COLLABORATIVE work spaces will become a feature of mainstream offices over the next decade as workplaces evolve to make more efficient use of space and staff, a leading architecture firm believes.
With the shift to activity-based working (hot-desking) well under way in many corporate offices, designers are turning to co-working spaces for their ability to foster innovation and retain staff, according to Hassell principal Steve Coster.
Mr Coster, a guest speaker at the coming Coworker Conference Australia, said Hassell helped design one of Australia's first dedicated co-working businesses, the two-year old Hub in Melbourne.
The Hub is a shared workspace that encourages collaboration between its 730 members, who pay between $20 to $600 monthly to use the Bourke Street-based centre.
Unlike serviced offices, collaborative work spaces focus on connecting individuals to a broader community of interest while providing financially and spatially flexible office environments.
The Hub, a popular haunt of creative professionals, lists staff from NAB, AMP, Deloitte and RMIT on its books and hosts talent from online crowdfunding platform Pozible and the new Twitter-like company communications feed, Yammer.
Collaborative office environments such as the Hub, Deskwanted and Inspire9 were one element of new way of working "pointing in the direction of smarter use of space and resources," Mr Coster said.
A typical collaborative office environment allowed workers to be more fluid and intensive in their use of space, a trend that if broadly adopted would alter the building size and location requirements of large companies, he said.
Hub founder Brad Krauskopf said the business was expanding into a 1200 sq m office at 101 William Street in Sydney's Darlinghurst in May. It was also adding another floor to its Melbourne operation within the next few months and discussions were under way for a venue in Adelaide, he said.
The Hub's membership covered 50 different industry disciplines that spanned four generations, Mr Krauskopf said. "We see ourselves as being in the business of creating networks for members. It's about collaboration, connections and innovation," he said.
Deloitte's chief edge (as in innovation) officer, Pete Williams, said the company's research showed that richer face-to-face encounters between employees and clients helped businesses solve problems and be more creative.
Deloitte staff used the Hub because it helped them understand "what future work spaces will look like", Mr Williams said. "How they drive collaboration is very different to what you see in a traditional workplace."
Others have also picked up on the flexible office trend. Diversified property trust GPT recently invested $6 million in Silicon Valley start-up LiquidSpace, which provides a platform for businesses to farm out idle work space.
The Coworker Conference Australia will take place in Melbourne this Friday and Saturday.