A growing number of shared workstations is tipped to change the way most people work, besides contributing to gig economy
aniel Justin, a freelance photographer, hasn’t missed a deadline since he began working in 2019. He claims that this wasn’t the case before, which also cost him “one of my best-paying clients [who is] based in Denmark.”
Justin’s work routine is such that he spends a part of his day out in the field. Later, he is busy sorting the images and videos on his laptop and transferring them to his clients. His workstation is “a desk” that he’s rented at a co-working space in Gulberg, Lahore.
“Earlier, I’d work from home,” he tells TNS. “Honestly, it was quite an ordeal meeting my deadlines, because there was a lot of distraction; sometimes, my young nephew would show up in my room, sometimes there were home errands that I’d be required to run.”
Justin says that it soon reached a point where he began to seriously mull moving out. Then he learnt about a shared office space in Gulberg. He says he’s never hated his life since.
Freelance work allows him to go to work as and when he wants to: “The vibe at workplace keeps me motivated. The desk I’ve booked gives me a sense of working in an office sans any negativity or [office] politics that one may experience on job. I feel that I am better able to put my mind to creative use.”
One has heard of co-working spaces in Lahore, but in recent years the trend has picked up. Today, there are a number of places that offer such facilities. The best part is, they are clean, noise-free and well furnished office spaces that have been created keeping in mind the needs of their clients. Full occupancies at Daftarkhwan, COLABS, Kickstart, Gitmit, The Hive, Popcorn Studio, Regus, Ignition, Launchbox, Venture Drive, Huddle, and many other places are proof of the growing popularity of shared workspaces. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that these places are changing our work habits, besides contributing to gig economy.
“One major reason for the growing demand for shared workstations is the facilities offered by them,” opines Talal Haider Walana, the chief operating officer at i-50 and Data Dojo Private Limited, who has set up offices for his two companies at Daftarkhwan, the pioneer in co-working spaces with studios at four different locations in Lahore. Daftarkhwan claims to offer a “high-performance and vibrant workspace that attracts and retains talent.”
“In the first place, what they [Daftarkhwan] do is they relieve you of the worries that come with having an office space of your own such as maintenance, security, adequate power supply, parking, noisy neighbourhood etc,” Walana adds. “I’ve been coming here for three years now.”
The company offers a bunch of packages including the one named Nomad which is for Rs 2,000 per day and includes a “flexible seat,” high speed internet, unlimited tea/ coffee for a duration of 8 hours — from 9am to 6pm — minus Sundays. There are monthly packages, too.
Another co-working space which is expanding rapidly and has also attracted international media attention as well as seed funding, is COLABS. It is home to a couple of hi-tech companies whose employees number more than a hundred. According to Sonya Rehman, an employee, “[COLABS] was co-founded by brothers Omar Shah and Ali Shah in 2019. Today, it comprises 100+ employees across the board.”
Facilities such as adaptable rental agreements, computer stations, cosy lounge areas, and coffee bars have contributed to the popularity of the company, especially among young entrepreneurs.
A co-working space isn’t only about sharing workstations; you can book a more personal space if you like. For instance, Launchbox, a facility in Phase IV, DHA, offers private cabins. Their motto is: “The privacy you and your team deserve.” The cabins are available for single person’s use as well as for 4 persons, 6 persons, and 10 persons each.
Unlike regular office complexes, co-working spaces evolve into an eco-system, thanks to networking, community gatherings, social mingling and other events that are now a regular feature on their premises.
For instance, at the Popcorn Studio, ‘Pop Hours — Network & Chill’ is a regular event held to “make your workspace more productive and fun.” It includes networking, gaming and refreshments. Recently, the staffs at Daftarkhwan and COLABS wore pink to mark October as the breast cancer research month. COLABS is also celebrating November as a month to raise community awareness about prostate cancer.
To stay competitive, the managements of shared office spaces have gone one step forward from being real-estate businesses to mentorship. To quote Shahrukh Hamid at COLABS, “We provide back-office business solutions to our clients, from legal, HR and so on. We also help international clients looking to set up in Pakistan, which helps them navigate the local market.
“COLABS is more than a coworking space. It not only helps the startup ecosystem grow in Pakistan, but it also allows individuals and startups to collaborate, network and learn from each other.”
Areeba Chaudhry, the mother of a 4-year-old boy, works with a human resource unit based in a shared office. She says she’s been able to juggle work and family “only because there’s a daycare facility on the [company’s] premises.”
Not all co-working sites offer such a facility. But it’s an evolving sector, and is fast recovering from the period of no-business that it experienced amid the pandemic-induced lockdowns and the popular, work-from-home regimes.
Omar Shah, the CEO of a co-working station, says that their company adopted the protocols enforced by the government when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. “I don’t think there was a business that wasn’t been hit [by the pandemic]. However, we acted quickly and adopted as many prevention strategies as possible. From getting the staff and team members to always wear high-quality facemasks, to ensuring proper ventilation, cleaning and hygiene practices, we were able to limit the spread of the disease on the premises.”
Shah claims that they have continued with the hygiene practices and safety protocols at the workplace. “We’re looking towards moving to a swift expansion across the country by early next year. Hence, there’s a lot to work on, plan and execute.”
Today, “at least four high-rises are under construction in the city — on Main Boulevard, Gulberg — which have dedicated floors for shared offices,” reveals Amir Khan, who runs a website focused on tech startups.
He rues the fact that co-working spaces are mostly located in posh areas of Gulberg, Defence, and Johar Town; and the suburbs are totally neglected.
The writer is a media veteran interested in politics, consumer rights and entrepreneurship