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Embracing Co-Working: Say Goodbye To Renting An Office In The UAE With the rise of shared office spaces, here's how your business can benefit in a way you may have never imagined.

By Abir Moussa

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For startups, entrepreneurs and many businesses in the UAE, the cost of signing a long-term commercial lease amid the current economic uncertainty is not an option. Co-working spaces in Dubai are filling the demand for looser, more flexible arrangements. Here is why the days of dreary grey offices are gone, and your new office is wherever you want to work.

Adapting to economic changes

While the UAE is generally considered one of the most diversified economies in the Middle East, a significant proportion of its export revenue is still accounted for by oil. And prices for this have fallen nearly 70% since 2014. You could say the country is in something of a transitional phase. In the long-term, the government is looking to boost innovation in other fields to reduce its dependence on oil. Good for those entrepreneurs looking to ride this wave.

And business confidence would appear to be stable, despite any market fluctuations. According to the Oxford Business Group's 2018 UAE Business Barometer survey of CEOs, over 60% of respondents would likely or very likely make a significant capital investment over the next 12 months. This was a similar outcome to the previous year's survey.

Startups and SMEs can minimize their vulnerability to evolving market conditions by renting co-working spaces; a fact that a rapidly increasing number seem to be taking on board. According to Statista, there were around 15,000 co-working spaces in operation globally in 2017– an astonishing rise from just three locations in 2005.

Why is this good news for your business: Shared office spaces are almost always cheaper than their full-office counterparts. Buying a large office, or even leasing one, can incur tremendous costs. With membership fees often under the US$35 per month, shared spaces provide a major advantage for businesses looking to reduce their cost base.

Benefiting from greater flexibility

Leases tend to cover periods of several years, and owning a building is an investment commitment that can last for a decade or longer. Shared office space, on the other hand, can be reduced to a monthly, daily, or in some cases, an hourly rate. This allows companies to choose flexible contracts so they are not locked into a long-term agreement.

For businesses that rely on being agile or that work in fast-moving sectors, the flexibility to scale up or down at speed is a must. There are many attractive opportunities in the UAE. For example, the Dubai Mainland Coworking License issued by the Dubai Department of Economic Development enables you to set up a business with a Dubai Mainland license while operating a co-working facility in downtown Dubai. This gives you the ability to conduct your business throughout the UAE while still remaining connected to Dubai's dynamic co-working community.

Why is this good news for your business: The increased flexibility in terms of contracts also means that creating a business from scratch can be achieved much faster today, and with smaller teams. Entrepreneurs who choose to work in shared spaces also find more time to focus on their primary tasks. They have fewer responsibilities to worry about. Mundane tasks like cleaning and maintenance are taken care of by the building's owners.

Related: Businesses Without Offices: Putting Teleworking Into Practice

Grow your network

In a shared office space, there are usually dozens of other people occupying the same location as you, and the population of a co-working space will likely change every few months. So, a co-working location makes for a perfect place to meet new people in the professional world.

Research published in the Harvard Business Review in 2017 backs this up: it found that 82% of respondents reported that co-working had expanded their professional networks, while 64% said their co-working network was an important source of work and business referrals.

It also allows you to network with other talented young startups, offering opportunities for collaboration or knowledge-sharing. According to Nielson surveys, 62% of millennials prefer to live in urban centers. Given that co-working spaces are usually situated in urban and business locations, they're a perfect fit for young entrepreneurs while also helping to attract top talent as you build your team.

Why is this good news for your business: Co-working is ideal for those looking who might be looking to expand their business network and cross-fertilize ideas. Furthermore, co-working opens the eyes of larger companies to new and interesting startups that could either be competitive or useful as an acquisition target.

Related: Today's Offices Should Reflect Employees' Changing Needs

Support your growing gig worker base

If you use gig workers for your business, they will naturally be transient. This means the flexible nature of co-working makes it a great fit for the gig economy. In the UAE, companies are increasingly turning to freelancers to plug their skills gaps or cut costs. A 2017 survey of UAE businesses found that 64% of HR leaders in the UAE believed that the gig economy would reduce the long-term costs of recruitment and training.

While the UAE landscape has not traditionally lent itself to the gig economy, there are signs that things are changing. Where previously an expatriate needed sponsorship from a locally licensed entity to work in the UAE, the government has been taking steps to simplify the process. In 2018, for example, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MoHRE) introduced a part-time working resolution to allow workers to work for more than one employer.

Why is this good news for your business: Hiring flexible part-time workers rather than bringing in full-time staff allows companies to save on the usual employment costs such as statutory benefits. It also allows you to tap into the growing pool of highly-skilled freelancers who don't want to be attached long-term to any particular company.

The best choice for entrepreneurs

There are few better environments today more suited to entrepreneurs than the UAE. The upcoming Expo 2020 to take place in Dubai is set to showcase the region as a center for innovation and technological development. Co-working is a fast, flexible way to help you become a part of this dynamic environment– without requiring you to commit to any significant long-term financial outlay. In short: now is the best time to make the move.

Related: Can Co-Working Spaces Help Your Business Become More Productive?

Abir Moussa

Managing Director, One Business Centre

Abir Moussa is the Managing Director of One Business Centre. Responsible for driving the growth of the business in new key markets, Abir has over 15 years of experience in the serviced office and business services field. She is a proven team leader and has facilitated rapid business growth in every role she has held. Prior to joining OBC, Abir held several director-level roles throughout the UAE, including at Servcorp where she was recognized as the top sales person globally. Abir is highly qualified, holding a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management, and an MBA, both from the Lebanese American University
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