Saturday 21 September 2019

WATCH: A behind-the-scenes peek at Dublin's diverse co-working scene

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Trying to establish a definition for co-working is so difficult that those embedded in the industry can’t even agree on one.

Is this because the term is being used for inappropriate spaces? Or perhaps because co-working means something different to everyone who joins – or wants to join - this community?

There are general benefits cited that the majority of members of all of the spaces agree falls under the co-working umbrella: collaboration, flexibility, networking to mention a few. Some make note of a reduced commute (especially if working for a company overseas!) while others actually travel to a more central location so it’s easier to meet clients etc. 

With remote working on the rise, establishing a routine has proven key for a number of those choosing to co-work, banishing any lonely blues that may stem from working alone and joining a familiar community where ideas can be shared and explored. 

This sense of community is something that co-founders of Studio 9 appreciate.  Joe Coveney (artist designer) and John O’Connell (award winning artist and animator) describe their space on North Great Georges Street as "a labour of love that brings together like-minded people to form a creative hub in the centre of Dublin". 

Their studio is set in a bright airy Georgian building that the guys have invested a considerable amount of time and money in renovating – not least the outdoor garden which is the current ongoing project. 

While the guys advertise a hot desking option, their preference is to build a strong community of creatives with guests who visit and stay after their trial period tending to stay for longer periods than even the flexible monthly options offer.

Read more: Exclusive: Sneak peek inside the new Iconic Offices - where bespoke luxury meets co-working

The importance of separating work and home life for "mental hygiene", meanwhile, is priority for Hubert Szyperski who set up Co Create on Gardiner Street in 2012.

A designer by trade, Hubert "puts his heart into making the office friendly and usable", simple but effective aspirations for the owner manager who delved into the co-working scene "for a bit of company and some help with the rent". 

Most of CoCreate’s members are designers, developers or remote workers of foreign companies and Hubert believes that it’s people’s choice to come out of their homes.

"Even if their company doesn’t cover the costs of that, people will still pay to have an office life," he told Independent.ie. 

‘Shabby Chic’ is a term that Hubert agreed reflects the design of the space that spans two floors. As his ongoing "side project", he turns his hand to wall painting, doing up the kitchen and even designing something for the office (most recently the tables, he showed off proudly on our visit). 

"Some people just prefer to enter a space that looks more like their living room and hang out with similar people who are like their friends," he said. 

CoCreate’s south city office in Camden Street is run by Ben Verot, and members of CoCreate can use the facilities of either office to “network, collaborate and exchange skills”.

Initially, Hubert’s club took a while to grow – "for a few months there were just three of us" – as he started off at a time in the city when co-working was a term that wasn’t highly used (or abused). 

Read more: Exclusive: First Look at Huckletree's first international co-working space in Dublin

According to CoWorkinn’s Mike Hannigan, his was the first space that opened in Ireland after Alan Richardson set up AMWorks. The co-working atmosphere reportedly vanished soon after Richardson moved to Chile and handed over the space to one of his coworkers.

The members of Mike's Sandyford space are quite varied in terms of industry, from developers to financial consultants, freelancers to people remote working for companies abroad, but they do have one thing in common - they like the location, far from Dublin's city centre.

"Word of mouth is how people hear about this space as my marketing is so bad," he joked. "I’ve just been very lucky and people have come across the website.”

While Mike recognises what is happening in the States, larger spaces with community managers, his own top priority is community and collaboration of members. "With a small space like this you don’t have to engineer it," he said, sharing that the first person to join his co-working space stayed for seven years and only left a few months ago.

"It’s open to anyone - we’ll take anyone who needs a space as long as it’s legal."

Members get access to the meeting rooms but CoWorkinn operates mainly on an open plan basis. Mike believes that the demographic in CoWorkinn is slightly older - "and there's a slightly different dynamic" - than that in the city centre and include people who are freelancing, people who have small companies and people remote working for companies abroad.

Mike’s advice for other co-working space managers: "Just try to establish a friendly office. Every site is different, what suits one space won’t suit another."

Read more: Demand for Space@Dublin BIC is high - but what makes this co-working hub different?

The Harcourt St Luas tracks, proximity to Coppers and relatively older building gives way to beautiful decor and modern feel that is Office Suites.

Director Rachel Jordan gives the tour of the private offices; small (which holds 1-3 people); medium (4-5) and large (6-20). There are also meeting rooms at this and the Blackrock site, co-working spaces, overflow space facilities and a virtual office.

"If members are not looking for the busy dynamic of the city centre town, they can still keep their address here," said Rachel.

"The sites are both the same size and members can use both locations."

Currently undergoing renovation work, Office Suites is currently creating more space for club members, who are a mix of freelancers to accountants, solicitors to developers.

"Here, members have the sense that they’re in a formal working environment but they’re not in the office," said Rachel.

"A lot of the local companies have regular board meetings here – or brain storming sessions – if they just want to get out of their own space.

A little more formal than the previous three spaces, members can book online and have their own access to the building from the bustling street.

A personal favourite of the Harcourt St site was the amazing garden area – perfect for client/end of week/event parties.

Read more: WATCH: Inside Dublin's Guinness Enterprise Centre - 'We help each other, learn from each other - and even give each other a kick up the a**e'

But, in terms of originality of features, Graham Barker’s DoSpace facility, which was first created in 2015 on a barge moored along the Grand Canal Basin has to be among the winners.

It had modern desks, phones, a separate conferencing room wifi, a stocked kitchen and, on good days, a barbecue facility on the stern of the vessel.

"We stayed there stayed there...we only had 8 seats, now we have 70 seats," Barker said, as he shares the community concept that has been fostered in the 5,000sq ft of converted warehouse in the heart of the Silicon Docks where the Dublin site has moved to.

"We don’t push hot desking in any way shape or form, only if they curate the community," former Cisco executive Barker said.

DoSpace, which is an industry partner to Trinity College Dublin, boasts members - freelancers, entrepreneurs, startups, sole traders, service providers expanding firms - from the software, medtech and renewables sectors. 

With dedicated desks available on a monthly basis and offices to be rented, additional members are only invited to stay at DoSpace "if they meet our community goal".

"If someone gets in touch, or are recommended, we work out what they're doing first. If they meet our community goal, at that stage we give them the tour. It's not entirely exclusive but it's important to maintain our core concept".

DoSpace also has offices in Shoreditch, London - with offices, individual desks, and standing desks - which can accommodate teams of up to over 40 members.

The Lounge is DoSpace's most recent addition in Dublin in which the site hosts events and social gatherings; this has an operational bar/lounge area with working taps "and second hand pub furniture" - and can cater for up to 25 people.

Other event areas available on site include the mezzanine, which offers various setups and can hold up to 32 people, and the hub, which caters for up to 60 people. 

Read more: Exclusive: First Look at Huckletree's first international co-working space in Dublin

Co-working is a concept that Ireland is only really starting to become aware of, but Co Create’s Hubert joins many of the spaces’ owners in agreeing that this is an area that is going through substantial change – and at a considerable pace.

"Co-working is going to be part of everyday life everywhere. In terms of having workplaces at airports or banks or shops where people can just go and work off their laptops and hang around," he said.

Dublin is hosting the 7th European Coworking Conference this November 8-10 in Croke Park. Previous host cities include, Paris, Berlin, Lisbon, Milan, Brussels and Barcelona. 

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