Nearly a decade ago, researchers studied how and why people thrive at work. The data showed that employees who belong to a coworking space report levels of thriving at an average of 6 on a scale of 1 to 7, which is an entire point higher than for those who work in a traditional office.
Perhaps that's why a whopping 3.1 million people are currently utilizing coworking spaces around the globe — a figure that's projected to grow by 5 million in the next several years.
The numbers don't lie: Coworking is booming, and for good reason. Those who jump on the bandwagon continuously reap its many benefits in both their personal and professional lives.
In this detailed guide, you'll discover everything you need to know about the innovative and flourishing world of coworking — from insider lingo to top operators and pandemic protocols. Whether you're an independent contractor or the CEO of a big company, you’ll learn how you can leverage coworking to increase productivity, create community, and expand your network.
Before delving into the nitty-gritty details of coworking, let’s lay out what it actually is. If you punch this term into Google, you'll find the following definition:
The use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.
That pretty much sums it up. To be more specific, though, coworking is when someone signs a contract to license their use of an office space that’s owned or leased by someone else.
Although coworking hasn't been on the scene for very long, it has an explosive history. In a relatively short time, coworking has gone from a small-scale business venture to a phenomenon that encompasses the entire globe, single-handedly defining what the future of work will be.
Coworking companies have operated in Australia since the mid-1980s, but the term itself wasn't coined until 1999 when game designer Bernard DeKoven wanted a word for ways of working that involve collaboration, a breakdown of hierarchical structures, and seeing employees as equals.
The world's first official coworking space wasn't set up until 2005. Founder Brad Neuberg's intention for the San Francisco Coworking Space was to maintain the freedom of independent working while offering the structure and community that comes with working alongside others.
This understanding slowly made its way to Australia's business districts. In 2013, there were only 78 coworking locations in Australia's two main cities. Within a mere six years, that number grew to a staggering 400, and far more have been added since that 2019 statistic was tallied.
The catalysts for the main changes that took place since the genesis of flexible office spaces in Australia were an increased demand from younger staff to work away from the office and the boom of startups and small businesses. This led to improved technology, the introduction of hot-desking, and more.
The majority of new office buildings have at least one flexible floor to be leased out.
And the trend isn't going away soon. In fact, it's projected to become the new norm. According to one report, coworking office spaces in Australia are expected to triple by 2030. By then, nearly 12% of the nation's all-commercial office stock is expected to be used for coworking, and the industry is projected to increase Australia's economic output by a whopping $122 billion.
If you're considering joining a coworking space, you'll do well to become fluent in coworking-speak. Here’s a selection of common terms and what they mean:
Hot-desking refers to a workspace system in which desks are rotated among people on an ad hoc basis. Hot desks can be implemented in coworking setups as well as private offices.
Because hot desks don’t provide any sense of permanence, there’s less and less demand for this one-time trend. As a result, most coworking operators have significantly cut down on the number of hot desks available to rent.
A dedicated desk is a membership option that provides a workspace just for you. It provides a more permanent setup and more privacy compared to hot-desking or using shared spaces only. You can also curate the space and leave your supplies right where you left them.
A managed office is a vacant space that’s rented out by a landlord or property owner. It doesn’t typically come with furnishings, business opportunities, reception services, or other amenities.
A flexible, or "flex" space refers to any space that’s offered to businesses that can tailor it according to their needs.
When coworking began, it was largely geared toward entrepreneurs, freelancers, and startups. In many ways, the industry still caters to these kinds of businesses, but it has also expanded to incorporate companies of all sizes.
Coworking is utilised by all of the following:
There are a variety of membership models available for coworking spaces. Members typically pay a weekly or monthly subscription fee that’s determined by several factors, including:
With coworking, you pay only for what you need, so most membership models are based on how often you need to use the space.
You might pay for full-time access, a specific number of days or hours per week, or occasional hourly access. The latter works well for people who are in town only for a short time or are working on a project outside of their regular hours. This is sometimes referred to as a weekender plan. Some spaces even offer discounted rates for workers who require only nighttime access.
It all depends on the needs of the member.
There are numerous options for dedicated spaces, including: - Full-floor offices - Office suites - Standard offices - Shared spaces - Dedicated desks - Hot desks - Virtual workspaces
For employers who wish to purchase a plan for a team, the number of people is usually factored into the price in addition to the dedicated space.
There are always extras for members to incorporate into their membership plan, such as: - After-hours access - Specific technology - A mailing address - Printing - Phone services
Lastly, some coworking operators are more exclusive with their approach to membership. For example, they may want to stick to specific industries or require you to pass an interview process before you can become a member. Because community is so vital to coworking, operators care about the kind of community they create or curate.
There's a reason coworking is quickly becoming the new way to work: It provides a wide range of benefits — ones that aren't usually provided by the traditional office setup. Here are some of the main draws:
One of the main benefits of coworking spaces is that they provide an opportunity for independent workers to draw upon each other's skill sets. Instead of being pigeonholed by your distinct company or position, you can meet and collaborate with people outside of your industry. And with many spaces offering networking events, you have a built-in way to broaden your connections. In this environment, the best ideas take flight.
