Thursday, 14 December 2017
In the not-too-distant future, you may find yourself paying a monthly membership not just for the gym, but for your office space as well.
This is one insight offered by Professor Fang Zhao of Edith Cowan University’s School of Business and Law, who has been researching co-working spaces in WA.
Like a traditional office, co-working spaces offer essentials such as a desk (hotdesk), meeting rooms, event spaces, and internet connection, but with some perks – namely flexibility to come and go and no boss looking over your shoulder.
Professor Zhao found their number has doubled in Western Australia in the past three years, with strong uptake, revealing a rethink in how we conceive of the workplace.
“This is the future, because digital technology is allowing many people to work from anywhere, but they still want a place for face-to-face contact, meetings and sometimes solitude,” Professor Zhao said.
“Co-working spaces have practical advantages, such as reducing commuting and freeing up time, but most importantly they offer intangibles, like bringing together people with diverse expertise and networks in a very organic way.
“We know networking is vital to grow businesses, innovate and get new ideas.”
Bridging the gender gap
Professor Zhao found co-working is particularly popular with women, who are active users and own over 30 per cent of the operations surveyed.
This is partly because these places can help overcome problems found in traditional workspaces.
For instance, Broadspace in Wanneroo is for women only, offering a mansplaining-free buffer against an often overly masculine business environment.
BubDesk Childcare Co-Working Space offers professional mothers relief from inflexible or inadequate childcare, as its locations actually share space with early learning centres.
Prof Zhao says governments are recognising the changing nature of work too, as evidenced by co-working spaces funded by the cities of Fremantle (fSpace), Joondalup (Digital City), Wanneroo (The Hybrid 935: Co-Working Community) and Perth/WA (Spacecubed).
And while the relaxed and non-rigid nature of these operations calls to mind the creative industries and hipsters, banking, government, resources and education are all taking advantage of the trend.
“They are not all just for entrepreneurs and small businesses, as some large businesses have started to realise they don’t need fixed office space like in the past,” Professor Zhao said.
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