The rise of co-working spaces and how to grow your business

Tracey Porter

The sharing economy has extended its reach well beyond the likes of Uber and Airbnb with those seeking flexible office space reaping the best rewards.

When Kenobi Digital owner Rowena Murray first began looking for temporary office space in Melbourne a decade ago she was forced to utilise airport lounges or rent desk space from friends.

But with the increasing popularity of co-working spaces, Murray now has a wealth of choice when it comes to co-working spaces available in Australia and abroad.

Co-working spaces were initially conceived in order to offer young Silicon Valley start-up developers, designers and thinkers the chance to trade ideas free from the confines of the traditional workplace. They have since transformed into spaces giving small business entrepreneurs and sole-charge operators the chance to secure inexpensive office space via daily, weekly or annual memberships.

Normally prroviding Wi-Fi, conference rooms, and kitchen areas, co-working spaces exist in most major cities with the average membership of rental business studios ranging from $40 per day for access during business hours only. This rises to approximately $700 per month for a dedicated desk and 24/7 access.

Growing a business can be a lonely road but when you have a business community ... you’re empowered to create and innovate in a safe space with likeminded creators.

In 2013, research conducted by deskmag.com reported that the diversity of the co-working movement is growing, resulting in a higher number and variety of co-working spaces. Key insights included: two thirds of co-working spaces planned to expand, big co-working spaces planned to open new locations more often, and even good-rated co-working spaces had to expect a higher fluctuation of members.

The trend shows no sign of abating with a similar survey by software company Intuit finding that globally the number of contingent employees will increase worldwide. The same survey predicted that by 2020 at least 40 per cent of America’s workforce will be freelancers or contractors with many in the Australian workforce expected to follow suit.

The CEO of Hub Australia, Brad Krauskopf, whose company operates across three locations and has more than 1000 members, says there are five main reasons small businesses choose co-working over a traditional office space.

These include: the obvious financial advantage that comes from not having to lease permanent space; the time savings in terms of setting up your own office space; the ability to connect to likeminded others within the co-working community; the chance to increase productivity, creativity and work-life balance, as well as to access learning and development, networking and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

He says business owners need to take a holistic approach to growing their businesses, themselves and their teams.

“Growing a business can be a lonely road but when you have a business community that you’re connected with, and share common values with, then you’re empowered to create and innovate in a safe space with likeminded creators.

“You can achieve more, share your struggles without fear of judgment by people who don’t get what you’re going through, discover new ideas, and enjoy the journey knowing that you’re not alone and fully supported.”

It can be isolating working for yourself sometimes, and shared spaces gives you a whole new network of people to talk to.

And for Murray? Her creative digital design company works with many third party specialists, has a network of three different co-working spaces she uses regularly in Melbourne but has also utilised similar spaces while abroad.

She says the biggest advantage of this work environment for her has been being able to scale up and down as required.

“Having the ability to book larger spaces when I need them is a big deal, as if you’re renting a space you have to just use what you have. It's also awesome having other similar businesses and people around you – there’s a fantastic sense of camaraderie and friendliness.

“It can be isolating working for yourself sometimes, and shared spaces gives you a whole new network of people to talk to.”

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine titles.

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