Cheap, Cool, Communal Workspaces in London

Joe Baylis

The business world is going through a stage of evolution. In the last few years it has become less about suits, offices and water coolers, and more about hot desking, coding and caffe latte mochaccinos.

workspaces london
Photo by Neil Conway used under CC

More and more people are breaking the mould and creating companies and organisations that we thought we never even needed. To do that they need to exchange ideas, and some of the best places to do this are communal areas filled with like-minded individuals. There’s nothing like discussing the realisation of your big idea over a craft beer.

Check out below our list of free and cheap spaces for you, our hard-up innovators of tomorrow.

London Campus

Google has a network of spaces around the globe (including Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv) that offer free deskspace, internet and events to help provide budding entrepreneurs with the building blocks for their venture. The London Campus is located on Bonhill Street (in between Liverpool Street and Old Street stations), fresh coffee and healthy food is sold on site, and there are plenty of like-minded sounding boards to bounce ideas off.

workspace london
Photo by David Guerra Terol used under CC

This is a great location, especially for those who like to network and slip their fingers into various pies. But, some have concerns that it is not in fact an ideal place to get your head down and work, for fear of being interrupted by the self-styled ‘next big thing’ every ten minutes.

Worry not though, for there are other options.

Ace Hotel lobby – Shoreditch

workspace london
Photo by Ewan Munro used under CC

Yes, a hotel lobby seems like an unlikely suggestion. And probably it’s not ideal if you are looking for a quiet space. But, in all my working visits to Ace Hotel’s subtly trendy lobby, I have not been interrupted once. You don’t even have to buy a drink (although common courtesy would suggest you at least buy one coffee—and it’s good coffee too). Aaaaand you get free wifi.

So I would say the name of this hotel is very apt indeed. The only danger is whiling away your working hours watching all the weird and wonderful Shoreditch characters swanning by, and taking note of any fashion advice/disasters.

Oh, and I should probably say, other hotels are available, apparently. Next!

Tate Modern/Barbican/Southbank Centre and Festival Hall/British Library

For inspiration, where better to work than within the buildings that specialise in art itself. Galleries, museums and exhibitions all tend to have common areas where visitors can eat, drink and partake in high brow conversations about the spectacular piece of art they’ve just happened upon.

workspace london
The Tate Modern gallery | Photo by Isabell Schulz used under CC

On the whole, these conversations do not stray above a few decibels, making these areas a very peaceful and rewarding place to work or meet with friends/siblings/parents/business colleagues/lovers/study groups/improv partners/art aficionados/magic circle members/stonemason chums, etc.

And when you need a break, rejuvenate your mind by wondering around the art installations that are conveniently all around you.

Coffices

Another popular trend in London is the use of coffee shops by freelancers and other nomadic business people as temporary offices. As long as the place has wifi, a table and an electrical socket, workers will happily buy and attempt to slowly sip on just one coffee all day in exchange for a workspace. The trick is trying to keep that one coffee warm all day.

Check out this website for locations of all the ideal coffices near you: http://coffices.co/

Some extra fantastic news if you’re aged 16-25

There exists an awesome organisation called somewhereto.com, which negotiates free spaces for any 16-25 year old with a big idea, and then supports them in the pursuit of that idea. They have access to all sorts of areas, from studios, to galleries, to offices, to football pitches and to libraries.

Simply sign up, find your desired space and contact them. They’ll take care of the rest.

And best of all? It’s all completely free. So get out there and get innovating, you young people of today!

Shared office space

Unfortunately, and realistically, finding great free communal spaces is quite rare in London. But some are more affordable than others. If you are hankering for a hot desk, super keen for co-working or wishing for wicked wifi then this could be your only option.

workspace london
The kind of thing you can expect from communal workspaces | Photo by Jennifer Morrow used under CC

Check out the NearDesk app/website, which will give you a comprehensive list of all the available desks around your local area. Some come for a price as low as £20 for the day, for example the Oval Office, not in Obama’s White House, but opposite the famous gas holders of Bethnal Green.

One to watch…

South of the river, there exists a social organisation now gaining traction, called DIY Space for London and located just off the Old Kent Road. They pride themselves on providing affordable space for such activities as screenings, talks, gigs and other performances. They also rent out social creative spaces during the day, have attached a record shop and printworks to the premises, and offer food via a vegan cafe. There are plenty of events to attend as well.

It is worth noting that they are a members club (it costs only £2 to join), giving you a sense of belonging and meaning you have a say in the running of the establishment. Looking through the price list, rentals do seem expensive, but these guys have a mission to stay sustainable, and are non-profit, so are just covering costs.

They are only 6 months old and hence are currently developing their price list covering rehearsal, collaborative and social spaces for during the day. This is certainly one to watch as there is definitely potential for cheapo-appropriate opportunities here.

Ok, that’s it from me. All I can do now is wish you a happy and productive future of communal working (writes the 28-year-old sitting in his parents’ kitchen…).

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