Part 3. The rise of the co-working space: co-working as tourism

7th February, 2017

There are some big kids moving into the Australian co-working neighbourhood – and existing businesses are thinking about how to differentiate themselves.

Could that lend itself to a new tourism market?

Naomi Tosic of The Office Space said this was on the mind when she and her partner created the Paramount Space in 2015.

“[The bigger businesses] definitely have massive economies of scale and can play off that – which means we think of ourselves more like a boutique rather than a hostel,” she said.

Tosic’s The Office Space launched its Paramount space in Sydney in 2015 – squarely pitching at the upscale end of the market.

In fact, it’s literally the best office in the world.

Tosic and her partner spent $300,000 on chairs for 40 people, and Elton John has held meetings in the space.

Although Tosic maintains that The Office Space remains affordable, its luxurious feel was deliberately designed to capture a market niche.

As global co-working players and large real estate outfits play the scale game, local co-working spaces will need to bring something different to the table to capture the demand for cool and happening spots.

As that plays out, could we start to see co-working operators working more like independent tourism operators?

How long will it be until we see co-working agents instead of travel agents?

When will large employers be able to benefit from package deals?

Savvy entrepreneurs are already testing the waters.

The ‘Airbnb of co-working’

Jake Dimarco is one of several people trying to plug into the co-working revolution.

His idea is to build Spare Workspace, a platform much like Airbnb which matches people looking for short-term working arrangements to co-working spaces eager for tenants.

He says the emergence of players like WeWork  on the scene is a sign that Australia’s appetite for co-working spaces continues unabated, and a lot of his time is spent with office leaseholders helping them work out how to get the best value out of their spaces.

“One of the big reasons why Spare Workspace was developed was because there are several empty or underutilised workspaces out there,” Dimarco told The Pulse.

“Instead of an empty space costing the company money, it could actually be making them money.”

“A few innovative companies in Australia are already turning their meeting rooms or office space into a co-working space.”

Dimarco said he saw the emergence of WeWork and others in the Australian market as a sign that a franchise commercial model was developing, but Fitzgerald said it was starting to look like tourism.

Let’s all go on a holiday…to work!

“An Airbnb of the workspace world is a very real idea,” CBRE’s Nicole Fitzgerald said. “I can tell you hotels are jumping on that bandwagon too.”

She said it came back to the idea of co-working spaces offering a place where workers can recharge their creative juices.

“Employers previously took a team out of the environment for a day to try to get them out of the drudgery of the day to day,” said Fitzgerald.

“Now they’re asking why is it only one day per year? Why can’t it be a week? What would a month do?”

Nobody’s got a crystal ball, but all the stars are aligning for co-working to adopt a quasi-tourism model.

Imagine a world of co-working agents instead of travel agents.

Imagine players such as Spare Workspace alongside Airbnb.

Imagine boutique hotels offering luxury services against chain offerings.

An expanding market fueled by a demand for new ways of working is leading to diversification in the marketplace.

As different co-working spaces start to offer different experiences and different price points, smart operators will figure out how to market themselves to attract the ‘work tourist’ dollar.

In a not-too-distant reality, you might find yourself getting as excited about a week in a co-working space as you do about a weekend at Bonnie Doon.

READ: Part 1: The way we work

READ: Part 2: The new gold rush?