Coworking no longer quite so communal

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Office Hub helped over 6,000 companies looking for flexible workspace last year, booking an average of just over three desks per deal that closed.

Colliers International property expert Rowan Humphries said most of the space at new coworking developments was comprised of private suites.

“They’re about 70 per cent suites, and that might be for one person suites up to 60, 70, 100 person suites. They’re growing in size as the market matures,” Mr Humphries said.

Mr Humphries said the change was driven by demand for larger companies to have their staff in coworking spaces.

Coworking spaces offer larger businesses the opportunity to increase or decrease their office footprint in response to market conditions, expand quickly into new regions and project different brands for different teams.

WeWork, the most prominent global coworking company, is getting more of its business from businesses.Credit:Bloomberg

Microsoft, for example, has a team at space run by WeWork in the Sydney CBD in addition to its much more traditional Sydney headquarters in North Ryde.

And Palantir, the secretive US technology company which has developed controversial predictive policing systems, rents space at another coworking building in the city’s inner east.

Major businesses like Palantir and Microsoft can have their teams in coworking spaces only because they are no longer predominantly open-plan.

Instead, many contain discrete offices with lockable doors, their own IT networks, phone systems and conference rooms.

In many ways, Mr Humphries said coworking providers like WeWork were on a path to convergence with serviced office providers like Dexus and Regus, which have introduced swish turnkey suites into some of their properties.

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“[Serviced offices] have evolved to be a lot more to be a bit more like coworking and coworking has evolved to be a lot more like a serviced office,” Mr Humphries said.

And the amount of flexible space in both categories grew rapidly last year, up 46 per cent over 2017, according to data from Colliers.

But Mr Philipp said he did not expect the term coworking to disappear any time soon because of the negative connotations surrounding serviced offices.

“You’re actually a serviced office but they don’t want to say it,” Mr Philipp said. “The term is on the nose.”

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Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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