Week 4 – London. While the last week of September is approaching, we at eOffice continue our Workplace Series with a feature on the Headspace Group through an interview with the Founder and Managing Director, Jonathan (Jonny) Ronseblatt. The Headspace Group opened its first space in September 2013 and is a pure service provider that offers flexible, serviced offices and coworking spaces, including products and services such as memberships, meeting rooms, event space, and even the advantages of a community for its clients. From the beginning, the company has been growing at a steady rate, and today, they have two buildings, in Farringdon and Marylebone, and is soon to open their third location.
For this interview, our eOffice founder, Pier Paolo Mucelli, is visiting the Headspace building in Farringdon. The space is arranged over six and a half floors that constitute 20 000 sq ft, and includes 7 meeting rooms, event space, and a mix of breakout areas such as a members-only-café and a game room. We all sit down in one of their bright meeting rooms, and so the interview begins:
“So, Jonny, how did you launch the HeadSpace Group and enter the flexible office market?
Jonny smiles and tells us the story behind Headspace Group:
“I trained in traditional commercial property in London and spend a good few years working in the sector, but after a few years, I noticed a shift in perception and in the way people started to use space. At that moment we were doing a lot of deals, such as traditional refurbishments, investment deals and so on, and I kind of took the view that there was a lot more that could be done to assist the market. The reason for my beliefs was that there were a lot of emerging industries and young businesses that actually didn’t have the availability to take on a five or ten years lease at all, but were in need of something shorter than a yearly contract to fit into their growth plans. Therefore, in 2012, I started to analyse the market a bit and soon realised that it was limited in terms of the number of offerings that were not traditional corporate serviced offices.“
He continues by adding: “I found it relatively encouraging that the demand was actually enormous for something more design focused, more curated, and even with aspects of sharing in the form of community. This meant that people didn’t wish to pay extortions amounts for office fit outs and alterations, but just wanted to access a really interesting world of opportunity in a great space, and at a fraction of cost.”
And so, that’s where it all began and the Headspace Group opened their first space in September 2013.
Moving on from their history and growth, Pier asks about the differentiation in the market:
“How do you manage to differentiate yourselves from other operators in the market?”
Jonny replies by pointing out that he believes the key is when you start to break down the market, it very quickly gets categorised into primary, secondary, tertiary spaces and then sort of traditional services offices spaces, and loose, open co-working spaces, and slowly you can start to differentiate each of those sub-markets within the industry.
He continues by saying: “We tend to position ourselves as a space that operates for kind of creative, tech businesses. We don’t focus on the startup world, but the scale-up world; businesses that move on from the startup phase and need something more sophisticated and more grown-up than the initial open-desks setup.”
“On another level, we are different because we also have a great community element in the space; we do look after that very carefully and make sure that we know everyone in our buildings and that everyone knows us. At the same time, we curate our community by being selective about who comes in, not to create a private member’s community, but to make sure there is a right kind of balance of people because that is really important to us.”
“And how would you say you are different in terms of design?” Pier asks.
“It is important for us in the Headspace Group that we focus on the right sort of building, with the right architecture and details. Take our Farringdon building; this space has a lot of its original features because we wanted to create this modern working environment within the angles of a historic, Victorian building.”
“Would you say you are closer to branding or non-branding elements within your buildings?
“We absolutely sit closer to the non-branding side of decorating our buildings; the most important thing for us is that our tenants feel like this is their home and not a place that they are renting from Headspace. They want their visitors and clients to arrive at the reception and be impressed because they think they have the whole building, and not knowing that it is only a small team. Therefore, branding Headspace all over the place, the clients would be trapped from creating their own experience. But at the same time, we need to be an interesting brand so we try to find a perfect balance in between.”
“You mentioned earlier that you noticed a change in use of space, could you explain further what you believe is the most important when it comes to changes in needs regarding office space?”
Jonny smiles and says: “I think the key word is flexibility. With this, I mean three different things. First of all; flexibility of term and lease; people want to have as much flex as they possibly can when committing to how long they want to take on office space for. Secondly; flexibility of space; people want to able to expand and contract if needed. An example might be knocking down a wall to create more space for clients or moving into a bigger space in the same building. And finally; flexibility of movement, meaning technology. In Headspace we invest quite heavily in our IT structure, which gives our clients possibility of setting up their own home anywhere in our buildings and have the same phone number, without having to have different passwords when moving between buildings.” In other words, the Headspace Group is prepared to obey their customers demand by being open to full flexibility on different levels.
“Thank you so much, Jonny! Just one more question now; How do you see the flexible market moving in the next five to ten years and what would you consider the main challenge for businesses in the industry?”
“In London, it feels like there is an enormous amount of flexible office space and a lot of operators in the market. It will probably continue to increase because, as the flexible workspace industry gets bigger and better, it is becoming a very viable way to work for businesses. A few years ago it was used as a temporary option, a transition aspect you only signed for a short time, but now, most companies that I know see this as their permanent option because then they don’t have to handle the extra work of running their own office. Therefore, I can only see the market growing for the time being.”
Then he continues: “Regarding the challenges, I believe that the aftereffects from Brexit are yet to be felt. We will probably have a couple of years of uncertainty, which brings a resistance to change, and we might see businesses standing still for a while instead of this rapid growth progression we have had these last years. On the other hand, we are pretty well positioned as an industry because, more than ever, people are going to want flexibility in lease terms. They might commit for six months and see what happens, and we can offer people that flexibility!”
Thank you so much for your great hospitality Jonny Rosenblatt and the Headspace Group!