From hotels to shopping centres, coworking spaces are popping up in various types of commercial real estate as landlords reap benefits from flexible offices near places where people play, shop, exercise and eat. 

Retail giant Vicinity Australia has partnered with flexible workspace leader Hub Australia to provide a first-class coworking space within a major development under construction in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill. Meanwhile, the global hospitality brand Selina which offers hotels with coworking spaces and offices for today’s “digital nomads” has opened its first properties in Australia over the past few months.

“The increased demand for the ‘work near home but not at home’ model has created the opportunity to bring office and retail experiences together,” said Carolyn Viney, Chief Development Officer Vicinity Centres.

The Selina brand kicked off in 2007 and has grown to 147 properties in locations from the Amazon jungle to New York city. Its new properties, two in Melbourne’s St Kilda and CBD with a third in Brisbane, follow the Selina philosophy of being places to see the world while working efficiently at the same time.

Have laptop with travel 

Selina hotels’ Destination Director for Australia & New Zealand Dean Leibowitz said when he started working with the brand’s founders in Panama, people were still not familiar with how providing a coworking space within a hotel could benefit travellers. Fast forward to now, and Selina properties’ coworking spaces could not be more popular, he said. 

“I am actually sitting in the coworking area of our newly built Selina in Brisbane and it's practically full of people typing away on their laptops,” Mr Leibowitz said. “One person seems to be editing a film and another has been on calls in our phone booth all afternoon. Back at the start whenever I would mention the concept [of coworking] most people were confused as to why travellers would want or need a place to work.”

Within a few years however many of the Selina properties’ coworking spaces not only fill up but sometimes exceed capacity, word having spread fast about the hotels’ high-tech workspaces alongside everything from surfing lessons to jungle tours depending on the destination. 

Mr Leibowitz said Selina’s evolution was fuelled by both the growing number of jobs that can be “done from anywhere with an internet connection” combined with trends emerging among younger generations such as “lower marriage rates, lower home ownership and later parenthood”. 

“Place this alongside their adventurous, experience-oriented approach to life and it’s easy to see that the future of work is not from a traditional office nor employment structure,” he said. “It’s going to be happening on the move - from remote beaches, jungles, mountains and exciting new cities.” 

Selina properties attract full-time workers as well as freelancers and the self-employed Mr Leibowitz said, which meant the properties’ coworking spaces “see random busy times”. “There is generally a drop off at about 6pm when Selina’s bars and restaurants start to fire up with our events and programming,” he said, adding that there were “very few operators particularly in Australia offering a holistic lifestyle product for the modern-day work-life balance”. 

Hotel-style workplaces  

The 4100 sqm coworking space within the Box Hill development will become of the largest properties owned by Hub Australia which manages a national network of premium coworking sites across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. Its sites are renowned not only for chic interiors but also hotel-style amenities such as concierge, lounges and parents’ rooms. When complete, the Box Hill Central coworking space will offer suites, offices and coworking desks as well as a welcome desk, café and business lounge and formal and casual meeting spaces. The site will also offer relaxation rooms and a substantial kitchen with full cooking facilities.

The concept is an integral part of Vicinity’s redevelopment plans for Box Hill North and South – a 10-year partnership that involves bringing workplace, residential, health, education and leisure outlets together with its retail centers.

Hub Australia, which brought coworking to Australia over a decade ago, opened its eighth site in Canberra late last year and has several other sites in development around the country. The 2000 sqm site in the centrally located Civic Centre is a different concept for Hub in that it involves a partnership with the landlord, Amalgamated Property Group (APG), rather than the tenant. The industry-first concept has allowed Hub Australia to provide its hospitality services to the entire Civic Quarter Business Centre and its blue-chip tenants such as Westpac/St George, Colliers, AECOM and Datacom Australia.

The building itself is one of Canberra’s newest, constructed according to latest architecture and design principles to deliver on sustainability and wellness. Filled with sleek flexible spaces, there are also several large executive suites with private balconies overlooking parkland, while the hospitality offering comprises such facilities as a members’ lounge with concierge and barista located above the building lobby, a parents’ room, relaxation space, end-of-trip facilities and a media studio for podcasting.

Hub Australia CEO Brad Krauskopf said the premium coworking spaces in Canberra were designed to suit business of all sizes, from scaling start-ups to government agencies. Business was picking up after a tough two years and “people are wanting to provide flexible hybrid working options for their teams to complement their head office” he said.

Hub Australia also spearheaded another concept last year aimed at providing one of the most flexible work offerings in the country. Via a partnership with WOTSO, another of the country’s largest coworking providers but with locations throughout metropolitan rather than city centres, it gives people the chance to work either closer to their suburban homes or Hub’s flexible offices in CBDs.