Are Co-Working Spaces And Shared Offices The Future?
Is remote working from home the way of the future? According to some statistics, around 85% of us would prefer never to return to the office even after the pandemic.
However there’s an increasing number of negatives to working from home that are being aired on social media platforms and in comment pieces. Chief among them are feelings of isolation. Taking a shared coffee break on Zoom, while a novel experience, is nowhere near as satisfying as exchanging `war stories’ in person. The other gripes include never really leaving work but not being paid for all those extra hours. Plus the stress of trying to get it all done in a family environment.
At the same time, many are reluctant to return to the CBD with its skyscrapers, cramped elevators and the discomfort of a long morning and evening commute, especially with Covid still seeding in the community. It all seems counter-intuitive to the way we wish to live now.
Professor Warren Hogan, former ANZ Chief Economist and a global authority on banking and financial markets, who is the UTSSydney Business School’s inaugural Executive-in-Residence believes that in the future, many will divide their work week between the office and home.
"There are increasingly firms who are permanently going to allow staff to spend a percentage of time working from home. However the reality is that we have to get through the end of the pandemic before it’s going to be clear to what extent this will be," he says.
"I think the drop in demand for office space from the shift around working from home is going to be somewhere from one day a week to two and a half days a week. And what that translates into is for the existing office demand to fall between 20 to 50%,” he says. "However if it grows from 40% to 50% in those working from home this is not going too have good implications for the building industry.
Perhaps we need a halfway point between the CBD office and the home? A new development, 101 Moray in South Melbourne, styles itself as a health and wellness business destination. One which incorporates seven levels of office and retail space with luxury business and lifestyle facilities throughout. These include air purification, spatial design, meditation spaces and even a sport arena.
Central House, on the ground floor at 101 Moray, is pitched at creative businesses with memberships allowing access to virtual offices, open desks, dedicated desks and private offices.
"Co-working is community based office space with a lot of flexibility." says Jonathan Deague, managing director of the Deague Group - a 161-year-old integrated property development company, which owns and operates 101 Moray. “People want to enter environments where they also have the opportunity of networking with other businesses and also to have more enjoyable office space."
Deague says that this flexibility is really important during Covid with many businesses pivoting to new areas and therefore growing at different rates. He points out that committing to a long lease in a CBD office block might not make great sense right now as businesses expand and contract.
"At Central House, we also think it’s important to have a space where people can come together in a socialising hub. We have basketball courts, gyms and a mini sports arena, so there’s a focus on health and wellness. All this helps in attracting talent."
Professor Hogan sees some merits in this new approach.
"If we’re going to have a whole new way of thinking about the office to include recreational and health related facilities, this could be a positive for the building industry," he says. "This would mean there would be a lot of construction going on as offices are reconfigured.
"After all, in the short time, the economics are being put to one side and that might take a year or two," he adds. "We just have to get through the pandemic."
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ros Reines is a Sydney journalist and the author of four books. She is currently penning her fifth - a memoir of a life in the me