I went to Sydney’s design hub in March for the first time since they opened the first floor and opened up the layout on the second floor. The desks are now spread around evenly, breaking up previous linear patterns and helping to create an even more relaxed and, judging by the concentrated work, continually productive atmosphere.
I was there for the launch of Liberated Work by Caroline McLaren, Principal CoActiv8 with Brad Krauskopf, CEO Third Spaces Group, who incidentally spoke about thriving in a new world of work at the Green Building Council of Australia’s Connected Cities conference in March. They are well known to the hub, of course, and like the place itself, are living, breathing symbols of the report’s main points, themselves reflecting what members want and value, whether teleworking for a company or part of today’s workforce of freelancers, small businesses, start-ups and consultants. They want:
· “Conveniently located work close to home or social activities
· Flexible workplaces available on demand and when required
· Inspiring (places) with opportunity to connect and collaborate”
Caroline’s pivotal question that she believes we should ask ourselves when considering this type of co-working space is: Would I be willing to pay to work here?
While people might first choose the hub for access to a desk, it is the connectivity, the communication and the experience of being in a co-working space that will keep them there. It is the ultimate attraction for people wanting flexible, liberated work.
The chance encounters, the collisions”leading to conversations generating ideas and potential partnerships”, appeal to the flexibly distributed workforce. Meanwhile, measuring their performance, for companies in particular is a challenge. The report’s authors note that training is needed to increase the competence and skill-set of what they called “performance managers”.
This may be a new area but the same needs remain paramount: leadership and trust so that, for instance, managers and co-workers are confident that deadlines for work and tasks set will be met wherever you are. It is the work that matters not where it is done. Specific locations are no longer important.
I work from home, in libraries and in various cafes. With Sydney’s housing so expensive, if and when I move again it is likely to be further out, away from the CBD. There were people from big corporates and small businesses, service office centres and local councils at the launch. Hearing that there are more service centres and hubs planned for the suburbs and regions is music to my ears. I have been to Oran Park in the south-west, near to a recently opened train station. There is a mix of housing types, and in the heart of the development, a central community area with the “biggest Woollies in the southern hemisphere” and on the floor above that, a smart hub.
It is an exciting time for work styles and practices, which this report demonstrates. Although nowhere near mainstream yet, co-working may become more than a trend as it meets demands arising from long commutes, work pressures and family responsibilities. Hub research has shown that respondents value health, productivity and creativity; professional satisfaction and networking. Around 36 per cent were between the ages of 25 and 34, 28 per cent aged 45 and over, 8 per cent aged 55+. Seeing individuals who would normally be considered at retirement age embrace new more flexible ways of working was also music to my ears.
Letting people know the spaces exist is another challenge. While individuals and companies alike have recognised improvements in productivity and profitability by embracing a liberated work style, the report concluded that ultimately it is in the hands of real estate groups to deliver on these new expectations. “The property groups that proactively address these demands through initiatives like on-site work hub facilities will ensure they continue to attract and retain large corporate tenants while also capturing the shifting demands for workspace in suburban locations.”
Deborah Singerman is Sydney-based and has also worked in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo. She runs her own writing, editing, proofreading and project managing consultancy, curating holistic publications from creative, humanities, business, financial, design, transport, infrastructure, built and urban environment contributors. Her design and sustainability writing and editing covers architecture, cities, places, spaces, culture and creativity; business and humanities; workplace organisation, health and wellbeing; and independent living and aged care. She also offers one-to-one coaching. @deborahsingerma