In recent years, co-working spaces have sprouted in major world cities such as New York and London. In Hong Kong, where living spaces can be quite cramped, there’s arguably a greater demand as entrepreneurs, freelancers and digital nomads need room to work. We recently checked out five co-working spaces in town anonymously, from upscale to the cheapest we could find. Here is how they measured up.
The Work Project
At a daily rate of HK$350 a day, The Work Project is easily among the most expensive co-working offices in town. But it was obvious you get what you pay for.
With the owner looking to the hotel industry for inspiration, using the high ceiling space was akin to checking in for a stay: water was served the minute we sat down, and freshly brewed coffee and cookies were offered. There was also a minibar containing a wide selection of drinks, and mouthwash in the toilet, all available at no extra charge.
There was only one member of staff on hand, but he greeted us by name, which was a surprise. It’s not every day that you have a 2,000 sq ft office almost entirely to yourself.
The location is in itself a draw – a two-minute walk to the Causeway Bay MTR station, and situated above a number of restaurants (we received coupons for some of them). If you want to head out for a break, there are lockers for laptops and other belongings.
Although this was the most spacious and comfortable office we visited, the heated toilet seat was a bit much given Hong Kong’s current temperatures (though this would be very comfortable during winter). The room’s scent – rosemary and citrus notes, to promote concentration – is also a bit overpowering.
For once, the boast of “high-speed internet” was true: uploading a video took mere seconds.
What else? We were delighted to see copies of South China Morning Post (among other newspapers) available on common tables.
The Work Project, 15/F Soundwill Plaza II – Midtown, 1-29 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, Inquiries: 3896 1000, theworkproject.com
The international chain made headlines in Hong Kong after signing a corporate deal with HSBC in late September: the bank rented 300 hot desks for its digital and transformation teams. The venue is like many of the current “trendy” hipster expat hangouts popping up all over Po Hing Fong and Sai Ying Pun: cool, diverse – and too pricey.
The walls of its Causeway Bay office are adorned with works by local artists, current pop hits blast through the speakers and, in addition to coffee and tea, there’s draught beer available if you need a drink after work (or on Monday morning to get you through the day).
In an effort to foster a community, WeWork has its own mobile app, which allows users to interact with others.
However, while this co-working office is supposedly start-up friendly, your business will need to be well-funded to rent here. WeWork has offices in Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, but neither offers hot desks, and the price of a dedicated desk starts at HK$6,990 a month.
To check it out, sign up for a personal tour by a staff member. After expressing concern about the hefty price tag, we were offered a promotional deal, which cut the monthly fee by half for the first three months.
Note that the monthly subscription is not just for a Hong Kong space. WeWork is one of the world’s largest co-working operators and, with the key card, users have access to its offices in 12 countries and 32 cities, including New York, Shanghai, Berlin, Seoul and Sydney.
We found the lounge space slightly small, and a little rowdy sometimes as people do hang around chatting and laughing. If you want to avoid distractions, you can hide away in one of several tiny single cubicles.
WeWork, Tower 535, 535 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, Inquiries: 3150 0101, wework.com
Paperclip made it onto our list because it was the only one we found offering a free trial. Simply call ahead and you will receive a two-day trial for hot desks.
It’s a five-minute walk from the Sheung Wan MTR station and the rate for a hot desk is HK$2,600 a month, or HK$2,200 for 10 sessions.
While co-working offices are normally open to hot-deskers during office hours only, Paperclip offers 24-hour access seven days a week. With extension leads connected to electrical sockets, no matter where you sit a power source is nearby.
Unlike most offices, with walls in subdued greyish tones, Paperclip has a warmer colour scheme of creamy yellow, to harmonise with wooden furniture and a bare brick wall around the pantry table. Because it has windows facing an alley, the space does not receive much natural light.
Also, instead of a bean-to-cup coffee machine, it offers a Nespresso capsule coffee maker, which may turn off environmentalists concerned about using disposable pods (It has recycling bins, though). Other drinks are available in the pantry, albeit at slightly inflated prices: a can of Coke costs HK$8; a bottle of mineral water is HK$12.
On the plus side, Paperclip regularly holds events and business management workshops. And for people looking for more than simply a work space, Paperclip offers a mentoring service. Tell them what challenges you are facing and they will try to find someone suitable to offer advice.
Paperclip, 3/F, Nam Wo Hong Building, 148 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, Inquiries: 3586 2888, papercliphk.com/en
Located in the emerging business district of Kwun Tong, Missolink is a ten-minute walk from the area’s MTR station, but is well served by buses and minibuses.
The atmosphere here is laid-back and welcoming. You won’t find anyone in suits or heels; when we visited, one guy was wearing flip flops and board shorts. People seemed to be well acquainted, greeting each other and chatting in the public areas.
The pantry is more of a kitchen, equipped with a coffee machine, a steamer and an electric stove (with a pot). A large bar counter dominates this space, although there is also a coffee table and magazines in a cosy corner.
For the workspace, three long tables are each designed to accommodate eight people. However, the skinny tables are so narrow, I don’t see how two people can sit opposite each other and have enough space to work. A few more tables could have been squeezed into the space, but at the expense of the roominess, which we appreciated.
Users pay HK$180 a day or HK$1,200 a month. Missolink also offers a group plan for hot desks: you can bring three other people (for HK$3,500 a month), each of whom gets an access card.
One big problem that could be a deal-breaker is the relatively slow internet speed: I couldn’t play a high-resolution video smoothly.
Missolink, Unit B, 12th Floor, King Yip Factory Building, 59 King Yip Street, Kwun Tong, Inquiries: 3978 8888, misso.com.hk
Ooosh is one of six co-working spaces in Lai Chi Kok and Cheung Sha Wan. It’s about a five-minute walk from either of the above MTR stations, but quite hard to find – it took us about ten minutes of wandering the street via Google Maps. Of course, that’s only a problem for first-time visitors.
The online booking process is also a bit complicated – we couldn’t select a date and, despite inputting our e-mail address, we didn’t receive confirmation that all was in order. We later learned that none of it was necessary: after purchasing a day pass, you can visit on any weekday and simply give your name at the reception.
The pass costs HK$80 but upon arrival we had to pay a HK$100 deposit for the key card, even if we were hot desking for only one day. However, monthly subscriptions are also available, as are weekly passes, which are 25 per cent cheaper per day than if you buy a day pass.
Ooosh boasts about 7,600 sq ft of space, but the bulk is used for private offices, which surround the lounge area in the middle. Eight tables, a long bar table and desks for dedicated users share the lounge, so it’s tightly packed.
Only two tables were free when we arrived and we noted not every table has access to electric sockets. The chairs, which are non-adjustable, felt uncomfortable. Coffee and tea bags were available in the pantry, but that’s it. And despite a sign urging users to clean up after themselves, the sink was full of dirty cups.
We liked that the space is amply lit, and there has been effort to create a green workspace. But we found it difficult to concentrate given the noise level. Users, especially those in the private offices, made no effort to keep the volume down. One person spoke loudly on the phone; a group kept the door to their private office open while shouting to one another.
Ooosh, Room 803, 8/F, Lai Cheong Factory Building, 479-479A Castle Peak Road, Cheung Sha Wan, Inquiries: 2785 8588, ooosh.hk