The phenomenon of co-working is up and running… but where to?

The phenomenon of co-working is up and running… but where to?

If co-working was a baby it would require a feeding bottle larger than any commercial office building Australia has to offer and more.  Incredibly you and I, have watched the concept and phenomenon of co-working evolve from a newborn to an infant in recent years – and now we can see our baby about to take their very first steps.  But steps towards where…

Review the birth of co-working, the strides it’s made in the industry and the impact it’s having on organisations of all shapes and sizes. Is your organisation ready to get involved?

~ Authored by Craig Hansen, IA Design Workplace Strategist


The birth of co-working in Australia took place in Melbourne in 2007, just 2 years after the birth of co-working in San Francisco. Since then, the industry has experienced exponential growth…

IA Design - The phenomenon of co-working is up and running… but where to? By Craig Hansen

Today there are over 350 co-working centers shared between Melbourne and Sydney, with over 65,000m2 of co-working spaces in Melbourne alone (and that’s before global co-working giant WeWork opens its doors in the coming weeks!).

WeWork which currently has 155 offices in 50 cities across 15 countries is valued at $16 billion and on track to achieving $1 billion in revenue by the end of this year.  With China in their sights, 2018 will prove to be their biggest growth year as they expand into 5 major capital cities across China as reported by Natasha Bach of  It is said that WeWork aims to occupy a total of 280,000m2 of space in Australia in coming years.  65% shared between Sydney and Melbourne, 15% Brisbane and the remainder 20% between Perth, Adelaide and Darwin (Savills). Looking to our own shores WeWork is already booming in Sydney and Melbourne, and will expand into Brisbane in 2018 to compete with our national co-working leader – Hub Australia.

In the Brisbane market, Hub Australia and WeWork will compete with co-working market upstarts like Little Tokyo Two (four locations in Brisbane) and River City Labs (backed by Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter).

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As the co-working phenomenon has evolved, it has bought with it both challenges and innovation.

IA Design Senior Interior Designer – Graham Stanley and his team Tash Brocklehurst and Alithea Schwab had the pleasure of working with Brisbane Marketing and FDC Constructions to design and deliver ‘The Capital’, which is home to two of Brisbane’s co-working favorites, Little Tokyo Two and Fishburners.  The Capital has been one of a few projects delivered as a part of the $420 million Advance Queensland initiative offered by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.  The Capital is a blend of Incubator – Accelerator and co-working. Collaboration exists, there is a hum of ‘work’ while you traverse through the space yet you still perceive a vacancy rate of 60-70%.

A common co-working struggle resides in the ability to effectively manage people, place and process data in order to predict, model and inform future growth strategies.

A key challenge facing co-working spaces like Fishburners is the ability to analyse internal trends such as occupancy to membership ratios, collaboration and communication patterns between members and importantly, workpoint usage. In response to this, we are seeing co-working environments engage specialist workplace strategists and technologists to dive into these issues and uncover solutions to better connect their members.

The Precinct for example, has ‘learnt to walk’ on this front. Home now to Annastacia’s predecessor Campbell Newman, The Precinct is an innovation hub for all of Queensland.  Campbell has taken up residence one floor below River City Labs, offering his services to R&R Strategic who primarily fund and accelerate tech start-ups as reported by the Financial Review.  The exciting news though comes not from River City Labs but rather from one floor below and directly adjacent to Campbell Newman’s tenancy, eHealth, the IT arm of Queensland Health.

Intelligent technology solutions such as internal GPS systems are giving co-working spaces the wings to effectively bring “people” and “place” together in an agile environment. The focus is now on gathering intelligent data to develop real workplace insights and drive future development.

eHealth have delivered within their space a solution that truly brings ‘people” and “place” together.  Thanks to Steven Tyndall and James Sowry of OfficeMaps, staff are able to search for colleagues they wish to work with and book work spaces and meeting areas via online portals and dedicated kiosks. Paulette Oldfield, the Change and Agile Specialist at Queensland eHealth and her team have been responsible for driving this ingenuity.  “Everyone that has come to see what we have done are so excited and we have only just opened our doors” says Paulette.  eHealth recently opened their doors on Thursday 12thOctober.

With the use of innovations such as OfficeMaps, eHealth will be able to gain intelligent insights into how well their people are interacting with their space.  These insights will drive workplace strategy into the future to ensure opportunities for communication and innovation are maximized.   As the space evolves over time Paulette and her team will be able to track and measure the workplace giving them the valuable data needed to forward plan, predict trends and react to user’s needs.

IA Design - The phenomenon of co-working is up and running… but where to? By Craig Hansen


As eHealth (a Queensland State Government department) has demonstrated, co-working is not simply an accommodation strategy for tech start-ups and small businesses – it is a workplace strategy that extends to organisations of all sizes. We are now seeing an influx of corporates using co-working arrangements as a way to offer their employees flexible work arrangements. Many corporates are also using co-working spaces for creative spaces for special teams.

“We’ve had a number of enquiries from ASX100 listed companies and it’s now clear co-working isn’t isolated to freelancers or small business but growing business of any size”.  – Brad Krauskopf, founder of Hub Australia

The Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation has had Queensland public servants using purchased desks at commercially operated flexible work centres since April 2014.  The two key centres involved were the The Redcliffe Hive and Co Spaces located in Southport on the Gold Coast.  The participants were mostly in administrative levels of A06 and above and 47% were over 45 years of age.

The results…

  • 83% of the participants stated that their health and wellbeing had improved.
  • The average time saved in travel each day was 72 minutes plus saving them around $30 per day in travel expenses.
  • 80% of the participants increased their use of digital technologies as communication tools.

The data that I find most compelling…

  • 76% of participants (co-working trial) claimed they would be willing to give up a dedicated desk (in exchange for a hot desk) in their main office if they were able to continue to work at a flexible work centre.
IA Design - The phenomenon of co-working is up and running… but where to? By Craig Hansen


“By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers”, reported by Brian Rashida, contributor of Forbes.

As co-working grows, becomes stronger, those first few shaky steps will soon turn into confident strides.  Organisations like KPMG, General Electric and even our own Queensland State Government appreciate the power of including co-working spaces as a part of their overall accommodation strategy.  It supports their service delivery models, wellbeing of their staff and let’s not forget it is far cheaper than locking into a capital head lease for 7-10+ years for a project that may only have a life of 1-2 years (…especially as artificial intelligence (A.I.) continues to replace our most redundant tasks as fast as it is).

We are becoming an economy of sharing.  Sharing thoughts, space and now even our assets.  We want the flexibility to choose who, where and shortly, with whom we work for.

So… how will you guide your business to co-working maturity?

Authored by Craig Hansen

Craig Hansen is a leading Workplace Strategist at IA Design. Craig focuses on assisting clients with their accommodation strategies, principally around workplace design.  Craig’s psychology background provides a unique lens upon which to understand the client’s challenge and offer solutions that extend beyond the built environment but are informed by design thinking.

Contact the IA Design team to discuss your workplace strategy and design opportunities.


Phone: + 61 455 777 146

The phenomenon of co-working is up and running…  but where to?


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