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These days, finding the right work environment for startups, entrepreneurs and the self-employed can be an expensive and lonely journey. However, the need for co-working spaces is on the rise across the UK.

Co-working spaces, defined as membership-based workspaces were diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting, are opening up all over the country and transforming the small business office dynamic.

As well as trendy open plan environments, with hot desks and access to meeting spaces, many feature free extras like endless tea and coffee, super fast Wi-Fi and a range of inspiring ways to co-operate and interact with fellow coworkers. The unique set up means that as well as planned community events, unlike traditional office spaces there is an atmosphere that’s relaxed yet professional, collaborative and creative, with community at its core.

Related: Cool co-working spaces in the UK for your start-up or small business

Not only does sharing a working space with fellow entrepreneurs, freelancers, self-employed give more control over their working lives, it also provides cost effective, social workspace that can massively help those starting up in business and those wishing to expand without renting office space.

According to Small Business Labs, the number of people renting these types of spaces will grow globally from just under one million in 2016 to nearly four million in 2020. In fact, brands such as Starbucks are encouraging its space to co-working, with the ultimate goal to become, what they have coined as the Third Space, ie. Home, Work and Starbucks.

Mike Davis, head of SME at AXA PPP healthcare says, “A flexible modern working environment where employees can flourish is key to building and maintaining a high-performing workforce and, at the same time, it safeguards your business from the costly risk of losing valuable people.”

So what are the benefits?

Promote a collaborative culture

For many businesses that choose a co-working environment, it is much more than just renting a desk in an office – it is about being part of a community. Working on shared tables with professionals from different industries allows staff to share their experiences, connections and knowledge. More importantly, professional collaboration can provide an alternative way of thinking and a fresh perspective, sparking a cross-pollination of ideas.

A sense of community in the workplace need not be limited to communal environments though – all businesses should promote a collaborative culture. However, as many offices are arranged by departments, it can be challenging for management to foster relationships between different teams. A simple but effective way to do this is to ensure staff are stepping away from their desks and taking regular breaks.

Create a flexible workspace

Furniture is key to any office but as working practices that seek to prioritise a more flexible and collaborative workforce evolve, a business’ equipment and furnishings should also facilitate this. One of the biggest advantages of a co-working space is that it is agile enough to support all the different ways in which a team or an employee may wish to work. For example, these kind of offices normally have a large open plan layout to encourage teamwork, smaller offshoot rooms for when a worker seeks a quieter and more peaceful setting, and extra desks to serve freelancers.

Businesses can create a similar design by introducing movable walls and office partitions. By implementing a sophisticated office dividing system, managers can adjust the space to accommodate both large meeting areas and individual cubicles. This allows employees to change their working environment to meet the needs of a given task or suit their individual personality, ensuring that productivity levels remain at their highest.

Check out the infographic below to see the coolest co-working spaces across the country

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