One of the many highlights at Sydney's CeBIT Australia May exhibition and conference was a session on the explosion of co-working spaces and why business owners, freelancers, working mums - in fact just about anyone needing an office - is flocking to them.
A co-working space is a low cost way for anyone to have an on-demand fully serviced office space to work in. You pay only for the time you want when you want it.
Apart from providing a working space, you have internet access, computer access, refreshments, networking opportunities - even children's areas at some sites.
And it's not just in city CBDs. Sydney's Greater West is experiencing a boom in co-working site development.
In a report by global workplace provider Regus, entitled “The Workplace Revolution: A picture of flexible working 2017”, 48 per cent of Australian workers reported that they work outside the main office 2.5 days a week or more.
Whether it’s millennials choosing to go freelance in order to maintain a better work-life balance, returning mothers trying to juggle their family and work responsibilities or older workers wishing to stay active in the workforce, more people than ever are opting for flexible working.
With the rise of flexible workers comes the rise of co-working spaces, where independents and small businesses share open workspaces. Deskmag’s “Global Co-working Survey: The 2018 Co-working Forecast” estimates that 1.7 million people will be working in around 19,000 co-working spaces by the end of 2018, with 29 per cent of all co-working spaces having been opened just over the past year.
But why are so many workers opting for co-working spaces over their home office or local café?
Five major benefits were cited.
1. It boosts concentration and productivity Many flexible workers choose to work from home and while this may seem to make the most sense from a financial perspective, and can be a nice reprieve for those who work in an office the majority of the time, for the rest of flexible workers this situation can quickly become untenable.
According to The Workplace Revolution report, 45 per cent of workers confirmed that they found it hard to concentrate when working from home, citing reasons such as demands from family members and noise from household appliances. (And we all know how quickly 10 minutes of television can turn into several hours!).
A co-working space not only offers a place to get away from such distractions, helping you to concentrate, but also provides a space distinct from home, which can be a big help psychologically when it comes to developing a productive routine.
The simple act of getting out of your pyjamas and heading off to an office can do wonders when it comes to getting yourself into ‘work mode’. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, co-workers reported that having a community to work in helped them to create structures and discipline that motivated them.
2. It provides networking opportunities The very nature of co-working spaces means you’re constantly surrounded by freelancers, entrepreneurs and start-ups. This can provide rich networking opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access from home or at your local coffee shop.
Your fellow co-workers may be future feedback and advice-givers, creative collaborators or even clients, all of whom could be hugely beneficial to your business.
This is backed up by a survey commissioned by Regus, in which 74 per cent of respondents agreed that collaborative workplaces made the ideal breeding ground for innovation. Around 80 per cent agreed they were a valuable way of creating connections with partners, providers, suppliers and clients.
3. They are cost-effective, flexible and well equipped The beauty of co-working spaces is that they are simply ‘plug and play’ – there’s no need to worry about signing long leases, buying furniture, investing in expensive devices or paying for overhead costs. Indeed, 50 per cent of Australian workers surveyed think cost reduction will be one of the main drivers of flexible working in 2017.
Some 37 per cent of workers say that avoiding fixed lease agreements that hamper their need to expand and contract rapidly was one of the main reasons they opted for flexible working.
while much work nowadays can be accomplished with just your trusty laptop and free wifi at the local café, this does come with cybersecurity implications, and most workers will need at least occasional access to a scanner, photocopier or printer, which you won’t find there.
Co-working spaces are also equipped with fast and reliable internet connections, which is another key concern for Australian workers. Thirty-two per cent reporting that a slow or unreliable internet connection was one of the main obstacles to working from home.
4. It increases social interaction
If you tend to work from home, the sense of isolation can have a negative impact on your overall well-being. With a co-working space, however, you have access to a ready-made community of like-minded individuals, many of whom are facing the same challenges as you are.
There’s no need to worry about constant interruptions – with the variety of spaces available in many coworking offices - from private booths to lounges to communal desks - you can easily make yourself as available or unavailable for social interaction as you wish.
5. It fosters better work-life balance Co-working spaces can also help to foster better work-life balance, not just by helping to create a psychological distance between home and work, but also by reducing the daily commute, which many workers agree is a significant time drain.
In fact, 54 per cent of workers felt that spending less time travelling would benefit work-life balance by helping them juggle personal and work demands.
Co-working spaces are often in prime locations throughout the city and suburbs, giving you plenty of options when it comes to choosing where you work. Want to be in the heart of the business district, close to clients? Or would you prefer to be just down the road from home, giving you more time to spend on yourself or with your family? The choice is yours.
With around two out of three co-working spaces planning to expand in 2018, there is the expectation that more and more workers will opt for the benefits a co-working space can provide for themselves and their businesses. Will you be one of them?