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‘Rent-a-desk’ space trend sparks opportunities for building owners

Tags: Auckland CBD Commercial

Commercial property owners and developers are seeing dollar signs in a trend that is prompting work-from-home staff to leave their lounges in exchange for dynamic shared work spaces.

Bayleys national director commercial real estate John Church says traditional offices are being leased to chains and independent companies, which are retrofitting the spaces to accommodate collections of freelancers, entrepreneurs and fledgling start-up businesses.

For a monthly fee, people can hire a desk or work station including the use of office facilities such as boardrooms, showrooms, kitchens, screening rooms, common areas complete with couches and bean bags, outdoor patios and even bars for the all important ‘after-work-drinks.’

Mr Church says forward-thinking commercial building owners and developers have identified this as an opportunity to connect with a variety of tenants likely to seek their own spaces as their businesses grow.

“It is a chance to feed off the move toward a more mobile and independent workforce, while establishing a steady supply of potential new tenants,” Mr Church says.

“Rather than working from home, or in a café, people now have the option of basing themselves in a stimulating and collaborative environment as a short to long-term solution.”

Traditional office rental agencies such as ServCorp and Regus have been in existence since the early 1980s – with locations throughout Auckland and Wellington CBDs. They offer monthly hire of private offices, able to accommodate teams of up to 10, for about $300 a person, or what they call ‘co-working’ spaces in open plan environments for about $220 per person.

Monthly memberships also include a receptionist, the option of hiring an executive assistant, discounts and offers from partnering companies and access to airline lounges around the globe.

“While these agencies serve those in strictly professional and somewhat conservative industries that value private and quiet working environments, the new breed of shared office spaces are geared toward the millennial generation,” Mr Church says.

“The colourful and stimulating open-plan arrangements are best suited to creatives, freelancers, innovators and tech-savvy employees who are social and collaborative thinkers.”

By comparison, traditional office rental agencies anecdotally attract longer-term tenants, Mr Church says, and offer an ideal solution for businesses with employees working in regions away from their head offices.  “Rather than going to the expense of opening satellite offices to accommodate just a handful of employees in a particular region, businesses have opted to hire private office spaces for their satellite workers. 

 “This enables them to maintain a connection to each other and ownership of their space – something that is lost when employees work in makeshift offices at home or in cafes,” Mr Church says.

“It solves the isolation dilemma that comes with working from home and facilitates much more productivity and innovation. The flexible arrangements suit young businesses not wanting to commit to their own lease but who want to be suitably located in a professional and lively environment in which to liaise with their clients.”

The listing website launched in 2012 and features quirkily named Auckland locations such as Movers and Shakers in Britomart, ColabNZ in Queen Street, The Refinery in Customs Street East and BizDojo in Karangahape Road. For between $300 and $800 a month, independent professionals can have access to their own workstation in a vibrant and modern office with all the proverbial bells and whistles.

Movers and Shakers offers the use of its nine metre inflatable meeting room, ColabNZ boasts mini golf, a table tennis table and bike rack in addition to its workstations, while The Refinery gives its tenants access to event spaces, and a private bar and lounge for more informal meetings.

In May last year an innovation precinct, GridAKL, opened in the Polperro Building at Wynyard Quarter, creating an innovation hub of like-minded ICT, digital media companies, start-ups, research and development and business support firms.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is managing the project alongside a similar food innovation hub near the Auckland International Airport. 

The Food Bowl, operated in partnership with government agency Callaghan Innovation, is a state-of-the-art food production facility providing companies with the ability to develop, test and produce new products in an export-certified environment.

The facility belongs to the New Zealand Food Innovation Network, a national network of science and technology resources created to support the growth of food and beverage businesses.

“These types of facilities have been borne out of the belief that innovation doesn’t happen in isolation, a concept that is being applied within companies like ASB Bank and Google that have incorporated fluid and open working environments for their employees,” Mr Church says.

“The research suggests that over the past three decades there has been an increase in diversity across employment agreements that allows for non-traditional work arrangements. 

“Hot-desking, hoteling, satellite offices and working from home are becoming more commonplace,” he says.

ATEED is at the forefront of moves to accommodate this change in workplace culture, Mr Church says. In addition to its two existing facilities, ATEED is understood to be considering opening another large innovation facility in one of the Precinct Properties office developments in Wynyard Quarter.

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