Hubble has compiled a ten-question guide to assess how much a spare desk in your office could be worth – which also reflects why so many smaller firms based in and around London have opted for alternative working arrangements.
The questionnaire lists a range of popular areas – including Camden, Canary Wharf, Marylebone, Soho, Docklands, Kings Cross, Shoreditch and Victoria, and asks what type of office you have – open plan or private, as well as what amenities are on offer.
Options listed include 24-hour access, meeting rooms and kitchen, but also ping pong/chill-out area and pet-friendly. It also asked respondents to tick any extra highlights their office boasted, including rooftop access, transport accessibility and lots of natural light.
A desk in a clustered open place setup in Shoreditch could net £300. Take away all perks and it still came out at around £232. A desk in a private office in the City, with useful amenities, could rack up around £764 a month. If you had one going spare in Soho, you could pick up an extra £450, while being based in Mayfair takes it up to £800 per month.
As Hubble pointed out, a spare seat in your office could effectively cover the monthly cost of a rented room in London.
On the one hand, looking into offices which offer the odd spare desk could be a useful option for a small business looking for networking opportunities and the more sociable side of co-working. On the other, the ever-rising prices for rent means looking into remote working and being based elsewhere may be a more realistic choice for a financially restricted new firm.
Research by Microsoft looked into the response to the change in legislation giving employees the right to request flexible working one year on, and found a fifth of those working in small and medium-sized enterprises had requested it as a result of the law. While there had been high support among those who had been able to make use of it, many were being restricted by being required to work from the office within designated working hours.
If you are lucky enough to have secured an office space and are utilising flexible or remote working among your team, renting out any extra desks could be an excellent way to bring in a bit more money – and again, build up new connections with businesses or individuals who could be useful to your own work.
Caleb Parker, chief executive of MeetingRooms.com, said: “Empty office space is a potential goldmine.”
He added that “while consumers are embracing the new sharing economy – renting out their homes, using their cars to make money – there is very little evidence of businesses following suit”, although it would be a sensible thing to do. “The business case is difficult to reject: the average organisation has a wealth of assets that aren’t utilised to their full capacity.”
As micro businesses and freelancers are on the rise, so too is co-working. A report into the rise by DTZ reported that this time in 2014 there were 4.2m home workers in the UK – the highest level of home working since comparable records began. The number has grown by 1.3m since 1998 and the home working rate increased higher than any point in the past decade and a half.
It also said micro businesses employ more than seven million people as improved funding options and tax breaks for startups have begun to take effect. If these kind of companies continue to grow year-on-year at the same rate as they did between 2012 and 2013, together these developments will account for 1.1m new UK enterprises by 2024, while self-employment is set to rise by 15 per cent in the same period.
This push towards flexible working and other alternative options also indicates that businesses don’t need the same level of infrastructure that they used to – instead, the reliance is switching to technology. It’s not necessarily those without a set office who are running into difficulty, but those firms based in locations where they don’t have sufficient internet access and high-speed broadband.
The rise of smaller firms and individual workers also means more fluidity to the traditional office system – something which used to be seen as monotonous and rigid. More smaller businesses are being seen scattered around different offices, so it may mean a micro firm has managed to secure a spot in a good location and has a desk going spare. In which case, as the Huddle questionnaire reflected, you should make an effort to fill it. Financially it’s a boost, and depending on who ends up filling the empty chair, you may also make a handy business contact too.
For those wanting to be based centrally but put off by the overheads, the ever-increasing number of micro businesses is gradually making flexible working a more widely accepted alternative, so you don’t necessarily need that prime central spot anyway.
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