In our latest New Work interview, Freedom Works tell us how they are challenging the traditional working environment…
Freedom Works is a simple concept created by people who have worked from home, coffee shops or cafes. Developed for those looking for a ‘workplace home’, Freedom Works offers independent, freelance, start-up or growing companies flexible working spaces to suit their needs.
Their focus is very much on towns and cities outside of the capital with co-working spaces available in Worthing, Hove, Chichester and Gatwick. We spoke with Hove community managers Francesca Fone and Charis Wells about how co-working spaces like Freedom Works are offering an alternative workplace of the future.
Tell us more about Freedom Works and how it is challenging the traditional working environment..
Flexibility is the biggest draw for those looking to work in spaces like Freedom Works. We have a variety of packages and options to suit our members, ranging from virtual offices offering a fixed postal/business address to hot-desking e.g. freelancers who only need a desk space for a few hours a day.
We also offer meeting rooms and event spaces, fixed dedicated desks and larger offices for businesses who want more of a satellite office set up. Our members can choose to take our monthly, daily and annual options which really helps growing businesses, as they are not tied in to lengthy contracts.
Co-working spaces like ours create a real sense community – this is something our members really get immersed into. We are a growing business, beginning as small start-up ourselves, so we have this in common with our members. As they grow, we grow, so creating as many opportunities for our members to network and collaborate is so important to us. This is why all of our spaces have dedicated community managers who help create events for members to get to know each other and offer them support.
This can be something social like our free beer Friday events or bbq’s and evening socials which brings all of our members together after a hard week to just relax and chat, and network! We then also try to offer business related support e.g. drop in clinics for legal or financial advice and coaching and wellbeing events.
For small business who are only just starting out, it can be quite isolating not having a huge team or knowing who to approach for advice. We try to help our members to build their networks and help their business development.
We also have plenty of bigger businesses who take a few of our desks to help offer a more flexible option to their employees. Many employers are now offering much more flexible working patterns.
Freedom Works offers those who perhaps work in the city, an alternative to being at their own home on days they don’t need to travel. Working from home is growing in popularity but this does also come with its own ‘cost’ which people sometime don’t factor in e.g. increased electricity bills and a more blurred line between work, and home life.
How important is the physical space/set up for your members?
Hove is a creative hub and the businesses based here are often from creative industries, so we are keen for our space to offer an environment which reflects this and their needs. We have deliberately gone for an ‘industrial chic’ look with lots of open and collaborative spaces.
It’s a selling point for people who want to work somewhere that isn’t set up in the same way as a traditional office. We are based in a very iconic building, the old Dubbery Perfumery factory, which is a big draw to our members as we are located right next to Hove train station. This means it’s only a few minutes on the train into the centre of Brighton and a short commute to London.
How are emerging technologies affecting your members and their expectations of the working space?
The biggest concern for co-working spaces is having excellent, and reliable, WIFI. Where we are seeing larger businesses use our facilities there is a growing need for a bigger and better infrastructure.
We are noticing that when we on-board new members that their IT requirements are getting more advanced, particularly when it comes to security and data protection. We have moved towards every office have their own Virtual LAN (local area networks) as a basic network security setting to anyone with an office at Freedom Works.
In terms of our own use of technology, we are trying to provide solutions to make it as easy as possible for members to use our facilities. They can book our spaces through our online member portal and our app, they can also find out the latest member news, events and use the virtual message boards. We also have an automated online chat-bot on our website called ‘norm-bo’t to help with new business enquiries.
Despite this people do seem to prefer to talk to us directly to book and find out the latest member news.
So whilst we are offering this and there’s an expectation we should have it, people prefer the face the face meetings with our team!
What role does the green/sustainability agenda play for your business?
It’s especially important to our community in Brighton and Hove. We are committed to ensuring we recycle as much as we can, as are our members. All of our newer co-working spaces (Gatwick and Worthing) have automatic lighting to help curb the amount of electricity we are using. It’s something we are taking very seriously and considering when opening our new spaces and making improvements to those we already have.