Coworking spaces are flexible in more ways than one. You're able to choose from a variety of membership options, locations, and workspaces. Many spaces are even open around the clock. The leasing terms are flexible, too — you can scale up or down whenever you need to.
There are heaps of statistics out there about how coworking increases productivity. In a recent study, 84% of the 700 coworkers surveyed reported feeling more engaged and motivated when they're in a coworking space, and 89% reported being happier.
Compared to the exorbitant costs of renting out an office building, coworking is a very cheap option. Moreover, occasionally renting out a coworking space is considered a tax-deductible expense as long as it's solely for the purpose of your business.
At coworking spaces, the amenities are extensive. The perks offered in the vast majority of spaces include: - Coffee and tea - Wi-Fi and ethernet connection - Networking and other events - Printing - Parking - Kitchen - Meeting and conference rooms - Hot-desking and dedicated desks
Some spaces offer additional specialized amenities such as:
Coworking or working from home (WFH): Which is better? It's a fair question, especially in a post-pandemic age.
Obviously, a WFH setup is entirely free. It also provides a certain level of convenience — cutting out commuting time, for example. The benefits are pretty scarce beyond that, however, and there are significant downsides.
For one, it makes achieving a work-life balance nearly impossible. Many freelancers and WFH professionals also experience high levels of boredom and loneliness, which can quickly begin negatively impacting your mental health and overall well-being. It also makes your motivation plummet.
Coworking makes up for where working from home fails. As we mentioned above, productivity is one of the chief benefits of coworking arrangements. Being around people and in a professional environment increases your levels of productivity and happiness.
Some people opt to enhance WFH by adding in occasional coworking, whether it's for a few hours or days each week. This is a great option for those who are still on the fence.
The differences between serviced offices and coworking can be hard to catch, especially because many people use the two terms interchangeably. The two concepts diverge in three key ways:
Coworking spaces usually have a more open floor plan, which is built for community and collaboration. They offer flexible leases and a variety of workspace options as well as amenities.
Serviced offices are usually more broken up. They may have cubicles or private offices and suites. Some offer hot desks and dedicated desks along with coworking spaces, however.
The environment of coworking spaces is typically more casual. Many facilities are modern, aesthetically pleasing, and unique.
In serviced offices, the vibe is more corporate, catering to a professional and private working environment.
Lastly, the culture of coworking spaces is imbued with an entrepreneurial and communal spirit. The staff work to create new opportunities for collaboration and connection between members.
Serviced offices rarely have a distinct culture, as businesses are in and out.
COVID-19 wreaked havoc on numerous industries and businesses, and coworking has been forced to evolve in its wake. Shutdown restrictions varied greatly by country, state, and county, but once businesses began reopening, coworking operators faced the novel challenges head-on.
While these businesses faced dwindling memberships as employers and employees alike realised they could do all their work from home and save on commercial costs, the demand for coworking by larger corporations is now on the rise.
However, the safety of this setup is a concern for members and interested prospects alike — and rightly so. All the big operators have taken significant steps to decrease risk. The New York-based behemoth WeWork, for example, has taken the following measures:
With these measures and more in place, coworking has never been safer, and some of the changes might be here to stay. Look into the spaces near you to find out exactly how they’re putting safety first during this unprecedented time.
Today, there are extensive options when it comes to coworking spaces, including:
The cost of a single coworking desk or hot desk varies across Australia. With the average cost at $520 nationally, you'll pay more in Sydney ($658) and Melbourne ($550) compared to Perth ($450) and Brisbane ($425).
If you need more than a single desk such as a private office for two or more, you'll find a range of options and prices from these very same coworking operators. We've put together a detailed summary of costs across most major markets including:
There are various factors to consider when choosing the right coworking space for you.
The most important component is the location — you'll not only want to find a space that's easy to commute to, but one that's also near shops, restaurants, and other businesses.
Next, you'll want to think about what kind of workspace is best suited to your needs, and what kinds of resources you want access to. And don't forget amenities. Ask yourself: What perks do I want with my membership?
Last but not least, you must consider the cost. As mentioned earlier, there’s a range of membership plans available, each at a different cost.
Once you've narrowed down your list of coworking spaces, go ahead and schedule a time to tour the space. Get a feel for the environment (taking note of things like natural light and noise levels), sense of community, and quality of the materials.
These factors should play into your decision: - Location - Layout - Amenities - Access to meeting rooms - Community and collaboration - Sign-up/renewal process - Pricing - Flexibility - Work environment - Comfort - Events and education - Cleaning protocols
When it comes to choosing a coworking space, your options are vast. But here are the highest-ranking operators in Australia:
Rubberdesk is here to help you find a flexible office space that meets all of your needs.
We talk to every operator in Australia as well as businesses with spare office space. All you have to do is tell us what you're looking for and we'll create a bespoke short list, give you quotes, and arrange tours.
We also help businesses list their vacant spaces, find potential guests, and get paid.
Showing page 1 of 2
Finance, insurance and other large corporates are increasingly using coworking and flexible offices to open new markets and provide office space closer to where their employees live. Read more
Showing page 1 of 2