The merits and challenges of working in the office compared to working at home have been discussed at length, with pros and cons associated with both. So what about having the best of both worlds, such as a shared work space in your apartment block?
Recent research has shown that home study setup may not be the best solution for the 88 percent of people who choose to continue working from home after the pandemic.
Instead, a shared workspace for apartment residents could be a more user-friendly solution, while supporting local neighbourhoods.
A purpose-built coworking space in apartment buildings overcomes the greatest disadvantages of working from home that we know all too well: social isolation, lack of separation from work, and household distractions.
Seventy seven per cent of people working from home do so without a dedicated space. A shared working space for residents also offers greater utility than a typical home study space (and infinitely more when that space is a corner of a bedroom or the household dining table).
Workplace essentials such as industrial printers, scanners and a reliable internet connection can be shared among residents for improved efficiency and productivity. Improved airflow, acoustics, and lighting will enhance productivity and cognitive performance.
How does apartment coworking compare to other traditional amenities?
There can be up to three times greater demand for working from home spaces than for conventional amenities such as gyms, outdoor entertainment areas and storage cages.
We engaged a developer to evaluate whether the high demand for apartment coworking justifies the replacement of other amenities, particularly in larger, high-rise developments.
By repurposing an area originally earmarked for a gym, we found we could accommodate up to 132 residents per week in the 260 square metre space. At the equivalent of approximately one full-time person, or three part-time people per five square metres, it begs the question: can a gym – or any other amenity – match the value of a coworking space in use and engagement for residents?
The high-level audit also revealed a substantial undersupply of shared coworking spaces; only one out of 35 major recently completed or under construction build-to-sell developments across Melbourne’s CBD and inner suburbs offered a coworking space to residents.
This is an obvious opportunity for developers to re-think their amenity mix and improve a building’s offering to buyers post-pandemic.
Locating coworking near pet and child-care facilities
Apartment coworking also presents potential synergies with other communal facilities such as outdoor areas, children’s play spaces and pet-friendly zones.
Sixty-five percent of Victorian households own a pet, and the number of families with children living in apartments will only increase. Co-locating apartment coworking with other communal facilities will enhance the remote working experience for the working parent along with others in the household.
Further, larger apartment developments that offer a commercial component could stand to gain by partnering with a coworking operator. The residents could have access to the coworking space, and the coworking users could have access to the apartment amenities such as gyms, pools and outdoor areas.
Can apartment coworking support more sustainable forms of living?
With the prediction that people want to spend at least two days working from home in the future, a large majority will spend more time at home rather than in traditional office locations.
And while it might be easier to convert a spare bedroom into a study – an emerging trend for larger detached houses – a communal coworking space can greatly support those who live in higher density settings such as apartments.
We’ve investigated many of the benefits to the individual residents but think there are significant opportunities for the wider community as well. Could apartment coworking be a space that encourages social engagement with one’s neighbours – not just the building residents but the local cafe, grocer and other small businesses within the 20-minute neighbourhood?
Derek Huynh, Matko Matkovic & Trevor Du are research members from Ignite ABP Network, a not-for-profit University of Melbourne alumni organisation. We partner with public and private organisations to challenge how the built environment can further support social, environmental and economic progress.