While seasoned freelancers may be longtime residents of their local co-working haunt, for many of us, the post-pandemic working life is offering a bold new frontier in our careers. Virtually all Covid-19 restrictions in the UK are now a thing of the past, but living through Coronavirus pandemic has shown us that it's entirely possible for many works to carry out business outside of traditional office environments. As many of us adapt to our newly-vaccinated lives, hybrid working is one change we're taking forward with us into 2022.
Hybrid working models, whereby time is divided between the office and home, are now commonplace where as once you'd likely have been expected to show your face at your business HQ every day. Similarly, there's been an increase in fully remote vacancies, with research showing roles for these positions are increasing at four times the rate of the UK's general job market. It would seem then that workers and companies alike are desiring the freedom to choose where they and their employees are setting up shop for the week.
However, for all the perks a WFH lifestyle brings (later morning alarms, more time for the gym and far fewer sad pre-packaged lunchtime sarnies), we really are social creatures at heart and those water cooler chats just can't be replicated over Zoom, which is why co-working spaces have never been more vital.
These communal office areas have seen a real boom in popularity since the 'stay home' order lifted. They can typically be booked on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, with private offices available for an additional fee. And if you feel most inspired in beautiful environments, you're in luck as there are several incredibly new co-working spaces we're obsessed with.
Far from your overly-cluttered dining room or drab office with those weird fuzzy carpets, many co-working spaces are now a real treat for the senses. Expect thoughtfully-designed, artful spaces full of light, space, colour and texture. It's not unusual for pets to be allowed, too.
Many of the workspace companies featured below are expanding, citing the creation of connection and community spirit as a main focus for 2022 and beyond. Networking opportunities, socials, industry talks and wellness facilities are also commonplace in these spaces, so you can grow professionally, holistically and socially, too. All of a sudden, achieving a better work/life balance doesn't sound so tricky after all.
Here are 10 of the most beautiful and functional co-working spaces throughout London and the rest of the UK, for freelancers, flexi-workers and those that are totally over WFH.
1. Neighbourhood Works, London
We loved the day we spent tucked away at 24-hour co-working space Neighbourhood Works in East London. Part of the Spacemade group, the office has been thoughtfully designed to reflect the area's arty reputation as a hub for creatives. The interiors are an eclectic mix of colour and texture – think bold, contrasting hues, fringed lamps and 1970s-style rugs – plus plenty of leafy pot plants and bespoke pieces by local artists.
We headed down on Valentine's Day 2022 and, in the afternoon, we were treated to a delicious selection of themed cupcakes to tuck into, along with unlimited tea and coffee.
Community spirit is a real focus here. Each member is given a voucher to spend with Beam; a platform that crowdfunds employment training for the homeless. The space also hosts plenty of community events for members and, sometimes, the general public. Expect guest talks, workshops and networking events from company founders, industry experts, and fellow members, among other fun stuff.
As for actually getting down to work, there are various bookable meeting rooms, phone booths, communal tables and cosy corners – we had a thoroughly productive day.
2. Fora, London
If you want to walk into work every morning and feel inspired, book a desk at one of Fora's stunning 13 co-working houses (with two more opening later this year). Each office has been painstakingly designed to honour the heritage of the existing building, with its own unique decor scheme, while still retaining Fora's unmistakeable aesthetic.
There's a host of gym and other wellness facilities at every space: each has a gym with cardio machines, weights bench, dumbbells, tension bands, a Swiss ball, Yoga mats and blocks. Several have additional gear including TRX suspension training, squat racks, a double cable machine and even a ski trainer. You can also book PT sessions, take part in a group exercise class or join the regular pilates, yoga or barre sessions hosted in select locations (your membership allows you to join these even if they're not at your regular spot).
Kitchens are fully stocked with tea, coffee and the odd treat. As for our favourite little touch? Some locations, like Wells Mews in Fitzrovia, have their own vertical salad gardens that can be periodically harvested by members to put in their lunches or take home.
3. Distil Co-Working, Bristol
Bristol-based freelancers: we think you'll struggle to find a co-working spot better positioned to take advantage of all the city has to offer than Distil, located right in the centre of the old town. Foodies especially should be tempted – this joint opens out right onto St Nicholas Market, with its wealth of street food stalls to work your way through every Tuesday and Friday.
As for the space itself, pale wood desks, open shelving, an abundance of plants and soothing sage green accents give it a breezy, Scandi feel – and there's a bar, too, ready for post-work networking with your new deskmates.
All tariffs come with unlimited free tea, coffee, fruit and a bar allowance for when you fancy something stronger come 17:30. If you prefer curling up on the sofa to work (some WFH habits die hard), the bar also has hot-desking facilities, priced at just £10 per day or £80 a month.
But the best bit has to be the open fire that roars all day during the chillier seasons; certainly a good sweetener for when winter hits and it becomes tougher to head out the door in the morning. Knowing that you'll get to snuggle up in a cosy chair by a crackling log burner makes the prospect of getting out of bed much more palatable.
4. Colony Astley, Manchester
It's true that Manchester-based co-working group, Colony, lacks a robust community events programme like some of the others on this list. However, what it lacks in extra-curricular offerings, it make up for with its truly beautiful aesthetic.
