Two MCGs worth of co-working space – almost 50,000 square metres – is held or sought by operators in the Melbourne CBD alone. So far this year, Melbourne has leased a record-breaking 17,000 square metres for co-working. The trend, mystifyingly, is expected to continue.
Co-working spaces are communal workplaces where independent workers like entrepreneurs, remote workers, freelancers and contractors can rent a desk. Some of the recent expansion of co-working space comes from burgeoning interest from established businesses alongside those in the start-up and gig economies. For independent workers, though, co-working has all the shortcomings of both working in an office and having a precarious job.
As a freelance writer, I’ve investigated co-working as an opportunity to do work outside my distraction-filled house and to see other people during office hours. You pay the fee, bring a laptop and find a chair. They supply the internet connection and a kitchenette, put on networking events and boast that you’ll get to work alongside innovators and thought-leaders – people just like you. The furniture is funky but not ergonomic, there’s raw timber, exposed brick, Edison bulbs and not a hint of practicality.
They’re expensive. As of last year, the average cost of using a co-working space in Melbourne was more than $500 a month (this is after prices came down with increased supply) and it’s more for a dedicated desk rather than hotdesking – where spots are up for grabs by whomever on a first-come-first-served basis. Meanwhile, I already have a dedicated desk at home for the one-time easy payment of under $100. It’s also free for me to go to a library, or I could go to a cafe for the cost of a coffee.