Part 1. The rise of the co-working space: the way we work

7th February, 2017

Have you ever looked forward to going to work in the same way you look forward to going on holiday?

It’s an idea that’s about to become a lot more popular.

It’s why Australia and New Zealand are the hottest places on earth for co-working spaces. In fact, Australia has the highest number of co-working spaces per capita in the world.

Co-working spaces offer short-term and creative premises for people to work and collaborate with others – and we can’t get enough of them.

According to research from commercial property developers CBRE, in 2007 there were 75 co-working spaces worldwide.

By 2015, this had multiplied to 7800 and there are predictions that this number could rise to as many as 37,000 by 2018.

CBRE Associate Director of Workplace Strategy, Nicole Fitzgerald, told The Pulse that the popularity of co-working in Australia and around the world was being driven by changes to the way we think about ‘work’.

The way we work

“We’re obsessed with ABW [Activity Based Working], Agile and different types of work and we’ve seen Australia really open to that,” said Fitzgerald.

Driven primarily by the tech sector and rising entrepreneurship, Australia has been part of the agile revolution – which places a big emphasis on collaboration.

Other sectors traditionally seen as stuffy have also joined in the fun – co-working spaces have seen their star rise beyond the tech sector.

Fitzgerald also said tech had changed the way we think about where we work.

“We’re working in more places like airport lounges or cafes. So now people are comfortable with a ‘third space’ which is between the office and home,” she said.

“Technology means you also have more connectivity with the people you’re working with.”

But it’s not just our preference for working in a new way which is driving the best of co-working hubs – it’s culture.

Culture club

Many co-working hubs aren’t just obsessed with funky furniture and pop art hanging on the walls, but capturing a ‘vibe’.

For example, despite boasting “burnished brass fixtures and natural materials including wood and limestone plus accents of leather, marble and ceramics provide a refined and elegant palette”, Naomi Tosic says what makes The Office Space’s Paramount space work is culture.

“We’ve been working to capitalise on what was happening organically in our space anyhow. There was a cross-pollination of ideas which we encourage with the design of break-out areas,” Tosic told The Pulse.

Together with her partner, she’s been in the co-working game for more than a decade.

She said while people did want some focused time while working, the secret to making people come back to co-working spaces was about the energy they got from working in the space.

“A great community doesn’t happen by itself – it needs to be designed and encouraged,” said Tosic. “Without that culture, what we have is furniture.”

Fitzgerald said some operators wanted to break into the co-working market by applying a lick of paint and putting designer furniture into a traditional office environment – but the smart operators were thinking culture-first.

“Operating a co-working space isn’t just funky chairs, you need to foster community and connection. You’ve got to get people thinking,” said Fitzgerald.

“We’re seeing a lot more proactive management of that community mindset. Good spaces even have dedicated community managers whose job is solely to facilitate that vibe and connection.”

Tosic tries to foster culture in several ways, including holding events featuring thought leaders in business, and creating content for people to consume.

“Those things [events and content] do two things. They help with branding and marketing but it does help in building that community and sense of belonging as well.”

She also said small things like a ‘pet-friendly if the pet is friendly’ policy helped create “organic watercooler moments”.

“That’s going to be what people come back for – people come to co-working spaces to be re-energised.”

Co-working spaces are being seen as a way to foster creativity and collaboration and bring out the best in employee creativity.

“We even see CEOs step out of their offices and come to the space. They want to be part of that energy.”

READ: Part 2: The new gold rush

READ: Part 3: Will co-working become the new tourism?