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The COVID Workspace Dilemma

We are helping startups and SME's who are looking for offices in Shoreditch to re-imagine their approach...

We are fast approaching the end of the winter lockdown and many companies are facing a workspace dilemma. Do you go back to the same setup as before, or do you try something different?

COVID has undoubtedly accelerated the adoption of remote working. As stated by the World Economic Forum, working from home for at least 2-3 days per week will become the norm (if it is not already) for most companies, including corporates. It is likely that large firms will look to downsize their central offices and offer more flexible desk provision. Freelancers will continue to roam between cafes and coworking spaces as they always have.

However, the real dilemma lies with growing startups and SME's. Many of these businesses cancelled their contracts and leases with workspaces providers like WeWork, Spaces, Second Home, The Office Group, Workspaces and Regus. The less fortunate organisations were forced to continue paying off their leases even though they were not using their offices. Ultimately, the question that most small business owners need to ask themselves is what is the true purpose and value of having an office?

Traditionally, the answer would have been productivity. If you want your team to get work done you need to provide them with an office. However, we are now finding that working from home can actually be more effective and productive as it is easier to organise meetings and less time is wasted commuting into the city every day.

However, there is a downside. The lack of in person social interaction can lead to a loss of motivation and also a higher risk of mental health problems. There have been many cases of burn out where people are expected to work longer hours without the usual lunch breaks and after work drinks. These social moments have a big impact on team morale.

Another consideration is diversity. Some people thrive in a remote working culture, whilst others struggle. Working from home can also have a negative impact on learning and professional development. Junior people benefit from the 'being in the room' factor, where they can join meeting and learn from the conversations that take place. With remote working information flows tend to be more narrow and the naturally workplace exchange of knowledge and expertise is lost.

The truth is that there is no one size fits all solution. Every team is different and so naturally every workplace strategy should be different as well. What we can all agree on is that the answer lies in a hybrid solution, that offers a blend of office-based and remote working.

Magnus Meyer, Managing Director WSP Nordics & Continental Europe, said: “This crisis is probably going to accelerate the need for modern, flexible office space with lots of services. The buildings that suffer will be the older ones that tenants just don’t want any more. They’re just the wrong product.”

Our recommendation would be to open up this conversation to everyone in your organisation. Include them in the decision making process and test out lots of options before making a long term commitment.

This is a unique moment to show that you truly care about the wellbeing of your team and cultivate a culture of honest dialogue and collaboration within your team. This is the time to rip up the rule book and challenge old assumptions. You don't need to commit to one location. You can spend your office budget in many different ways.

You can give your team a personal work from home budget so they can find a local coworking space to work from and avoid the commute. You can redesign your team's workflow so that you only need to meet once or twice a week. You can have memberships across multiple coworking spaces and private member clubs. You can also book out countryside venues and do overnight offsite retreats and workshops in nature.

There are many aspects to work. Some of the time we need to have privacy to get our heads down and work without distraction, ideally with multiple screens. Some of the time we need to make a presentation or attend a networking event. Some of the time we need to get everyone together to solve a problem or align around the core values and vision of the organisation.

We created House of Transformation during lockdown last year to help startups and SME's to re-imagine the way they work. Our space is specifically designed for workshops and collaborative meetings. We also host a programme of wellness events, community dinners and personal development courses.

We want to build a trusted relationship and meaningful partnership with up to 10 startups who will share access to our space in East London as well as being part of our wider community. We want our space to become a cultural hub where we all support each other as if we were part of an extended family or tribe. If this sounds like your cup of tea, please get in touch. Email

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