Touch down. Log in. Work on.
A new type of work space has been quietly
emerging over the past few years - the Workhub.
Pitched in the gap between the 'Starbucks office'
and serviced offices, they provide low-cost desks
and meeting/collaboration space that can be hired by
the hour, as well as a range of other services for
home-based businesses and mobile workers.
A new report commissioned by a consortium of UK
government agencies was launched at a conference at
BT centre on June 29th. The report, Workhubs -
Smart workspace in the low carbon economy looks at
the role of the new wave of local work centres and
in particular how they support home-based
businesses. It also looks at possible public
sector roles in supporting them and/or using them as
the government sector seeks to shrink radically its
own office property.
According to the report's authors:
"The high level of flexibility and the
emphasis on collaboration distinguishes the new
workhubs from more traditional providers of
serviced office space, and from business
incubators and business parks. Some of these
providers of more traditional office space are
now beginning to add some hub type services
"Many large employers are also going down the
route of reducing their office premises and
creating smart working environments, with an
emphasis on touch-down and collaborative spaces
for their increasingly mobile employees,
enabling them to work effectively from any
"Workhubs create flexible working
environments, but they are open to the many
rather than employees of a single organisation.
Their users can be from any kind of
organisation, and the emphasis is on having
shared space and shared facilities. In this way
space can be used more efficiently and higher
occupancy achieved, bringing a lower carbon cost
to economic activity."
Offices move from being a fixed to a variable
cost, becoming an 'office-as-needed'. For
home-based workers this means having a professional
workplace in which to meet clients, or to base
yourself at when working from home is not practical.
At the heart of the report is a series of
detailed case studies of Workhubs and some of their
users. For those unfamiliar with the idea,
this is an ideal introduction to this emerging
The case studies are quite varied, but all show a
strong spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the people
who have set them up. About half of them have
some permanent tenants as well as hub space, while
the others have only by the hour/by the day users.
Half again have some kind of public sector support
at start-up, while the rest are entirely
self-funded. Some offer virtual services, and
most offer some kind of business support and/or
They are also in a diverse range of geographical
settings: in town centres, in regeneration areas, in
There is also a look at Regus, the largest
provider of third party workspace, which is now
moving into similar territory with it's Business
A survey of hub users the main value of the
workhub is in providing meeting space, facilities
that homeworkers do not have themselves, and in
opportunities for collaborating and networking.
These are all valued more highly than using a desk
or using broadband.
And the hub users overwhelmingly felt that using
the hub along with working from home helps them to
reduce the carbon footprint of their work.
Support from the government
Minister for Housing and Local Government Grant
Shapps has welcomed the report, saying:
“This Government is right behind the
thousands of people across the country trying to
set up or grow a business from home. It’s right
that we find innovative ways of supporting them
– particularly in these tough economic times. As
part of this I am already working to remove the
barriers to social tenants running a business
"This report is a timely reminder to all the
public sector about the difference practical
support can make to businesses as well as the
environment. It should be essential reading for
councils who want to provide the best possible
support for local businesses in their