Melbourne coworking spaces thrive on the rise of flexible working

The Trampedach luxury site in Melbourne, where the Work Club also manages the building’s concierge, restaurant and bar, has a maximum capacity of around 700 members and a long waiting list.

For business owner Luke Borg, being in the Work Club allows his Capstone Property Recruitment company staff to expand and contract easily.

“Whereas you have to take a risk if you move to larger, fixed traditional venues.”

Luke Borg of Capstone Property Recruitment is a member of the Work Club.

Luke Borg of Capstone Property Recruitment is a member of the Work Club.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Adding to coworking’s appeal, Schiavi said, is greater variety (there are 90 operators in Melbourne and 79 in Sydney) and, in turn, quality.

He said the sector was bigger in Melbourne because rents were cheaper than in Sydney and there had been a migration of businesses out of the CBD since COVID-19, leading to a rise in suburban coworking sites.

Creative Cubes founder Tobi Skovron runs five Melbourne locations, with two to follow. His new place in Collingwood, which spans three floors and includes a Peloton studio, opened this week with a fifth of the space already occupied.

“Operators see themselves as hotel companies… Connected to create an experience where people want to come to the office.”

Brad Krauskopf, Flexible Workspace Australia and Hub Australia

Skovron is not opening any CBD locations. People no longer wanted long trips, she said. “We are about to build world-class facilities closer to home.”

Skovron said coworking spaces were a “huge cog in the wheel for the future of work.”

Trampedach explained that “the hook” was what many conventional offices struggled to offer: flexible memberships, stylish equipment, trendy bars and cafes, social events and workshops.

Sometimes it’s the things that coworking spaces can be mocked for — the flowing beer and kombucha, the Peloton bikes on-site, the skating rink vibes — but the reality is that it seems to be working.

Commons co-founders Cliff Ho (left) and Tom Ye in 2017.

Commons co-founders Cliff Ho (left) and Tom Ye in 2017.

Data from the Rubberdesk coworking space market shows the number of vacant desks in Melbourne’s CBD rose 10 per cent in the three months to June, while those in Sydney’s CBD fell 23 per cent.

The lifting of work-from-home recommendations last week is expected to boost CBD, but Brad Krauskopf, co-chair of Flexible Workspace Australia and chief executive of Hub Australia, said he expected businesses to lean on coworking spaces to involve your staff.

“Most operators consider themselves hotel companies,” Krauskopf said. “We are prepared to create an experience in which people want to go to the office.”

Commons co-founder Cliff Ho has seven coworking spaces in Melbourne, with another planned. “Even at our CBD site, all the offices are completely full and there is a waiting list,” Ho said.

Creative cubes in Carlton.

Creative cubes in Carlton.

Ho said his spaces offered businesses flexibility as they set their return-to-work policy.

“We’ve seen larger teams come in that are downsizing because they don’t need as much office space anymore.”

Dr. Julian Waters-Lynch, RMIT professor of entrepreneurship and organizational design, said some companies would eventually abandon coworking spaces, but he didn’t expect to see a reduction in the number of workspaces.


“The structural shift towards flexible and hybrid remote work is only beneficial for coworking,” he said.

Given his experience in creating a “good vibe,” Waters-Lynch said the future for coworking operators lay in running entire office buildings, like the Work Club.

A 2020 report from commercial real estate firm JLL predicted that demand for flex space would continue to rise as a result of COVID-19, accounting for 30 percent of all office space by 2030.

Trampedach is confident that support for coworking will continue.

“It’s not going to go back to what it was,” he said. “If we can improve a company’s ability to attract and retain people and give them total flexibility…why would they consider going back to something archaic?”

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