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The future of co-working in Australia

Many Australians are still wrapping their heads around the very idea of co-working, but industry leaders are already looking to the future; a future that appears bright.

The number of co-working spaces across Australia, which has risen 400 per cent since 2013 to the current 300, will continue to grow and more organisations, public and private, will look to the model. That’s the prediction of Tim Mahlberg, a PhD candidate in business information systems at the University of Sydney, who looked at the phenomenon for a recent report.

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The number of co-working spaces in Australia is tipped to continue to grow. Picture: Getty

Mahlberg believes co-working will be embraced by “more people, more organisations, more niches”, from large government departments to the millions of Australians who run or work in small business, in the coming years.

“It’s pretty simple; co-working makes going to work suck less, so it’s inevitable it will continue to grow, both as an industry and as a way to change the way we work,” Mahlberg, says.

He says workplaces are undergoing significant change, “fuelled by organisational demands for efficiency, the need to build a culture of innovation, the quest for attracting and retaining talent and shifting expectations about how and where employees desire to work”.

Fact check: 5 co-working myths debunked

The answer, Mahlberg says, is co-working.

“Look at the case of a large government department for example. The research is there, leaders know their people are miserable in the current set-up, so they’re starting to think about how they can do things differently. Where can they look to?

“Allowing individuals to collaborate more seamlessly, to have autonomy, to enjoy a sense of well-being and belonging, as well as hospitality … co-working is a glimmer of what the workplace of the future will look like,” he says.

“Big organisations will take the concepts which have been developed through co-working and apply them to activity-based working. It’s about taking work to the next level. How can we create an environment for people where they can bring their whole selves to work? Where it doesn’t suck to go to work?

“Co-working is a really great example of how to get that right,” Mahlberg says.

The PhD candidate also expects to see start-up culture continue to thrive, thanks to co-working spaces. He says the next generation – which won’t settle for working for one faceless corporation for their entire life – will take full advantage of the “dynamic platform to grow and work in their area of passion.”

He also thinks local governments will continue to embrace the concept, offering space to emerging businesses and industries.

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