer somewhere for a range of businesses, from start-ups to those on part-time home-working days
- Alongside a membership model and space rental, there is potential for grant-funded programmes and partnerships delivering social value, such as business support, youth programmes, work experience, and training
Who needs to be involved:
- Operator: Potential for social enterprise to lock in social value, otherwise a private operator
- Council: Support / Co-funder
- Barnet Business Expo: Partner / Champion
- Barnet & Southgate College: Potential partner
- Town Team: Potential to be co-located within the space
- Local businesses, and regular and occasional home workers
How to get started:
- Test flexible workspace demand from operators to open up centres
- Partner with an operator to test the feasibility of potential locations and business model
- Explore funding for both capital and revenue costs
- Explore potential focus, e.g. desk space or meeting space / digital and creative, and/or health care linked to the hospital and increasing care needs
- Before investing in a space, trial ideas and build a community of co-workers. For example, use a pub or restaurant for co-working meet-ups. This also enables the pub/restaurant to diversify their offer and take advantage of quieter periods, such as during the day/morning. Could also incorporate tech, such as networking Apps which matches people wanting to network locally, especially important with increased working from home
- Requires a space of approximately 150-200m2
- Funding: Potential council/operator partnership to aid the start-up period and capital costs. Longer-term costs covered by a mix of memberships, space rental, cafe sales and grant-funded programme. Generally, these projects require two years of support before breaking even, for this scale of co-working space approx. £200-250k for staffing, rent and rates. Rent and rates have a large impact and could look at company models that qualify for rates relief.
- Site: The co-working space could be opportunistic to available spaces and affordable rents, e.g. long-term ‘meanwhile’ use of an average / larger sized vacant shop unit; however, with adequate financial support and funding, it would benefit from a more aspirational location. A high street / central location would be mutually beneficial with close transport links and high street animation. Long-term potential to incorporate into relevant future high street development.
- Resource: 1.5 members of staff to manage and run
Example: Central Parade
Central Parade is a mixed-use creative hub, including co-working, studio and exhibition space and a bakery-cafe where events and workshops take place. The transformation of this former council direct centre was funded jointly by the council and the Mayor’s High Street Fund. Operated by Meanwhile Space CIC, the project strives to unlock Walthamstow’s potential as a thriving cultural town centre, supporting multiple creative disciplines and businesses to co-locate, share resources, learn and collaborate. The use of this council-owned building actively engages the local community and animates the high street, offering a diverse cultural programme throughout the week.
Example: WE Hub
Work Avenue in Finchley Central is an SME workspace provider that creates business and employment opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. At WE Hub, they offer a range of workspace packages across 4 tiers from 10 hours a week of hot-desking (£20/month), allocated desks with meeting room allowance (£130/month) to a dedicated office (from £500/month).
Alongside its workspace offer, the charity operator Work Avenue, provides job readiness coaching, training, business support and seminars, start-up loans and mentoring.