Trading spaces

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The nature of work is changing and along with it, so is the working environment.

You only have to spend an hour in your local Starbucks to see that it is no longer just a pit stop for the passer-by, but a humdrum of meetings and tech savvy entrepreneurs rigged up to the free wi-fi and plugged in to the surplus of power points. It juxtaposes privacy and connectivity with a perfectly brewed flat-white.

As a small business owner myself (and when I say small I mean two people small!) I not only understand this evolution but I am very much a part of it. I have no fixed abode. Myself and my employee need only our laptops and phones to do our jobs, oh, and our cars. Now on one hand if you are confined to the same four walls 40 hrs a week I totally accept you may think this is enviable. But let me elaborate, what happens is your car becomes your new office – or inevitably so does the local coffee shop.


While it's perfectly acceptable to conduct your business here on a casual basis, for many small business owners like myself who have no need for an office space, it can be very isolating not starting your week with some good old fashioned face to face interaction and engaging in the office banter. We want to be part of something, but we don't necessarily need to…

A savvy entrepreneur duo from NYC identified this evolution and spotted a niche. Their business WeWork is one of the hottest companies in the world with their mission statement which claims to “transform buildings into dynamic environments for creativity, focus and connection. More than just the best place to work, this is a movement toward humanizing work.”

Desk space is rented by the day / help yourself to the free refreshments / foosball / and yoga on tap – ermm what’s not to love! All jokes aside I think the real cherry on top with an environment like this is the networking - it encourages individuals or teams to interact with like minded professionals, I for one can definitely see the appeal of popping in to a cool office space once a fortnight, no strings attached just to get the creative juices flowing and keep me energised.

But I wonder if it is just a fancy home for the so called tech-startups and if it's limited to the digital industry? The simple answer is 'No'. What has emerged over the last few years is that space as a commodity across all sectors.

Trading space in this way works well for all parties – think about it – no vacant shop fronts while waiting for a sale of the building to go through; no ugly boarded up windows after an old tenant has left... instead heart and soul being pumped back into the bare bricks of a once defunct building, life being injected into an otherwise neglected space.


Appear [here] is one of the go-to sites for both high end, established brands such as Nike through to the new retail entrepreneurs who are looking for a kooky trading post with no pressure of commitment. It is a marketplace for brands, retailers and entrepreneurs to rent short-term space. The platform allows landlords to list their empty space and for brands to book it, apparently it's as simple as booking a hotel room. I am intrigued.

If space can be bought at the click of a button for as little as an hour at a time, this frees up cash for businesses to spend elsewhere: on stock, branding...well, whatever they want to spend their cash on really. Quite simply it gives them freedom. Not having to stump up the cash for a hefty deposit or get tied into a life-long tenancy gets you a little bit excited by the possibilities this enables doesn't it?

So although I may not be opening up my tres chic pop-up shop in Paris quite yet, I certainly will be reserving my uber-trendy desk space...foosball anyone??

Cheryl Williams

Cheryl Williams is the owner of Properly, an inspection body for the residential property industry.

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