London's latest 'work hubs' could be the new working from home

London's new 'work hubs' could be the solution for stay-at-home workers who want to miss Olympics road chaos — but not the workplace buzz
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Dryland Business Members' Club
Work pods at Dryland Business Members' Club, Kensington High Street, which also has booths for meetings in its café
Two-fifths of London employers say they will encourage their staff to work from home during the Olympics, according to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

But many workers may find working from home — to avoid a commuting nightmare — is not the breeze they were promised.

'There is something to be said for the feeling of going 'out' to work then coming home again'

That's where the growing number of "work hubs" in London and the South-East might prove a more practical, motivating and spacious alternative.

Many people find it hard to concentrate when working from home and children on school holidays often see a parent at home as fair game for a playmate. By contrast, loneliness can be a big problem for those who enjoy the office buzz. Taking the laptop to a café often means working in a noisy and cramped space and you may well find that your local library closed years ago.

Work hubs, however, are opening everywhere and are where a mix of professionals, ranging from freelance writers and business consultants to software designers, can work in shared offices using communal facilities, including printers and scanners.

Most work hubs operate like gyms, where members pay by the day or take out a monthly membership. Users have a desk, phone, wifi connection, tea and coffee machines or even cafés, and an opportunity to chat with others sharing the space.

Depending on the hub, other services may include copying, laminating, binding and disk burning. Most hubs have meeting rooms you can book. New work hubs coming on to the market to cater for "Olympics refugees" tend to be versatile and up-market spaces with uplifting architecture.

Walk into Dryland Business Members Club in Kensington High Street and you are likely to be greeted by a waiter in a smart red apron. The entrance doubles as a café with specials such as haloumi and roasted vegetable kebabs produced by an in-house chef. Some of its members use the café booths for meeting clients.

Behind the café, the work hub spreads over four floors with a library, screening room, lounges, self-contained offices and individual work stations in open plan areas. Artwork, including a Bruce Munro chandelier, fill communal parts. The centre's IT concierge handles member's computer issues, including ensuring that stock traders' screens are up to speed.

Dryland has 153 members, mostly from Kensington, but has a capacity for 500, so co-founder Emma Hunt, daughter of Jon Hunt, the founder of estate agent Foxtons, is welcoming temporary users during the Games.

"Dryland is well away from all of the key sporting venues for the Olympics so, for many — including overseas visitors — basing their businesses here for the duration will be far easier than commuting to the City or Canary Wharf," she says.

Dryland offers three levels of monthly membership starting from £139. Alternatively, work stations and private offices can be rented daily. Other London hubs include Rentadesk in Bloomsbury, SWFour in Clapham and Islington HUB.

Tim Dwelly, director of the Live Work Network, a consultancy for home workers says people often report enjoying the atmosphere of a work hub. "It reduces their sense of isolation, and, of course, they use equipment that they don't have at home, such as video conferencing," he says.

Special Olympics packages are available at some hubs. The Hot Office offers Olympic Co-working Club membership at its centres in Harpenden, St Albans, Aylesbury and Welwyn Garden City for two weeks from July 27 to August 12, for £99.

Sue O'Gorman
Sue O'Gorman a work hub user at Rentadesk, in Bloomsbury, doesn't miss the gruelling commute
The Olympics will be shown on televisions at these premises, so members won't miss the big events, says Max Campbell, managing director. Other South-East hubs include four centres branded The Werks around Brighton and Lewes. Serviced offices operator, Regus, has 48 centres within the M25 that provide hub-style facilities in business lounges and cost from £25 a month to use.

Working from hubs and home

Regular hub user Sue O'Gorman finds the experience motivating. She runs her healthcare marketing consultancy, Medici Marketing, for part of the week from one of Rentadesk's two centres in Bloomsbury.

"There is something to be said for the feeling of going 'out' to work and then coming home again — an intangible mental and emotional divide which one lacks when working from home," says O'Gorman.

An unplanned Olympics legacy could be increased levels of working from hubs and home, particularly if employers discover productivity rises. BT, which operates a flexible working programme, has found that "homeenabled" workers are 20 per cent more productive than their office-based colleagues.

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