It can be a daunting task searching for office space for your business. The endless tours of unaffordable properties can easily put you in a spin and put you off the whole idea of expanding in the first place.
Rents in trendy Shoreditch are regularly hitting £50 per sq/ft and in the West End up to £80 per sq/ft. With service charges and other bills on top, you’re probably looking at paying closer to £100 per person per month in a traditional office setup.
So whether you’re an early-stage startup or established big-hitter feeling the pinch of your expanding workforce overheads, look no further than our guide to London’s best value workspace.
1. Look to East London
For truly affordable offices in 2019, you’ve definitely got to search beyond the hotspots of Shoreditch and Soho. If you’re looking for space to rent that you can call home for your team, the best place to look is out-east to Stratford and the London Docklands.
The aftermath of the London Olympics has led to massive regeneration of the Stratford area and increasingly the best value to be had lies in the new locations springing up along the DLR.
Republic, for example, offers an office campus specifically designed for Shoreditch exiles feeling the squeeze of rising rents. Costing just over half the London average per square foot, the space is designed with creatives and the innovation economy in mind.
There is plenty of space to grow for businesses that are expanding quickly; The Import Building has 157,000 sq ft of newly refurbished workspace that is being snapped up fast alongside a workplace wellness and business networking programme that is free to all tenants. Space here starts at £30 per sq ft which is far below what you might find at trendy developments such as the White-collar Factory in Shoreditch.
For those looking for an affordable entry into the serviced office market, The Studios at Republic are a fully fitted-out option for smaller teams and include all furniture, high-speed internet connections, utilities, insurance and meeting rooms.
2. Hot Desking
Co-working seems to be all the rage these days and we can definitely see the appeal. We’re big fans of the shared office at Clipper and whilst it might not be the best fit for companies smuggling state secrets, there is a definite buzz and creative energy that can be harnessed by businesses of all shapes and sizes.
If you’ve got your heart set on a co-working space, the one thing that we would suggest would be to not follow the “hype”. Whilst the dominance of WeWork has kept them on the top of most people’s radars, the drive for sign-ups leads reps to offer voucher codes that fill up their space to bursting. Nobody wants to be fighting for a desk every morning!
We’re much more in favour of the smaller, boutique, spaces who take real care in curating their spaces. Charles Armstrong’s team at The Trampery, for example, take real pride in fostering the communities that inhabit their workplaces across London.
They’re big on events and networking and desk space can be had for in the region of £120 per person per month. Plus, they regularly offer free desks to startups who they feel can have a positive impact on their spaces.
You can check out our interview with Charles here.
Ultimately, it’s what feels right for you and you should definitely go and try some introductory offers out to get a feel for the place that you could be spending the majority of your working week in.
3. Libraries, Not Just for Students
You’re not at University any more, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still work in the library! Let’s face it, fancy co-working spaces are essentially just glorified libraries in the first place and London has a whole host of some of the planet’s best examples.
Whilst most of the local libraries in London are free to use (if you can provide evidence that you live in the borough), the most spectacular workspaces can be found at those that charge a small membership fee:
The London Library, for example, is one of the country’s leading literary institutions and holds over a million books. Whilst membership to join is charged at an annual fee, a day ticket can be yours for £15 and gives you full access to their facilities.
For some inspirational architecture, check out Will Alsop’s Peckham Library. The distinctive L-shape puts even the most over-the-top office blocks to shame and they don’t charge anything for access! There’s nothing better than free to minimise your overheads.
If the silence of the library isn’t really your vibe though, in the same vein you can also find some great space in London’s museums. The cafe at the Tate Modern, for example, has amazing views of St. Pauls Cathedral and The City and who doesn’t love a bit of art in their lunch break?
4. Cafes and Restaurants
Coffee shops are for freelancers not coffee drinkers, right? We’ve even spotted full desktop rigs set up in some of the big chain coffee shops across the capital. There’s definitely a case to be made for the nomadic working lifestyle that your local coffee house can provide, and often encourage. The buzz that these alternative offices provides is in fact so alluring to some, that a dedicated streaming service has popped up to pipe the sounds of punters to your headphones and boost creativity.
If Starbucks isn’t really your scene though – Courier Live attendees And-co, an offshoot of freelancing service Fiverr, have just started up a new service “And-co Life” linking smaller startups and sole traders with underused cafe and restaurant space across London.
Restaurants are able to offer up makeshift workspaces including private dining rooms and bars that are only really busy in the evenings and And-co fit out the space with fast Wi-fi that is only accessible by their members. Membership can be had for the very reasonable price of £20 a month or £99 a year and includes unlimited access to their curated list of partner sites.
5. Buddy-Up for a Spare Desk
This tip might not be for the shrinking-violets amongst you but you never know when your networking skills might come in use. More so than ever, businesses are willing to give away a bit of space for the collaborative opportunities that might arise.
The incubator model, brought to London from the USA is just starting to take hold and whilst you might have to fork out a percentage of your business at some point, it can often pay to have the connections that you develop as an incubee.
Meetups are a great place to meet like-minded individuals who might have a couple of spare desks going to waste in their showstopping 20th floor office.
6. Work From Home
Rent in London is extortionate anyway so you may as well make the most of what you’ve got. Plus, you can be as comfortable as you want, we’re talking Skype meetings in your PJ’s and comfy sofas to “practice mindfulness”.
Even larger businesses are increasingly encouraging their staff to work remotely. The rise of “Slack Culture” as the next generation of the Skype meeting has enabled teams to spread out across the country and a ticket into a shared meeting room for the one face-to-face meeting you might need a week seems much more attractive than paying rent on underused office space.
If you are in need of an official office location there are plenty of virtual office services that will deal with incoming mail at an affordable rate. Take a look at Hoxton Mix and who offer a virtual desk for £15 a month.
7. Hit the Web
If a permanent space for your team is what you’re really after, it’s never been easier to find information about where to look for commercial space. Whilst you might not know it – heavy hitters in the residential market Zoopla and Rightmove both have sections specifically dedicated to offices and retail space whilst a new crop of dedicated portals like Realla put a wealth of information at your fingertips.
For the best rates though, we suggest a quick check on Gumtree’s classifieds, if you can strike a deal with a landlord directly rather than dealing with commercial real estate agents you’re bound to find the best deals on space.
Clipper Magazine is produced for Republic by Courier Media.
Article Last Updated: May 13, 2019