If there was ever a sign that co-working has arrived in the Gulf, it’s the arrival this year of 23,500 square feet of Our Space at Lamborghini Dubai.
This is the office you’ve dreamed of but probably don’t get to go to every day — bright and airy, filled with water features, stone and wood accents, hundreds of Nasa-approved plants (maximum oxygen-givers) and a Verde by Bystro cafe. It offers free infused water, at-your-desk massages, reflexology and new, easy-on-the-eyes lighting technology that is being tested exclusively by Dyson.
There’s all the infrastructure a business needs to run, and soon there will be an editing studio, a creche from Small And Mighty, a tantrum room and a spa and salon. It’s sustainable, no-plastic and very, very chill.
There are 13 different ways of working – including a mix of offices, tables, solo or grouped desks and high-top tables – and companies big and small. Johnny Rockets and several financial services companies have employees there; there is an architect from Saudi, and a company selling bathroom fixtures.
But it’s not just the amenities and the physical space that lends an air of “I can breathe here.” It’s the vibe. The plants and the natural wood have something to do with it, of course, but there’s also a sense of freedom, energy and fun within its walls: not something you get in your standard office.
JLL, an American commercial real estate company, reports that co-working spaces have grown an average of more than 23 percent per year since 2010. According to Emergent Research and the co-working conference operator GCUC, the number of global co-working members is expected to rise from 1.2 million to 5.1 million by 2022.
The owners of Our Space are surfing this wave, with plans to launch in 24 locations around the world over the next 12 to 18 months.
The reason for that confidence, explains Kevan Halliwell, the chief executive, is down to what the “solopreneurs” and small business owners of entrepreneurial Dubai are looking for: something totally different from a traditional office.
And when they find it, “research shows that coworkers are more likely to thrive on both a professional and personal level and the correlation between productivity and wellness is becoming increasingly clear,” he says.
Ali Mokdad started his content creation firm Creative Animals out of necessity, when he lost his job.
Eighteen months later business is booming, with a number of projects in the works for clients including AXE and Sony.
“When we walked in we were like, ‘This is our future office, this is what we wanted’,” he said. “It’s the perfect balance between nature and and tech-driving society. It’s the same ethos: hustle, startup, lean and mean. There was an energy there we really hadn’t seen anywhere else.”
Amy Donahue, a writer and wellness coach, had been working from home or cafes before signing on to Our Space. Although she was getting a lot of work, she wasn’t getting through it fast enough.
“I just realized that I was not being as productive as I could be, and I was getting really really busy,” she says. “At home you have a lot of distractions, you have the fridge or tv or laundry. Coffee shops can be really loud.”
Shared work spaces that focus on the tech industry can be too loud too, she says. “People are playing foosball around you.”
When Donahue decided to buy a month-long membership to Our Space, her “productivity shot through the roof.” She also got new clients, including a natural pet-food company.
“On a social level I became a bit of a hermit working on my own,” she says. “I love working there, I know the chef, I know the manager.”
Bahar Wilson, founder of Mindfulness UAE, chose the space to operate her business and also uses it to teach mindfulness and meditation to members.
“Here every single client walks out of the elevator and says ‘oh my god it’s beautiful’ and they feel comfortable and they feel good staying here,” she says.
• Our Space’s has packages from Dh1,950 per month.
Featured image courtesy Our Space
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is a journalist with 20 years of experience working in North America and the UAE, much of it as a writer, editor and columnist focusing on the areas of physical and mental wellness...