The co-working space targeting the (forgotten) suburbs

- January 9, 2020 3 MIN READ

In the last few years, the world has seen an explosion of co-working spaces, which have arisen to accommodate the changing nature of work, which is increasingly based on the principle of flexibility and entrepreneurism, writes Chris Jbeily, Marketing Manager of Waterman Business Centre.

Every freelancer, entrepreneur and small business owner out there now has a huge variety of co-working spaces to choose from: like plants? There’s spaces dedicated to that. What about minimalist style? Just google the phrase and something is sure to come up.

According to a report commissioned last year by Regus — one of the world’s biggest flexible office space providers, operating 3300 centres in 1000 cities that service 2.5 million customers — about 12 per cent of all commercial office stock in Australia will be used for flexible workspaces by 2030.

This boom is also projected to increase Australia’s economic output by $122 billion by 2030.

Yet, as it stands, most working spaces in Australia are located in the central business districts, with little choice for those who want to work closer to the suburbs. While over the last 40 years we have seen the gradual dominance of the city as a workplace evolve, it’s left behind people who, for whatever reason, can not afford to travel for hours every day just to get to an office.

There are many good arguments to be made in favour of establishing co-working spaces in the suburbs: the reduced commute for people who live in the suburbs; restoration of a work-life balance; and supporting population growth as we start to move further out.

As it stands, Melbourne’s population boom — which will soon see the city overtake Sydney — is further expanding the city’s urban sprawl, making access to the CBD even more difficult for people who cannot afford to buy within a 10 kilometre radius.

To tackle this issue, the Victorian Planning Authority is working towards having seven mini-CBDs across Melbourne, to be located around Monash University, Parkville, Fishermans Bend, Dandenong, La Trobe University in Bundoora, Sunshine and Werribee.

The idea is to make jobs more accessible to people, as Melbourne sprawls further and further away from the traditional CBD.

In Sydney, multiple CBDs have been the plan for years. The strategy has now been formalised by the Greater Sydney Commission, which has committed to a city of three CBDs: Central Sydney, Parramatta and the area around the planned Badgerys Creek airport in the city’s west.

Data shows that the length of the commute to work also strongly impacts our wellbeing, with the Australian Institute finding that being stuck in traffic in particular has negative impacts on at least three aspects of Australian life: people’s psychological, emotional, and physiological wellbeing; their relationships and interactions with their families, neighbourhoods, communities and workplace; and the physical and social environment.

This is why, instead of starting in the busy hive of the CBD, we have decided to build our first co-working offices in three Melbourne suburbs: Chadstone, Scoresby and Narre Warren. While we will be expanding (our aim is to go national) into the CBD centres as well, we really wanted to begin on the outskirts in order to service a community that’s had to sacrifice their time for so long.

That said, having a presence in the suburbs does not mean that all our spaces are identical: it’s important to research and understand the community and neighbourhood that the space will be catering to. Finding out the types of services people within the suburb need, and the prices they are willing to pay for them will be important to an operator’s success.

Aside from the proximity (which is a big deal to parents with kids in schools, childcare and elderly parents who need care) we also believe that working from home can be detrimental to your success due to isolation and lack of connection with a like-minded community — and humans in general.

Research supports this: studies have found that face-to-face interaction is essential for identifying opportunities for collaboration, innovation and developing relationships and networks.

It’s also not that great for your mental health: another study of people who work from home in 15 countries found 42 per cent  of remote workers had trouble sleeping, waking up repeatedly at night, compared to only 29 per cent who always worked in the office.

At the end of the day, people want office space that is easily accessible and gives them a sense of pride every day. Families living in the suburbs expect all the amenities of living in the city, such as walkable neighborhoods, entertainment, schools, and parks.

They also want co-working spaces where small businesses can thrive, where freelancers and remote workers can feed off of each other’s energy and stay focused.

While there is still a market for CBD-located co-working spaces, we can’t forget the people who live 30 to 40km away from the CBD whose commutes are increasingly becoming exhausting.

After all, drawing the lottery when it comes to property location in Australia is already rare: there is no point further entrenching this divide by depriving hard-working people who happen to live in the suburbs of a decent work-life balance — of which travel, and accessibility to a local workplace, is central.






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