Students can teach us about the benefits sharing spaces can offer - Iain Wardrop

Why do students choose to live with other students? And why do they gravitate to areas where other students live?
Iain Wardrop, Associate Director working in the Scottish Futures Trust’s Asset Strategy teamIain Wardrop, Associate Director working in the Scottish Futures Trust’s Asset Strategy team
Iain Wardrop, Associate Director working in the Scottish Futures Trust’s Asset Strategy team

There are of course practical reasons why students live together; friendships and sharing accommodation costs as well as benefitting from shared experiences are probably the most common.

One of the biggest reasons is to pool limited resources; allowing them to live where they want near their fellow students, be close to student life attractions (the pub!) but not forgetting near to their place of learning.

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More and more public sector organisations are taking the student approach when considering areas to operate from where they can be at the very heart of delivering quality services to local people and communities while providing an accessible location for staff to commute to or be near like-minded public sector partners.

Co-location is one of the ways organisations can achieve these goals whilst also offering the opportunity to minimise costs of occupying space. The days of single occupier, mono-use buildings are numbered. And for good reason.

Public bodies are looking very closely at their pre-Covid-19 buildings and working arrangements, comparing them with what their future property needs might be, and finding there is significant scope to benefit from co-locating.

The benefits of sharing space include making it easier for communities to access the services they need locally, sometimes even from one location. Often this leads to public bodies needing fewer buildings thereby contributing to a smaller carbon footprint. Also, sharing the cost of space means stretched finances can be freed up for investment elsewhere.

Today, more and more public organisations are sharing their space using space freed up through the implementation of a more flexible approach to home working.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), for example, has been practising co-location with a variety of partner organisations for well over a decade. To take just two co-locations, Skills Development Scotland occupy part of HIE’s office in Benbecula, and the enterprise agency shares space in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s office in Stornoway. These co-locations also have the benefit of providing more joined up services to support local people and businesses.

In Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute Council has created space in one of its buildings to support micro-businesses, mobile public sector workers, and private sector employees looking for near-home work options. With modern technology enabling a more agile and flexible approach to where people can work, this type of touch-down hybrid space is becoming more attractive and therefore, more in demand.

To help encourage greater co-location, host organisations must create a welcoming working environment to attract partners and their staff. The look and feel of shared space needs to be attractive to attract users. Also, how space is regulated and paid for also needs to be carefully considered and managed.

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The pandemic has shown we can be very productive working from a variety of settings, not just from the office. The hybrid work model is here to stay; it is a model our Asset Strategy team at the Scottish Futures Trust has championed for many years and encouraged others across the public sector to adopt, with the aim of delivering a leaner, greener, and more effective and smarter way of working.

In supporting Scotland’s public sector to further consider co-location as a future workplace option, we produced guidance to help organisations develop and operate shared workspace.

We can certainly learn from our bohemian hipster student friends and look to increasingly share the spaces we have. We can share our public sector offices and the cost of running them. We can all work towards achieving net zero emissions and making our places more resilient. And, we can all benefit from the positive impact sharing space has on improving our public services and making them more efficient for the communities we work with.

Iain Wardrop, Associate Director working in the Scottish Futures Trust’s Asset Strategy team



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