London is a lively, dynamic city home to booming business and the cutting edge of creativity. Bright young things are moving into every industry, shaking things up with new ideas and founding their own companies.
Brits are particularly keen to shake off the 9 to 5 straitjacket and work to their own rules. Freelancing is now at an all-time high and could soon overtake the number of people employed in the public sector.Of course, it’s not just the self-employed breaking away from traditional office working: one in seven UK workers is now on a flexible working contract.
As she does with most new trends, London has embraced this change with open arms, welcoming the hordes of officeless refugees into a new world of hot desks and Wi-Fi warriors.
City landmarks like Royal Festival Hall and the British Library see tourist backpacks mingling with workers’ Macbooks, everyone peacefully coexisting in a lively public space. Those seeking a calmer environment may enjoy the city’s libraries, with the Bishopsgate Institute a particular favourite.
Most popular by far is a fusion of coffee shop an office: the ‘coffice’. With a nearby stream of caffeine and a reliable power source, the capital’s coffee shops are the hottest ticket in nomadic working.
10. Campus Cafe, Google Campus, Shoreditch
An energetic basement filled with budding tech millionaires, Campus Cafe sits below Google’s start-up incubator project near Old Street. Consequently the space is lively carnival of Skype meetings, sticky notes and people furiously typing code.
It’s free to join the Campus project and work from the space and whilst considered good form to order up a cuppa, plenty of code-junkies just set up and start working.
As you’d expect from this high-tech hub, there are plenty of charging points and the Wi-Fi somehow manages to keep up with the impressive demand placed on it.
As well as a buzzing atmosphere, Campus Cafe has a reputation as a nexus of networking. Noticeboards are laden with ‘Developer Wanted’ notes and posters advertising freelancers for hire.
Oddly, the home of thrusting, ambitious young startups has a strict 9 to 5 policy, meaning that late call with your LA-based angel investor will have to take place at home. Occasional events and guest speakers may mean the café is busier than usual, but these are often well worth attending.
Campus Cafe is a free and easy space that can be used as a base whenever you happen to be in the area. A firm fixture of the Tech City scene, it’s well worth a visit, just to be able to say “I’ve got a meeting at Google this afternoon.”
9. Timberyard, Old Street, Soho, Seven Dials
Timberyard sells itself as ‘dynamic, independent creative workspace’ and then goes on to mention that it serves tea and coffee. Attempting to revolutionise the café-hopping, hot desk working lifestyle, the brand’s three locations are calmer than many other laptop-packed coffeeshops.
With sites in Old Street, Soho and Seven Dials, the chain is expanding rapidly, offering an open door to the casual visitor or a membership to regular visitors.
The membership can seem pricey at £144 and a £200 joining fee, but it does give access to VIP areas and discounts on booking the swanky meeting rooms. The buildings can also be hired out for events.
It’s not difficult to find fans of Timberyard online as it’s a popular haven for the city’s blogging contingent. Love letters to the Old Street branch praise the creative ambience as well as the famous brownies.
Whichever branch you go to, Timberyard promises the perfect workspace for one-man-bands or small-but-growing companies.
8. The Book Club, Shoreditch
Just a stone’s throw from both Central Working and Timberyard, Old Street is the hub of hipsterism. The book club is a Mecca of artisan coffee, gin cocktails and ping-pong for the moustachioed tight trouser brigade.
But before you imagine battling through a sea of fixie bikes and organic kale smoothies, The Book Club by day is popular workspot for the business-minded. The Wall Street Journal has used the bar as a venue for the world famous Tech Café event, so the daytime crowd are as likely to sport suits as thick-framed glasses and undercuts.
The food is incredible, with a team of chefs ready to lean over the counter and chat about their creations. A delicious and affordable lunch can give way to an afternoon cocktail as the bar’s famous cocktails are available throughout the day. If liquid inspiration weren’t enough to get your projects started, the bar has constantly changing décor, with canvases and sculptures from up-and-coming artists.
Reliable Wi-Fi, bright artwork and comfy seats may keep you happily working away until after dark, but be warned: the club quickly fills up with revellers in the evening.
7. Hoxton Hotel and Grill, Hoxton
Again not far from the trendy spots of East London’s Tech City and Hackney’s creative in-crowd, Hoxton Hotel and Grill is a slightly smarter backdrop for a more serious meeting. The luxurious hotel upstairs means the bar area is constantly abuzz with international business chatter to inspire a professional, productive working day.
With long opening hours, it’s possible to put in a solid working day from 7am to 2am, staying for three delicious meals in the splendid restaurant. Brightly lit at the front, with high windows flooding sunlight onto comfy sofas, the back of the bar is a quieter, cosier setting that lends itself to discreet meetings.
Swathes of comfy leather are coupled with a multitude of power sockets and rocksteady Wi-Fi to keep your work plans moving forward. The staff are perfectly used to freelancers and travelling business bods setting up camp in the bar area; providing you don’t cause too much trouble they won’t feel obliged to move you on.
