BARCELONA Where to work in Barcelona

British-born entrepreneur Benjamin Nachoom talks global business trends and how Barcelona’s work culture is shifting.


Where to work in Barcelona

British-born entrepreneur Benjamin Nachoom talks global business trends and how Barcelona’s work culture is shifting.

Yoga classes at OneCoWork in Barcelona

On a sunny day in Barcelona, there are few chicer places to be than on the marina, where sleek super-yachts bob in a glistening bay. As Barcelona’s historic old town Ciutat Vella meets the water, it’s here, blending on from the bustling squares, tapas bars and crowded streets, that you find One Ocean, one of the largest super-yacht marinas in the Mediterranean. Encompassing a restaurant, cocktail bar, and private members club that rivals Soho House in kudos and exclusivity, it’s also here that British-born Benjamin Nachoom’s father had the idea to open the co-working space, OneCoWork.  Its booming success – 200 desks sold out within 3 months of opening and a long waiting list – is a sign of the times in a city where skyrocketing tourism (44 million in 2017 alone) and a booming property market is helping to spur growth into Spain’s already resurgent economy.  While Barcelona’s idyllic city lifestyle – think sun-downers on the beach after work, weekend sailing trips and a Michelin-starred tapas scene – is no secret, in the past, it’s stuttering economy was a hurdle in the eyes of career-minded expats and foreign investment.

However, in recent years, the tides have begun to change. As part of the strategy shift, mayor Ada Colau, has set a course to upgrade the city from a beacon for cheap weekends in the sun to a European hub for consultants, freelancers and global businesses with an increasingly focus on the luxury market. As a knock-on effect, the booming tourism and property market has motivated local companies to wake up to the value of native-English speaking employees. 

In the eyes of Ben Nachoom, a former bond investor who moved to Barcelona from London in 2016, this builds on an already seminal shift in our working culture that explains the demand he is experiencing at OneCoWork. “I was working for an investment fund in London and found myself pretty disillusioned with it all – the money wasn’t worth it and I hated what I was doing.  It just wasn’t the life I wanted.  So I called my dad, and after about the 5th time, he said, ‘just quit’, and encouraged me to move to Barcelona, where he was based, and we decided to start a coworking space together.”

OneCoWork, which employs a full-time architect and interior design duo, credit their popularity to their approach to design and community.  Ergonomic furniture, such as chairs designed to support laptop usage, encourage flexibility and movement. “There are quite a few fantastic co-working spaces in Barcelona, and each of them are defined by the focus that they place on creating community.  We combine this with a fluid and intuitive approach to the design of our spaces – it’s paramount to what we offer.  People spend most of their week here, and we believe that if you make an environment that people enjoy being in, they are both more productive and more collaborative.”

When it comes to building the community, Nachoom credits the team of dedicated community managers. Tasked with getting to know each member, their business and motivation thoroughly, they  then curate relationships and make valuable connections between clients. “We have one real estate company based here, and since they joined in November, we have already connected them with 3 sales.  Then there is the fitness boot camp company that is also based at OneCOWork. They just launched a new class of ten people and nearly half of their clients come from here. By being in this environment, everyone is picking up clients and ideas.” In addition to this proactive approach, a dynamic roster of weekly events bring members together.  “I met my flat-mate here, and he met his girlfriend.  Working here is also about having fun.”

Nachoom’s approach is inspired by global coworking giant WeWork, which was recently valued at 20 billion dollars. “The market as a whole is telling a story about how the global working model and the way teams are managed is shifting.  In the same way that the internet revolutionized communication, there is a paradigm shift when it comes to offices. In 30 years, I think there will be no more offices. I worked in a generic office, and I can really see the difference. There are very few businesses in the world that can connect people like co-working spaces do, leveraging on the human relationship while providing an environment that looks better, feels better and where you can be more productive.” Out of OneCoWork’s 200 members, Nachoom estimates that 90% are International clients who use English as their business language. The ratio of companies to freelancers is around 50/50, although Nachoom says they are seeing a rise in satellite individuals who work for global companies cottoning on to the fact that it is much easier and more cost effective to commit to a fixed desk or office in a co-working space, than to take on an entire space by themselves.  

Next year, OneCoWork is set to expand operations to incorporate a 400 member space located in the city’s central square, Plaza Catalunya.  And while Ben credits this to the evolving work culture across the world, it is also linked to Barcelona’s growth. “The business environment in Barcelona is changing. They just opened up a Soho House, and if there is enough money for that, then the city is going in right direction. The tech and start-up scene is growing rapidly and VC funds from US are starting to come in and make bigger and bigger investment.  Barcelona is a city that runs on tech much more than London does: for example, when I want to go to work, I go on an app, find a scooter 3 streets away that starts through my phone, drive to work and leave it in the street for the next customer.  There are a lot of very, very smart people moving here and it’s a scene that’s affecting both the tech industry and the demand for housing. All of this is contributing to the shift in Barcelona. The whole city runs on this entrepreneurial spirit – here everyone is much more open to collaborating, innovating and working together. The community is much smaller, as is the city, so it’s much easier to form relationships, meet for a coffee or drink. Then there is a paradigm shift, people are moving here because they can – they realise that they can do their job from anywhere, that they don’t need to be in London, Madrid or Frankfurt and that instead, they can choose to come here. Everything feels like it’s on a strong upward trajectory.”

Monthly rates at OneCoWork start from €165 euros for a hot-desk and €350 for an office space.​

OneCoWork is located inside OneOcean Club