How businesses can use their workplace to attract and retain the greatest minds

Paul Slinn, managing director of Flexioffices, discusses the development of the co-working space and their perks for small business employees.

If you ask an employee why they would stay at a large company or corporation, their workplace is often a big factor. Most people, particularly young workers, prefer a more dynamic and less rigid style of work, but they still want a bespoke aesthetic and a long stream of perks. Sometimes only big companies can offer these, but small businesses can provide something new and different thanks to one thing: co-working spaces.

With their rapid growth across London and the rest of the UK, these spaces have become collaborative ecosystems instead of workplaces. The opportunity to work and grow in an environment, where like-minded companies can interact with each other and benefit from ideas to strengthen their brand and promote growth, isn’t something you can get in a corporation.

Before we discuss the cultural benefits and the effect on employees, it does also make total financial sense to co-work. Fixed desk space can be nearly double the price of a dedicated co-working space. One private desk at WeWork’s St Mark’s Square space in Shoreditch costs £720 per month, compared to £457 for a dedicated desk in a co-working environment. At Regus’ News Building property in London Bridge, a single desk costs £800 per month whereas their co-working space is £415 per month.

Varied spaces

Financial points aside, varied spaces are integral for small workforces. Regardless of the industry, people work in different ways, so a diverse workspace is key to maximising potential, productivity and creativity.

In an effort for privacy, some employees will need to escape their bubble if they’re working with a small group of people. Similarly, leaving their desks and using a more creative environment can help teams collaborate better. If teams can collaborate, they can innovate.

Meeting rooms and lunch areas are common. An auditorium is a step further though. Hiring event space can be a pain – hunting for the right area and keeping it all within budget takes time and resources a small business could be using to grow. FORA’s ‘pro-working’ space in Clerkenwell has an auditorium with tiered seating for 50 people which can be hired at very reasonable rates on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The concern is that with open collaborative spaces, privacy suffers. But all office spaces worth looking at provide closed meeting rooms or even telephone booths for confidentiality and personal reading spaces for individual privacy.

Large corporations have the resources to create beautiful open spaces too and keep the whole building connected. Smaller companies can, however, do the same. Most spaces are interconnected, meaning you can print and access the internet or network regardless of where you are, and seamlessly book meeting rooms and access facilities online.

LABS is one provider that goes a step further. Everything is controlled by one solitary app. It allows users to book meeting rooms seamlessly, find talent, swap skills, and engage with the community. IT also offers cloud storage, desktops and Marketplace. All of this fosters a collaborative atmosphere outside of your own company. Neutreat, which occupies a space in their Holborn office, benefits from the networking opportunities. They say, ‘LABS is the kind of place where you don’t know if you’re in the lift with a CEO or an intern but everyone greets you openly. The growing friendly community is a true testament to how welcoming the LABS team are.’

Using a workspace to attract and retain staff

Connectivity and variety are all well and good, but how are companies to use their workplace to not only attract the best minds, but retain them as well? Fun perks are a growing trend across office spaces, and as one inventive feature turns up so does another. In this game of one-upmanship, smaller companies can make the most of having a barista make your coffee, drinking beer and prosecco on tap, lounge spaces, courtyards, cafes and even restaurants led by top chefs. The Office Group’s facility at the new White Collar Factory tower at Old Street, in the heart of London’s tech industry, is the epitome of a light, open workspace of the future. It features a roof terrace complete with its very own AstroTurf. Award winning chef Stevie Parle runs Palatino in FORA’s Clerkenwell space. His restaurant is open all day for sit down meals, grab and go food and even room service.

As Brits work longer hours, home comforts and amenities need to be provided to encourage the same level of productivity across the working day. Banks and law firms have in-house hairdressers and dentists. But co-working spaces prefer a more aesthetic approach. Many spaces allow dogs in the office – not only does this help the employee solve a stressful problem, but having a dog in the workplace has been proven to increase productivity. Gyms are common in co-working spaces, as well as bike parking, showers and changing facilities. The White Collar Factory uses its unusual rooftop space to create a 150m running track overlooking the city.

An increasing number of people are turning to SMEs for a more fulfilling job outside the corporate bubble. In order to retain the top talent, you have to provide the right environment. And if a 150m running track and roof terrace doesn’t entice them, maybe the beer on tap will.

Paul Slinn is managing director of Flexioffices.

Further reading on co-working space

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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