The rise of desk space rental in the UK

The last few years have seen a steep rise in desk space rental, not only office space in London but across the country. Desk space site Office Genie has reported enquiries for desks doubling in the first half of 2011 and the trend looks likely to continue.

SMEs, freelancers and entrepreneurs are increasingly embracing the idea of moving out of the home office and into shared commercial property. So what is causing this shift and why is desk space becoming so popular? As with many things in business, the situation has its roots in the recession.

First, many companies have been forced to downsize. This has had the double effect of leaving companies with empty space in offices on long leases, while many of those made redundant are trying their hand at their own business ventures. The two make a perfect fit – spare space, being paid for and heated, plus small businesses wanting a professional edge but being wary of taking on a long term commercial let.

And commercial property owners have been hit by the recession too. Companies previously strongly against the idea of sub-letting now see it as preferable to a building going empty when the occupier can no longer pay the bills. Better to make sure the rent keeps rolling in, rather than trying to let again in an uncertain market. In essence, everyone wins.

More and more, serviced office buildings are cropping up too. These managed properties are furnished, fully equipped office environments designed specifically with flexibility in mind – perfect for the growing number of small, mobile companies springing up as technology allows for a more mobile workforce.

So for businesses sub-letting part of their building, the benefits are financial – but they can also be morale boosting. An influx of ‘deskers’ can bring a new lease of life to an office, especially if things are strained after redundancies. These desk renters tend to be creative types, bringing a little more vibrancy to the office, as well as new skill sets, possible answers to your business problems, even new friendships and partnerships.

For the desk renting small business or freelancer, the benefits can be huge. First, you can sign up on a short term contract and move in almost immediately – no need to worry about office management and admin. There’s also room for expansion, simply by renting more desks as and when you need them. And your company gets a business address, meeting room facilities and that general edge of professionalism that can make all the difference to a potential client.

Of course there are down sides. Desk rental isn’t the cheapest way to rent office space, as you have to pay for the convenience being provided by others. Also, all those decisions being taken out of your hands may be too much – you may feel you need to decide on your broadband provider, for example, or want to be able to vet the kind of people who work in your office space. And of course, if your business has expensive equipment or sensitive data, you may feel sharing isn’t a safe route for you to take.

But although it isn’t for everyone, there’s no doubt desk space rental is a growing area that can benefit businesses both small and large. And with technology continuing to advance, alongside more mobile workers, you can expect serviced and shared offices to grow in popularity in the coming years.

About the author: Chris Marling writes on behalf of, the UK’s first proper online marketplace for desk space and shared office space.