Office reimagined

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Blue Wings visited a few of Shanghai’s cutting-edge shared office spaces to see how the synthesis of design, digital space and collaboration are paving the way for a new way of working. 

Lane 189 is a new shopping mall standing proudly against a backdrop of office towers in the northern part of Shanghai’s trendy Jingan district. Where once the top floor might have been occupied by a gym or cocktail bar, today it boasts one of the newest co-working spaces in the city: Welcome to the Xikang Lu premises of naked Hub, one of the fastest-growing co-working concepts in China. 

With eight uniquely designed spaces in the Shanghai downtown area, naked Hub is at the forefront of the high-end shared office trend in China. As an established operator of five-star resorts, the company strives to bring the same level of comfort and hospitality to its rental offices spaces. 

Cosy in a comfy armchair with her laptop is Lu Ying, CEO of Lumon-Create, whose career has brought her to Shanghai via Helsinki and Amsterdam. Since her return to Asia, she has witnessed the co-working trend take off in earnest in China in the past couple of years.

The pull of positive buzz

While shared office spaces continue to attract freelancers, startups and digital nomads, larger corporations are also responding to the pull of flexible spaces, their networking opportunities and their hard-to-define positive buzz. 

These were among the reasons why Ying decided to move part of her strategy team to the naked Hub Xikang Lu office early in 2017. With a steady 20-year presence in both Finland and China, the family-owned company specializing in glass façades comes from a traditional corporate background. Ying, however, felt that to keep her team growing in step with the fast-paced market that China is, they needed to find a more dynamic space.   

“Two weeks in Shanghai is the same as two months in Helsinki. The pace is just so different here,” says Ying. A co-working space, with its daily buzz and constant exchange of ideas and insights, is a natural accelerator. 

“Everything happens through contacts in China, so having this ready-made network is pretty powerful,” she adds.

Designing interaction

While co-working was a relatively unknown concept in China just couple of years ago, the industry has mushroomed, with more than 500 co-working sites having sprung up in Shanghai and Beijing since the beginning of 2015. 

A global forerunner is WeWork, which now boasts 140 locations around the world, including four in Shanghai and two in Beijing, with two more slated for opening by the end of 2017.

“We opened our first office – WeWork Yan Ping Lu – in Shanghai last July and went to full capacity in less than a month. The market capacity here is really strong, even stronger than we expected,” says Ole Ruch, APAC managing director of WeWork.

Founded in New York, WeWork’s first aim was simply to provide working space for members. Today, the company’s philosophy is all about fostering a sense of community and encouraging members to interact, and not just socialise but do business with each other.

“Some 70 per cent of our members work together,” says Ruch. “And 50 per cent of our members actually do business with each other.”

According to Ruch, encouraging interaction is also incorporated into the design process. Their flagship office in the Weihai Road in the Jing’An district is a great example. Housed in a 20th-century factory-style building, the space once served as an opium warehouse. Today the high-ceilinged atrium boasts sofas and a coffee and beer bar offering members a space to meet, socialize and host events. 

Online & offline 

The flexibility of a co-working space is a big attraction for many companies. For Lu Ying and her team, convenience and versatility are key. With their peaceful permanent offices on the upper floor of the naked Hub Xikand Lu, the team uses the living-room like space downstairs for customer meetings or events. 

Both the naked Hub and WeWork offices host special events nearly every night, from training sessions to mixers for new members. In co-working speak, these interactions in the common areas are referred to as “offline” connections. Alongside them, online spaces are also gaining importance. 

For example, naked Hub, has an in-house tech team who monitor and help design more efficient usage of spaces while also fostering interaction via their member app. 

“We try to curate the conversation online, helping members connect with the right people and tracking how many interactions are created,” says Paul Hu, managing director of naked Hub.

For Lu Ying of Lumon-Create, this combination of online space and offline spaces is something that she sees as becoming more important in the future.

“China is bypassed the webpage phase completely and moved straight to mobile. The new ways mobile apps are used in physical spaces is a rising trend, and I think that with this, China will be a trendsetter for the rest of the world,” says Ying. 

5 x co-working in Shanghai

naked Hub:
As an experienced resort operator, naked Hub rents co-working spaces at the premium end of the shared office trend in China. With eight locations in Shanghai, all offices boast a café-like common area, green walls, state-of-the-art air filters and nap rooms. Monthly membership starts from RMB 1800 (€235).

WeWork: A global forerunner of creative co-working spaces, WeWork hosts four locations in Shanghai, with two more slated to open by end of 2017. Creative interior design, craft beer, bike storage and micro-roasted coffee are just some of the perks. Monthly membership starts from RMB 1495 (€195).

Sandbox: One of the first co-working spaces in Shanghai, Sandbox3 remians the favorite of freelancers, startups and students. With three locations around the city, the use of the common areas is free. 

ThaPaper: This unique, communal working space stands out as a design-focused space for creative folks. Specialties include an organic kitchen, detox room and a personalized cultural events calendar. Single desk rates start at RMB 2300 (€300) per month.

ANKEN Green: Located in a converted warehouse, ANKEN Green targets companies with eco-conscious identity. Renting office space by the square meter, additional perks inlcude a green roof with events space, urban farming and a stylish warehouse café.

Text by Amanda Soila 
Photo by WeWork

This article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (Summer 2017).

 

 

Published June 26, 2017

Category: Collaboration, Local features

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