With International Collaboration Day taking place next week (16th January), we caught up with Phil Dodson, key instigator and founder of the @WorkHubs co-working space in Euston, London to give us the lowdown.
1. Hi Phil, can you please tell me what WorkHubs is and how it works?
@WorkHubs is a business eco-system that combines flexible physical workspace with support services and a member community to enable you and your business to connect, network and grow.
It’s simple to use either on a pay-as-you-go basis or a range of monthly rolling hourly packages from 20 hours a month to unlimited usage. The space provides desks, a lounge, collaborative space, kitchen, meeting space, private offices and lockers to store stuff. In addition through a range of partners, we can assist with anything from PA services to car hire.
2. What’s your background and what led you to launch WorkHubs?
I have spent most of my life building business working alongside entrepreneurs or running my own businesses. I spent many years working and living abroad, setting up businesses in some very challenging environments. Then I got involved in commercial property and was key person in the growth of serviced offices in UK & Europe, before setting up my own commercial property business.
This is what led me to set up @WorkHubs, seeing the ever quicken changes in how people wanted to work. Co-working evolved in much the same way that serviced offices did in 1990’s, with technology being the catalyst for both. In the 90s, software companies where mushrooming and they were not able to commit to the lengthy commercial leases, plus they needed flexibility as they either grew very quickly or disappeared.
Fast forward to 2-3 years ago and the growth in apps and smartphone technology has again created a new need, that is for fast collaboration. I could see that essentially people just working remotely from home, coffee shops or small offices was not conducive to business growth and that people essentially want to be around others.
3. What type of people co-work at WorkHubs? Is it just freelancers, consultants and sole traders or do people from bigger companies work there too?
Co-working initially was very much for tech companies, but as with serviced offices before, it is now spreading rapidly across all sectors of the economy as more and more people can see the benefits.
4. In your eyes, what are the benefits of co-working, beyond just a change of scenery?
One of the biggest killers in my opinion for start-up businesses is isolation. Many entreprenuers/small business owners choose to work from home or from small office suites with a view that it is more economical.
Until co-working spaces evolved these were the only options other than a coffee shop available. This leads to them being cut off from others and ideas.
The serendipity or friction points – the chance of bumping in to someone, not literally, is how many business opportunities arise. So for me one of the biggest benefits of co-working is being around others and the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, meet future partners, suppliers or customers.
5. How is modern technology changing the way people work?
Technology has been the catalyst for almost every change in how we work since the industrial revolution or even since the dawn of time. Now more than ever, the pace of change is causing what has been described as ‘Digital Darwinism’ whereby technology and society are evolving faster than our ability to adapt.
Everybody raved about technology allowing us to work from home, however, home working all day every day has failed, as it leads to the isolation. What technology has meant is that work for the first time is no longer a place but an activity you can do anywhere.
However, in order to be successful it requires interaction and connecting with others. That is why co-working for me is the future of working. A physical space that you can dip in and out of to suit your needs, where the meshing together of skills, opportunities and sharing can take place. All businesses will benefit from sharing and collaborating.
6. What is International Collaboration Day and how can people get involved?
#iCollDay or International Collaboration Day, which is on the 16th January 2014, was something that came to me as a ‘bright idea’ one day on the train in to the hub.
Co-working for me isn’t about a group of self-employed people sitting in a shared space with their headphones on with a bunch of strangers – that’s Starbucks! Instead, co-working is about being part of a collaborative, sharing and supportive business community.
So the idea behind #iCollDay is to get co-working spaces and users to focus on that key message. This is the first one and we are hoping to use this as the start of sharing that message globally.
If people want to get involved then go to www.meetup.com/International-Collaboration-Day/ and book in to one of the events.
At the hub we are having a morning session where you can bring a business challenge you want solving and we will as group collaborate to work on solutions. With the aim to run that as a monthly workshop.
7. What technology / tools do you use to enable you to co-work, collaborate and increase your productivity?
There is an ever growing number of apps and tools to help people collaborate. One that our team have used for #iCollDay has been Trello, which has been massively useful for us. For me social media platforms are great for encouraging sharing and collaboration too.
Email has become a victim of its own success and I personally see it as very ‘old school’ and the antithesis of collaboration and productivity. Other tools I use are all the Google Apps. I especially love Google+ Hangouts and am a huge fan of Evernote too.
In addition, I would strongly recommend everyone who runs a small business to migrate from Microsoft to Google and also use cloud based apps and software, especially for accountancy. (Like Sage One Cashbook or Sage One Accounts – Paul)
8. Anything else you’d like to say about co-working or any great resources you can share?
Lastly I see co-working as the birth of a new way of working which I sincerely hope will continue the growth of the digital economy and will enable the sharing economy to flourish. We have to change from the failed old school system that has now run its course.
Co-working will hopefully provide the blank canvas for ideas to be created and where the growing self-employed freelance world can mesh together with the changing established business world. With 7 billion people on the planet and counting we can’t just rely on doing what we have always done!