With start-up community Collective recently upping sticks from Hampstead Road’s Temperance Hospital to a new location in Camden, it might feel like the support network for fledgling creative businesses in Euston had taken a bit of a knock.
Fortunately, just around the corner lies one of London’s co-working trailblazers. For the last five years @WorkHubs has been exploring the fast-moving horizons of the shared office movement. With a casual membership of between 250-300, ranging from those who come in to work every day through to those who attend the regular programme of clubs, they’ve carved out exactly the type of thriving community spirit many of the flashy new operators in this workplace gold-rush can only envy.
“At that time, there were only about ten co-working spaces in the whole of London,” says founder Philip Dodson. “But we’d noticed more and more people were shifting to a freelance way of working, where taking on a traditional office, or even a service one, wasn’t realistic.”
There was a real hunger for the new option that Philip, and business partner Bernard, were offering. As their initial cohort of startups became successful, they would outgrow the space, but the desks were easy to fill again. The only problem was that this rapid turnover of people meant there was little genuine community spirit.
“About two years ago we turned the telescope around and thought, ‘what do people actually want’? They can get a desk anywhere, from Starbucks to their kitchen table, so we began to focus on running clubs. Our mission was to provide a way to get freelancers out of the house, to connect, share ideas and become better versions of themselves.”Now, WorkHubs runs a full series of weekly freelancer powwows, ranging from ‘Not so Manic Mondays’, where members come to prioritise for the week ahead, share tips and plan how to be more productive, through to hands-on art and blogging skills clubs.
There’s a weekly writers session, too, where fifteen people sit in silence around the same table, working on screenplays, books or blogs. All agree on the increase in focus, and output, that simply working together brings.
Similarly, another mission Philip and his team are working on is the Deep Work Project, offering training people to stop getting distracted by the “repetitive shallow work” of things like checking emails and going down the rabbit hole of social media.
With regular events for #meetup groups and a free weekly podcast, even non-members have a lot to gain from these guys’ ongoing fascination with redefining the workplace for the present, and the future.
“Most co-working caters to the very glitzy, techy, fast-growth side of the startup world,” says Phil, “and I don’t have a problem with that. However this is not that type of place. Someone once described it as the Cheers of co-working,” referencing the classic US TV sitcom about a bar ‘where everybody knows your name’.
For anyone looking for much more than just a desk and coffee from their community hub, this is where it’s, um, at.