Fora Soho: the shared office space disrupting the idea of co-working

Fora wants to move on from co-working, instead it’s all about flexibility

Inside Fora’s Soho space

The next stage of co-working

In 2018, it was thought there were more than 1,300 flexible office locations in London, and that figure has been on the rise, with more and more operators from WeWork to Huckletree and Second Home growing and expanding.

“We’re not pioneers of the co-working space, we don’t consider ourselves a co-working business but we draw inspiration from co-working,” explains co-founder Katrina Larkin when we meet on a Friday afternoon at the new Soho office.

“We spent a year doing focus groups and what was coming back to us loud and clear was that people wanted flexible workspaces but they wanted space where they could be more productive; truly get their head down and where everything was considered from when you arrived.”

The Soho office, in the former Hearst building, is Fora’s eighth opening since the company started back in 2017 with its first Clerkenwell space. Expansion has been fast: the company has opened 7 locations in the past 12 months. Not slowing down, Fora is opening 2 workspaces in Shoreditch in the coming months, along with Southwark and the West End, with further locations to be confirmed.

Given that both Larkin and her co-founder, Enrico Sanna, have backgrounds in the hospitality sector, it makes sense that the duo drew on this experience when designing Fora.

“All that data showed people wanted spaces that were beautifully designed, where the service levels were high, where the tech was running and a space that they felt like they owned,” says Larkin.

The emphasis is on flexibility too. Fora residents, which include tech firms like the aforementioned Dropbox, design agencies, even the occasional high street bank, are on 30-day rolling contracts so that they can leave the space if it no longer appeals to them.

Though the classic co-working elements are there such as regular work events and a member’s happy hour, there’s also yoga classes, five-a-side competitions and personal trainers on offer.

“It’s really important that the residents feel like this is their office. Fora is merely the facilitator.”

Tech and design

Tech is crucial to the flow of Fora. There is an app which details everything that is going on across the different spaces, such as events and workshops, the ability to book meeting rooms or phone booths, and as a way to make connections with other Fora members whether they’re in the same building or not.

“The app didn’t exist in the first year. Rather than designing an app for the sake of it, we looked at how it would facilitate and increase productivity for the residents,” explains Larkin.

The main thinking is that members can move seamlessly from one Fora space to another and be able to access all the things they need without any hassle.

The tech factor comes through in other ways. In each meeting room and office space in the building there are iPads featuring the concierge app. Ahead of a big meeting, members can summon tea and coffee, or enlist some tech help to ensure everything is working when it needs to be.

Sensors placed throughout the building help to influence how things are run at the moment, as well as future builds. “On a Friday afternoon, it may be quiet with people leaving for a long weekend, so that wouldn’t be the right time for us to hold an event,” says Larkin. “We understand how people are using the building, it’s really important to us.”

What’s next for Fora?

Following the opening of the Soho space, Larkin and Sanna are concentrating their efforts on getting the next spaces ready to open, including a new office off Brick Lane, east London.

When it comes to the future of work, Larkin is keeping her ear to the ground of what will come next. “Where people work will say a lot more about their company and their organisation, which I think we’re starting to see,” she says. “We’re about to have five generations all working under one roof – what’s important I think for everybody is that they’re with like-minded people.”

With the co-working sector reaching maturity, what comes next for Fora? Will they lean into those hospitality roots and explore the growing space of co-living?

“You should never say never,” says Larkin. “But we are absolutely dedicated to being disruptors in the workplace right now.

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