Walk through any of the doors in its four city centre locations and you'll be greeted with real private members club vibe; a clever mix of colour, texture and quality finishes that we could certainly get used to settling down to work in every day.
Saying that, there is a discount card available for members, offering perks at a range of local businesses – extended happy hours, discounted gym memberships and even 15% off at a local engagement ring shop, too.
5. AndCo, London
This is a great idea: AndCo is essentially the Airbnb of workspaces. Sign up to its £20 a month service and you'll get access to over 400 places to set up shop throughout London through its handy app. This is much cheaper than a typical co-working space desk and it gives you an excuse to check off more new haunts from your list to try.
As well as cosy cafes and hotel bars, there are a wealth of pubs and restaurants, perfect for lunch meetings with clients, where you can write up your notes without having to head off immediately.
When we gave it a go, finding, booking and cancelling a slot couldn't be easier and some venues offer a discount on food and drink while you're in residence. There are lots of spots outside of central London too, so you should find something close to home, even if you live out in the suburbs.
6. Platf9rm, Brighton
Platform 9 (or Platf9rm, as it's actually styled) nails the social side of creating a truly collaborative co-working space – and an aesthetically pleasing one, at that. A thriving calendar of networking events, coffee mornings, yoga and socials – we're suitably intrigued by Tipsy Illustration Games – will ensure you're always sat next to a familiar face during the daily grind, despite not technically being colleagues. After two years of Covid restrictions, that's something we could all do with a bit more of.
There are two spaces, one in Brighton and one in Hove, but most of the events are held in the original central Brighton spot in the Tower Point block, five minutes from the station. An onsite kitchen/cafe, open every Thursday to Sunday, hosts its own roster of events, live music, comedy nights and talks, along with regular foodie pop-ups with local chef talent.
As for the workspace itself, there are plenty of desks, nooks and meeting rooms for you to book out, with a range of flexible tariffs depending on your needs. Free coffee, tea and refreshments from local Sussex suppliers is included, too. Hopefully we'll actually get some work done at some point.
7. Halkin, London
If you need a centrally-located base to hunker down and get some stuff done, try one of Halkin's eight spots throughout Mayfair and the City (they also have a space in Watford). Every office has a quiet office room to crack on with your daily tasks, plus bookable private meeting rooms and smartly outfitted breakout areas to dip into and take your calls.
Free tea and coffee is available at every location, which have been decked out to reflect the local area (we love the deep teals and golds in the decor in its Art Deco outpost in Southwark). We booked a desk at 13 Hanover Square in Oxford Circus, which is right next to the new Elizabeth line station. So, if you're looking for a spot and you live on this new route, this is one office block to consider.
8. Yonder, London
We've not seen anything like this before: Yonder in Walthamstow combines its 20 co-working desks with a wellness studio and a climbing centre. Creatives can hire a permanent spot in its workshop, where you can make friends with the other handy folks who've set up shop; a mix of furniture makers, set designers and carpenters to date.
Head over to the studio on your lunch break or after hours; there's a really interesting mix of yoga, parent and baby and holistic classes to choose from. A post-work sound bath at 17:30? Sounds lovely, frankly. As a bonus, if you need a quick screen break during the daily grind, you can sit and watch the climbers work hard scaling the walls instead.
At £260 a month for a permanent desk, this is one of the more affordable spots we've found for those looking for somewhere to work more frequently than once or twice a week. If you live in East London, it's worth a tour.
9. The Old Print Works, Birmingham
For Birmingham-based creatives, setting up shop at The Old Print Works will ensure a space to get on with your latest project while mingling with likeminded sorts and doing some good at the same time. This former industrial building has been run by charitable organisation Make It Sustainable since 2009. Its aim is to provide a spot for creatives and community-facing businesses to thrive, while running a program of events to celebrate local culture.
Workshops and studios are available for hire, where you'll be sharing space with an existing arty roster of dressmakers, pottery makers, photographers and more. If you just need a desk to crack on, the dedicated coworking hub, The Transfer, can be hired for just £75 a month full-time.
At lunch, you can tuck into tasty homemade fare from the on-site vegan/vegetarian cafe run by arts charity The Gap. Not sure if coworking is for you? Try one day free or your first week for just £5.
10. WeWork George Street, Edinburgh
No co-working space roundup would be complete without the inclusion of at least one spot from OG office share company, WeWork. Within the UK, the brand has outputs in Cambridge, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh – the latter of which we've featured here.
It has everything we've come to expect from a WeWork office: a solid professional events program, a fully-stocked kitchen, a variety of desks and common areas, plus a few non-standard extras. You can bring your dog to work with you, take 10 minutes to breastfeed privately in the mother's room, or decompress with a lunchtime meditation in the wellness room.
Really, though, the main draw with WeWork is the sheer scale of its operations. With over 800 locations worldwide, true digital natives should consider signing up for an all access pass. This gives you the green light to set up at any of its spaces across the globe – which means it's time to dig out your passport!
Elle (Charley Ward) - https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/g38973419/coworking-spaces/