As membership manager at Brighton Chamber I spend a lot of my time out and about in Brighton, meeting with members and new contacts. I usually visit businesses at their offices or at one of the numerous coffee establishments in the city, but there are some new options springing up across Brighton and Hove in the form of co-working and shared office spaces. As is the case across the UK, co-working and shared office space is growing in demand. Brighton’s lack of affordable, good quality office space is still an issue for businesses based in the city so the popularity of co-working in the city is of no surprise. It’s now seen as one of the most productive ways to work, as it focuses on collaboration and making connections. Last month I decided to find out what all the fuss was about, and visited a few of Brighton and Hove’s latest additions to the co-working scene.
First stop was PLATF9RM in Brighton. With views of the sea and beautiful décor, it’s a space that inspires. I started the day by catching up on emails in the quiet zone - a tranquil glass-fronted room where you can switch off from the buzz and chatter of the co-working areas. Mid-morning I chatted to some people I knew (and some I didn’t) over a cup of coffee in the informal communal areas. I left with some new contacts and ideas and felt energised. PLATF9RM have also opened in Hove Town Hall - it’s a very different space but still retains the cool, stylish community vibe.
Next up I was invited to give a short talk about Brighton Chamber to businesses at Freedom Works in Hove. It’s a creative hub based in the iconic Dubarry building behind Hove station. It’s evolving space with funky artwork, indoor plants and free beer Fridays, with a mixture of co-working and self-contained offices. I hung around after my talk and chatted with a few businesses and then smashed through my ‘to-do’ list! It was great to have the space to be sociable and network when I wanted, and then have time to follow up after all my meetings.
My last day was mainly an office day. The Chamber is based at Entrepreneurial Spark, a business accelerator for early stage and growing businesses, so we’re permanently co-working come to think about it. Entrepreneurs on the programme get to use the shared office. It’s a dynamic place to be where businesses share ideas, support each other to solve business problems and have fun whilst doing it. Having chatted to the entrepreneurs based at E Spark, they say that having a shared space to work with peers has been invaluable in growing their business.
A friend said to me recently that he thought all I did was drink coffee and talk to people for a living. He does have a point. I did spend a lot of this week meeting people and knocking back a coffee or two. Lucky for me, it’s a big part of my job and I’m pleased to say that co-working helped my productivity. It allowed me to get most of the admin work on my to-do list complete, and gave me the space to meet people and make new connections. I’m bought into the co-working revolution, so it will become a permanent fixture in my diary. So if you so see me around come and say hello, I love to chat about all things business in Brighton!
Thinking about co-working? Here are my top tips to make it work for you.
Don’t be shy: If you’re in a communal area, say hello and engage with people around you. You never know what kind of insights they might have on that business problem you’ve been trying to tackle, or whether they have an interesting contact that can help you with the business. Be open-minded!
Manage your time carefully: Co-working can offer a wonderful opportunity to connect with others, however there are times when you need to get your head down. The beauty of co-working is that you can choose when you want to interact with others and when you need some serious quiet time. You are there to work after all.
Take advantage of what’s on offer: I’m not just talking about the endless supply of tea, coffee and biscuits. Freedom Works hold workshops and talks aimed at supporting businesses; PLATF9RM have an array of fun and thought-provoking events from ‘walkshops’ in the downs to themed socials. The Werks facilitate peer mentoring and even have an innovation café! These events are all designed to help you collaborate, connect and expand your business possibilities. Get involved!
If you’re interested in finding out more about co-working and other work space and how it could work for you, visit www.businessinbrighton.org.uk/business-support/work-space