Petra Hubačová founded one of the first coworkings in Prague as early as in 2009 and has engaged in interconnecting start-ups and corporations for many years now. Thus, it was no surprise that the Polish coworking chain Business Link chose her to open its first Czech branches in Holešovice.
We found Petra Hubačová in the latest and largest (4 700 m2) Czech coworking center, planning new events, such as the Social Innovation Weekend, Startup Grind or IoTea - “What will come after the Internet?”. We talked not only about activities in coworking but also about other trends in the work environment.
Business Link is situated in the Visionary Building. When Petra came in June, it was just a construction site. Now, she shows us around topnotch equipped offices. “To be honest, it was more challenging than I expected,” she admits. “I pretty much started from scratch. The blank piece of paper that I received back then is now filled with many wonderful people, inspirational start-ups and companies. Business Link brought Coworking 2.0 to the Czech Republic.”
What differentiates your Coworking 2.0 from the original Coworking 1.0 phase?
It’s keeping pace with the latest trends—both for coworking and for the kinds of environments where people wish to work. Our design is different from that of other coworking centers, and when you walk into Business Link Visionary, you’ll think you’ve entered the lounge of a boutique hotel. We’ve tried to create an atmosphere where people can feel comfortable and good—as if they were at home in their living rooms.
Naturally, high professionalism is one of the trends that we’re keeping up with. So is an emphasis on well-being—that’s why we’re in a building that has a sports center outdoors, a running track on the roof, and nine terraces throughout our spaces where our clients can relax.
Superb transport availability is also important for us—that means the subway, the train, parking for Rekola bike-sharing right outside, and the Blanka tunnel. More and more people today are reflecting their travel needs by choosing a coworking service that has branches abroad. We can currently offer 16 branches in Poland, and we’re getting ready to enter Hungary and Romania as well.
Is the coworking environment suitable for everybody, e.g. for introverts as well? Aren’t there too many people for them?
Everybody will find his or her own space here. The place is so big that if you do not want to talk to someone, you do not have to. You find your niche where you can work. But we actually have more separate offices than open space offices. We have a total of 650 unique workplaces and our common areas have a lot of niches.
You opened just several weeks ago, yet you have already filled up one-third of the space and you are negotiating with other firms. Do you think that you will have to refuse other potential tenants soon?
We maintain certain flexibility; we can never fill the space at 100% because we would lose our flexibility uniqueness. We must keep some available space so that firms could grow and we could provide space for them. We have inquiries from companies that currently have five employees but may have 25 employees in just six months. We must take this into consideration and have some reserve. Of course, we would like to be in a position where we could choose firms.
Do you have some philosophy based on which you choose firms for Business Link?
So far, we have not refused anybody. But we look at what the firms do, what phase they are in and how they can be beneficial to others. The space works much better when you create a healthy eco-system. It is important to have diversity and to have freelancers, start-ups, small and medium-sized firms and corporations.
WHERE PEOPLE WILL FEEL GOOD
Where, in your opinion, is the future of the work environment?
I believe in coworking. I believe that even large companies will also start working this way, will start interconnecting more and will discover the advantage of having several firms in one large building. The Visionary Building is a good example.
People are now also more mindful of a work-life balance. They have discovered that there is no future in spending 20 hours a day at work, and I feel that such people are not even beneficial for a firm in the long run. In the summer I spent a week surfing and working. I was more efficient than working 12 hours in the office. I have already experienced burnout and I know how bad it can be. This is why, we have a running track here, a sports ground, an equipped bike room and ping-pong tables.
So that people could take a break from work and relax?
People look for an environment where they will feel good. Work is not about sitting behind a desk and working on the computer for eight hours. People need not only a space where they can feel fulfilled, but also a space where they can just sit down on a sofa, have a cup of coffee, talk to someone, go for a run….
So, the future is in our wellbeing. We can also see it in the firms that invest more and more into relaxation zones and are interested more in what their employees want. For instance, Adidas has lately asked its employees to vote on what they would like to have on their campus – a pool, a running track or something else.
DRIVE AND DREAMS
Will corporations move more and more to coworking spaces as well or will coworking remain a modern work environment for freelancers and start-ups?
This year’s expectations are that about 5 million people around the world will be working in coworking. Coworking is no longer just for freelancers and startups. Even large companies look for this type of space because it is simpler and more beneficial if their employees have their home office here because they meet different people to discuss their work and to inspire each other. This type of space is also interesting for their innovation or project teams.
Here, they have finished and equipped offices and full service and their team can move in almost immediately after they sign the contract. Firms do not have to invest a lot of money and build new offices for them. For this reason as well, we also want to work with corporations that could send us their innovation teams. We also believe in synergy. Such teams will get “out of the box” feedback, i.e. feedback from people coming from other environments, will have access to people from different fields and professions and may get a chance to cooperate.
What do you like the most about this interconnection?
Although I am an introvert (yes, I know, I do not look like one), I like having people around me, especially inspiring ones. Their energy and determination to fulfill their dream energizes me. They are not people who go to work from 8 am to 5 pm just to get paid. They work on something interesting, put into it much more than just their time and some of them simply keep fascinating me and are my role model. I am someone who needs to advance and learn. This environment “makes” me keep up with new trends and technologies and be proactive.
I really believe in interconnecting people – when I know that someone will be beneficial for someone else, I will interconnect them. I have already seen such interconnections give rise to an interesting business or friendship. And I benefit from it as well when I need something. Some help, a contact, an interesting speaker or just some advice.
Try to convince me – Why should one work in coworking?
Many data show that 9 out of 10 people feel more confident in coworking, 8 out of 10 people are more motivated to work, 7 out of 10 people even feel healthier in coworking and 6 out of 10 people feel better mentally after work in coworking. The advantage of coworking is that you meet inspiring people, you may meet your future client or supplier.
I always say that the most important place in coworking is not only the reception but also by the coffee maker and this is why we insisted on having good coffee here. This way, people can meet by the coffee maker and talk about what they do. We will also soon introduce a mobile application.
What will be its main function?
We will try to interconnect the firms here, to support synergies. We will talk with people about what they are working on, what could help them and, on the other hand, what holds them back. For instance, we can find them a mentor or another team member. I believe that incipient entrepreneurs do not have to work in some tiny room but can have a presentable space where they have a chance to meet their future investors.
What do you like the most about Visionary?
It was love at first sight. I really like the actual building. The view from the top with the running track is absolutely unique. Here we have everything we need. We can exercise and have a meal here; on the ground floor there is a bio shop, a laundry room, a pharmacy and an outpatient facility. There is a lot of daylight, several terraces – Business Link alone has nine terraces, which I think is quite unique for Prague. To come in the morning, to make yourself a cup of coffee and to sit on the terrace is a great way to start a day. Or to come to the main terrace in the evening to watch a sunset that is always magnificent from here.