One of the best places to eat and drink in London, a day spent in the Grill will not only be productive but delicious as well.
6. Riverfront Café, Waterloo
Many a Londoner has glanced past this gem, which really is hidden in plain sight under Waterloo Bridge. To the casual observer the Riverfront looks like a second entrance to the BFI Southbank cinema, often with costumed movie fans attending a special screening of their favourite sci-fi film milling about the tables.
On a bright sunny day, the ample outside seating makes for an excellent way to combine working with people-watching as throngs of tourists meander down the South Bank for your entertainment.
Inside is a chic coffee shop, serving snacks and some of the best java in London. There are a few comfy arm chairs to collapse into, but these go quickly and you may be left perched on a bum-numbing wooden bench.
This might not be the best spot for a relaxed day of work if you don’t enjoy a little background noise. There really aren’t many spots so close to the centre of the city that function as a coffice, so this hot desk can be hot property to those in the know.
5. Canvas & Cream, Forest Hill
Part restaurant, part café, part art gallery, C&C does many things all at once and does them well.
Just over the road from Forest Hill station, the café is far removed from the East London coffee scene and offers a warm welcome to South Londoners looking for somewhere to work.
The coffee is delicious and the cake selection is tempting but the café’s brunch menu features the best eggs benedict south of the river. All this delicious food is served in an eclectically furnished space, opening out into a gallery space that features a regularly rotating host of smart art talent.
Run by a mother and daughter team, the café has a community feel as local people helped refurbish the space and regular visitors quickly become friends.
Canvas & Cream is much loved with its patrons, including the author, who wrote this article in an armchair whilst eating French toast.
4. Flatplanet, Oxford Circus
Taking East London coffeeshop cool to the centre of town, this heavyweight of independent cafes is just round the corner from Carnaby Street and the busy shopping streets.
That’s not to say that the Flatplanet has an overpopulation problem: outside of the lunchtime peak hours, the café is a calming and comfortable spot popular with writers and bloggers.
A mouth-watering selection of snacks and meals are available on the ground floor. The place is famous for the flatbread pizza that inspires the Flatplanet name, and the healthy falafel and quinoa options are also popular. This floor is popular with chatting tourists, so head downstairs for a little peace and quiet.
With couches and armchairs, the basement is haven for the deskless. Indie music plays as the art and books fire off your creative synapses. If your work isn’t creative outlet enough, an old piano called Tom awaits your attention.
3. Lavish Habit, Balham
This quirky little cavern of caffeine may not suit everyone, but those who like it will love it passionately.
Run by two sisters who proudly describe themselves as coffee ninjas, the colourful boutique serves a rich blend of brews, vintage styles and stylish homewares. Almost everything is for sale, from newly designed jewellery to reclaimed antique musical instruments.
If you’ve had your fill of Mexican sugar skulls and chic dresses and need a breath of fresh air, step out onto the café’s rear patio. The inside is funky and cozy, but can become overcrowded with prams and buggies as the café is popular with Balham’s yummy mummy contingent.
2. Greenwich Picture House Café, Greenwich
This bright, spacious café clings to the side of Greenwich’s Picturehouse Cinema and is an unsung hero of the coffice scene.
Perhaps this article is letting slip a great secret: that this café is usually quiet, spacious and relaxed. It’s very rare that there isn’t a seat available for a weary wandering worker. Hopefully invading armies of laptops won’t ruin this cracking workspace.
So well hidden is this café that many locals still think it’s a particularly dire tapas restaurant. Now though, the café is slowly establishing a reputation for simple fare done well, with an all day breakfast that is a true champion.
It might not have the hipster chic or vegan menus of many café workspaces, but this spot offers a solid back-up for those days when you absolutely don’t want noisy background chatter.
1. The Laundry, London Fields
This is a titan of the independent coffee shop world. Set in a mighty industrial building, The Laundry has established a squeaky clean reputation as a classy café.
Once upon a time, The Laundry was actually a commercial laundry and the exposed pipework and dangling light bulbs manage to make the functional space into a welcoming work environment.
It’s not just the décor that makes a winner. Owned by Radiohead’s guitarist, this rocking venue serves cocktails and cappuccinos in equal measure throughout the day.
The space’s floor-to-ceiling French doors are opened on hot days to make an airy inside-outside space perfect for blowing fresh ideas into your projects. Soft chairs, high stools and a long bar mean there’s a comfy corner of the building to suit all shapes and sizes.
A feature that keeps regulars coming back for more is the rotating menu, which sees a complete makeover every month. Whatever the new menu, it’s always carefully planned to provide an option suitable for all allergies.
Oodles of space and a generous amount of seating mean there is never an awkward wait, hovering over customers until they leave.
The location isn’t just a café. The Laundry’s expansive basement is used to host events and has even been used to film music videos for Mary J Blige and Cheryl Cole.
Do you live and work in London? Which are your favourite places to hotdesk? Let us know in the comments!
Article by Andy Scofield, International Features Writer