AstroLabs Dubai
Startup activity is again picking up, and co-working spaces provide the right platform for their launch and get going needs. Dubai and Abu Dhabi could see more co-working environments coming to market, especially in the second-half of this year. Image Credit: AstroLabs

Dubai: Are you a one-person business looking for space outside of home? Or a startup with a handful of members?

Co-working spaces in the UAE are once again gaining on the popularity charts after enduring a torrid phase during the pandemic-created lockdowns and as small businesses/startups made adjustments to their operations.

Now, with commercial activity picking up gradually, these workspaces continue to offer lower cost options – and that will remain their biggest draw in the coming months.

“There is a tendency (among small business setups) that they are paying so much for a space that is not being used,” said Imran Farooq, CEO of Star Business Centre, which operates co-working locations at JLT (Jumeirah Lake Towers) and in Business Bay. In comparison, “the co-working space minimises operational and capital expenditures.”

After COVID-19, we reduced the occupancy from 6 per cabin to 2. Special plastic sheets were placed at the reception and no one could enter without checking temperatures. And 50 per cent of staff moved to work from home

- Imran Farooq, CEO of Star Business Centre

Easy on the wallet

One space would cost the “tenant” an average of Dh900, and comes with access to services such as secretarial, meeting rooms, printing and, of course, all the wi-fi he will need. Plus, there’s the coffee too.

On an annual basis and for a bigger office, leases are from Dh15,000 to Dh20,000. The space for one person is 24 square feet, and the desk includes a landline set with a dedicated phone number.

Because entrepreneurship isn’t a linear, straightforward path, one of the biggest benefits members have is being surrounded by like-minded visionaries, risk-takers...

- Andrea Trevisi of AstroLabs

WeWork and more

Ahead of the pandemic, one of the fastest growing sub-categories in the Dubai property market was in co-working. Global names such as WeWork took up locations in the city as well as in Abu Dhabi, and joining established multinational brands such as Servcorp.

Once the pandemic settles down, more spaces will be created for co-working needs, in prime and emerging locations alike. AstroLabs caters to individuals looking for a fully-serviced office spaces and to entrepreneurs who want to launch a company.

“Because entrepreneurship isn’t a linear, straightforward path, one of the biggest benefits members have is being surrounded by like-minded visionaries, risk-takers, and problem-solvers who can help each other on their journeys,” said Andrea Trevisi, a spokesperson for AstroLabs. “Members can also access a mentor network with wide-ranging specializations to further foster this supportive environment.”

AstroLabs Dubai
UAE has made changes that open up more possibilities for professionals to consider branching out on their own. One-person enterprises are a natural audience for co-working spaces. Image Credit: AstroLabs

Benefits driven

Rates are fixed on space and usage terms. An AstroLabs ‘Lite Membership’ gives 10 full days a month for Dh650 plus VAT. A ‘Moonlighter Membership’ offers access during the week (Sunday to Thursday from 6pm-8am) and full days on weekends for Dh750 plus VAT per month.

A ‘Community Membership’ is a co-working package that comes for Dh1,500 and VAT with 24/7 access, and ‘Licensed Membership’ costs a user Dh3,500 per month. But the contract is for a year.

Creative spacing

Matthew Sexton, director and founder of SAY studio said over the past few years there has been an increased demand for co-working space. “From offerings such as WeWork, to more focused facilities in Dubai’s business district, DIFC.”

“The designs vary and generally tend to cater to a specific clientele,” said Matthew Sexton, Director at SAY Studio. “The principles of co-working remain consistent though - lively and flexible common areas, closed units for focused working, and shared facilities such as meeting rooms and breakout spaces.

“One of the key advantages of co-working is the ability to cross-pollinate with like-minded professionals. It is because of this that the common areas generally tend to be where the main design focus lies. There is also a crossover between corporate spaces and residential, with more lounge-type environments. This is due to the relaxed nature of common areas and supports the way these spaces are used.”

We see the future being more of a blended solution with flex-space becoming more popular. Having said that, the type and nature of a business needs to be considered before co-working can be fully utilised

- Matthew Sexton, director of SAY studio