Making space for NEW NORMAL in a crowded city

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Sabrina Faramarzi is a London-based Futures Researcher and member of our on-the-ground Insight Network, tw:inFor our tw:in Twins blog series, which sees two spotters from around the world are paired together to discuss a specific trend within their city or region, she explores how spacial constraints are creating a change to the city’s ENTREPRENEURIA mindset, and the rise of NEW NORMAL is leading to innovative approaches combining living and working.

The lobby of the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch has become an emblem of the armies of freelancers in London. Open for free use for anyone with a MacBook and a frown (with intervals of furious typing of course), the rise of this way of working is beginning to become the norm for many people in London. And it’s not all laptops and long tables.

01_Ace Hotel Lobby

Hipster hotel lobbies and cafe culture may have facilitated these armies of freelancers and independent creatives in London, but it isn’t just limited to that. London is a crowded city, and with its population set to pass the 10million mark between 2017 and 2018, space is, and will remain, an increasingly important issue. Combine London’s spiralling home rental costs with a rise in self-employment and innovative solutions are needed to tackle the issue of space in both work spaces and living spaces.

British property developer The Collective has been working on finding a solution for this since 2010. These co-living and co-working spaces currently have 1500 rooms across London in Acton, Camden, Hyde Park, King’s Cross and Notting Hill, and are set to add another 3500 in the next 3 years in order to serve these flexible workers (see their grand plan below). The idea for The Collective was built around an inherent desire for quality accommodation that allowed young people to work, live and play and switch seamlessly through these modes. Its format minimises interruptions to working lives such as an all-in-one bill that includes rent, bills, water, electricity, council tax, superfast wi-fi and access to communal facilities such as the gym.

02_TheCollective

One of the attractions to the flexible working lifestyle is being location independent, and The Collective aren’t the only property developers understanding the importance of this. Elephant Park is a mixed-use development in South London and its latest phase, West Grove, is set to open in 2025 that integrates a co-working community hub, lounge areas, and even allotment gardens.

On the smaller scale (or for those just beginning to ease themselves into this lifestyle), there is now a members-only coffee shop, recently opened at co-working space Net.Works. Called SL28, it hails itself as London’s first ever coffee shop in a members-only format. With membership at just £10 a month, it includes exclusive access to its coffee lounge and hot-desking workspace and unlimited coffee at a flat rate of £5 a day, all with an aim to provide a relaxed atmosphere where people can work and network.

03_SL28 cafe

And if that is still too crowded, New-York based company Bar Works (who specialise in creating co-working spaces), are planning to reinvent London’s public red telephone boxes into micro-offices, calling the scheme Pod Works. Able to use for one hour at a time, these transient mini-workstations will include a 25-inch monitor, wi-fi, power outlets, a printer and scanner and complimentary tea and coffee, all at a membership rate of £19.99 a month.

04_red telephone boxes

Although I believe the manifestation of NEW NORMAL lies in a facilitation of spaces for these flexible workers on a physical level, it is about location independence. A sense of being nomadic in a large city where it can sometimes take you an hour to get from east to west, having workspaces as flexible as your schedule, clients and location is key.

But at the basic, fundamental human need, it is also about community. Flexible workers need to network with other people, especially in a city so diverse in its culture, skills and sectors. We need spaces where we can all learn tips and tricks from one another and progress the economic dynamism of London in the future. It’s about building communities that innovate - not just having a spot for your MacBook and your frown at the Ace Hotel.

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