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The growth in popularity of co-working space could begin to pose problems for businesses unless they forward plan more effectively and understand the issues they could face, a seminar in Reading has heard.

Delegates at the event were told that the past few years have seen a major increase in larger businesses taking co-working space.

Ten years ago, SMEs occupied 85% of the co-working space available but that has now been reversed, with experts at the seminar called Space as a Service, saying the split is now 85:15 in corporates’ favour as larger businesses increasingly look to shared workspace for their teams.

Employees working with confidential or handling sensitive negotiations were particular areas of potential concern flagged by speakers at the event, chaired by Boyes Turner property director Rachel Duncan and featuring speakers including David Thomas, managing partner for the Thames Valley at Vail Williams and James Silver, MD of Landid, which developed the Thames Tower in Reading.

But delegates were also warned to factor in issues such as employees based in co-working spaces identifying more with the office space brand space, including firms such as We Work, than their own employer, posing potential longer-term problems in maintaining engagement and retention, including the risk that other firms sharing the space could poach staff.

Simon Schneider, CEO of SEO firm Blue Array and a speaker at the event, said concerns that employees would feel detached from the business had led the company to decide against sharing space with another business when it looked to expand.

Rachel Duncan, a director in Boyes Turner’s property team, said tech businesses in particular had been a catalyst for the growth in co-working space, especially for young or start-up businesses, but said for all businesses, the short-term appeal of flexible workspace had to be balanced against long-term planning.

“Co-working spaces will always be attractive and the right decision for some businesses but not all. It’s vital that businesses, whatever their size, factor in some key considerations when they look at what space they need,” she said.

“As well as whether it’s right for their teams and keeping employees engaged and connected with their colleagues, location, GDPR, cost and security including that of intellectual property and confidentiality are also crucial considerations.”

Keeping a track of costs was also vital, she added, after delegates were given an example of one unnamed business which had allowed rents on the shared space to double over a period of time.

“With the demand for offices-as-a-service solutions higher than ever, landlords are capitalising on the increasing appeal for premises that are ready to go from day one,” said Rachel. 

“Young or start-up companies don’t want the hassle and lengthy time constraints traditional leasing and fit-out arrangements bring and co-working and serviced offices generally provide more modern, collaborative workspaces with all the trimmings to boot. 

“However, no two businesses are the same and, whatever size your firm is, is important to make sure your work-space first your long-term needs as well as immediate requirements. Planning ahead and clever negotiating are key in all property matters.”

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