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The Office is Dead, Long Live the Flexible Workplace

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In a period where the office has been declared dead, or at best fading to irrelevance, the post-pandemic office stands to make a comeback that will make it more important and indispensable than ever.

No longer shackled by its need to be a hen house for producing ‘work,’ the office is now free to tackle what’s truly important: innovation, culture, learning, and community. 

As a small but visible subset of the commercial office sector, coworking and flex workspace has at times struggled to be taken seriously—but it has spent years refining the art of flexible work. With an understanding of hybrid work practices that are well ahead of the curve, you may find that flexible workplace now has its time in the sun.

Companies have come to embrace hybrid work as a permanent fixture of Australia’s future professional landscape. But reengaging a workforce that has been distributed and turbulent for the last two years remains a key challenge.

Enabling ‘liberated work,’ while still drawing workers to a physical environment to collaborate, innovate, and foster company culture, will often require companies to embrace coworking and flexible workspace models.

Office occupancies plummeted by up to 26% during the peak of the pandemic in Melbourne and Sydney, according to a Property Council of Australia survey last year. And while workers have become comfortable operating away from their colleagues, we’ve also seen sentiment fall towards working from home and a growing desire to regularly connect at the office. 

An image of Hub Australia coworking space.

In the recent Liberated Work Report by WORKTECH Academy and Hub Australia, more than half of respondents (58%) said they expected to be working across multiple locations in 10 years’ time, including the traditional office, coworking spaces, home, and other locations of choice.

Are corporates hearing the call?

We’ve seen many major enterprises focus on policy transformation as they look to the future.

Companies like Westpac and Afterpay now encourage 2-3 day a week in the office, while others like Atlassian have come out with bold ‘remote-first’ working policies that see workers only required at the office four times a year.

But policy forms just one part of the solution to achieving employee retention and engagement.

As a crucial next step, decision-makers must focus on redesigning their physical workplaces to ensure employees have new and exciting reasons to visit the office that are worthy of a commute.

For example, last year Hub Australia welcomed global biotech Amgen to its new Hub Wynyard site, equipped with amenities that accommodate for the medicine manufacturer’s unique operational requirements. Hub Australia worked closely with Amgen to design the bespoke space which reflects both company’s’ commitment to flexibility, collaboration, and social connection.

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Reimagining the workspace

For flexible workspace organizations like Hub Australia, we’ve been focused on how to reinvigorate the workplace and reengage employees in a post-pandemic future. More than just the space, the best talent is demanding an experience more akin to a hospitality operation when they come to the office. Facing heightened standards, businesses are outsourcing the office to workspace experience experts so that they can get on with running the business. 

Hub and other premium flex operators have long since included a hospitality-first approach that delivers a café, fitness studio, podcasting rooms, relaxation spaces, and hotel-style end-of-trip facilities within a premium architectural work environment. Across all our 11 Hub locations, regular social events see businesses serendipitously network, while there are larger personal and professional events held once a month both in-person and online.

These events don’t just grow skills and networks on a personal level for employees, but ultimately grow businesses.

We’ve also entered a pilot alliance with WOTSO to extend working opportunities to near-to-home locations in the suburbs, in line with evolving employee expectations about how and where they work. And as worker demands evolve, flexible workspaces can support corporate decision-makers by ensuring their physical domain is always up-to-date with the latest tech, health, and safety offerings.

So while hybrid work is being embraced through policy transformation, we believe a business plan to transform physical workspaces is equally as important.

An image of Hub Australia coworking space.

What’s next in the world of flex

Exploring how third spaces like flexible workspaces, innovation hubs, and work-near-home solutions can enable truly liberated work can be a worthy next step for corporates assessing the future of the workplace. Coworking and flexible work options can help carve out a company’s evolved identity, while offering workers a chance to develop their skills, excel at work, and socialize with a broader network.

This was highlighted in the WORKTECH Academy and Hub Australia’s Liberated Work recent survey, with 55% of workers stating that hybrid working has aided better work-life balance and 38% finding they were more productive in a flexible setting. By delivering customer service, premium amenity, and a sense of community, ongoing business success can naturally be fostered.

Incentives that draw people back to the office, even just once a week, can enable collaboration and innovation that simply can’t be replicated in the at-home environment.

If businesses can effectively reengage their workforce through not just policy, but place, a shift to a happier and more productive workforce could become COVID-19’s silver lining.

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About Author

Brad Krauskopf is the founder and CEO of Hub Australia, Australia’s largest privately held coworking space provider, providing premium spaces to growing businesses across the country. Hub Australia has seven locations across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, supporting over 3000 members and businesses.

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