Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Australian Coworking Event a Window into Growing Movement

Running over two days, the Global Coworking Unconference Conference Australia (affectionately referred to as “Juicy”) was a meeting of the minds that the industry is so well known for.

Coworking has a lot of moving parts and as such, the many facets of the industry need to be discussed in depth. But more importantly it needs to have all the interested parties involved and that is where GCUCAU really outdid itself.

Bradley Krauskopf, CEO and Founder of Hub Australia, said of the event, "The sold-out GCUC Australia conference amazed me most with it's energy and representation from across small business, corporates, government, university and coworking operators."

On Thursday at Customs House Sydney, Deputy Lord Mayor, Robyn Kemmis, opened the conference on behalf of the City of Sydney. Following that we had the keynote addresses from Liz Elam the founder of GCUC and Bradley Krauskopf.

The day then descended into a series of panel discussions that introduced us to the terms "accelerated serendipity," "space activation" and "bubblegum and cable solutions." 
The most important thing I noticed was how universal a lot of the challenges were, and the obvious potential for small solutions to make life easier for a large number of spaces - Murray Hurps, General Manager of Fishburners
And that was where the breaks came in.

With morning tea and lunch breaks sponsored by Regus, in which you could browse furniture designed for coworking from Cubakai, discuss solutions with BrainTree and LiquidSpace or admire the lovely self-watering plants of Grow Space or visit the angels at Seated Massages, it is clear that even the conferences in coworking are focused on a better way of doing things. Which was the main focus of the conference.

With the many benefits of coworking now known to extend into business growth, employee happiness and even increased productivity, it’s no longer exclusive of start-ups and freelancers, many companies are interested, even governments want to jump on board.

And this is not just a trend reserved to Australia, as one of the panels focused their discussion on the similar boom that’s occurred in America, New Zealand, the UK and Asia, it is clear that coworking as an industry will only continue to grow.
It was great to see such a diversity in the attendees - from kiwi property developers to Chinese coworking operators to the local coworking hosts - Caroline McLaren, Principle of Coactiv8
And it is both inspiring and delightful to see so many people committed to providing this service that they are willing to share their knowledge for the benefit of the larger whole. Or as Liz Elam put it, "There are no sharks in this industry, only guppies, and they’re all working together, so be a guppy."  Which is what was stated time and time again by many of the facilitators.

Day two got a little funky, with everyone at Fishburner’s having an Unconference. It was interesting to see the day take shape as those that create, use or invest in planned what sessions they would like to run and all the hot button issues we’re brought up by the people dealing with them. Sessions were run on everything from meditation to the legal implications of running a space.

But the day didn’t stop there, next it was on to the double-decker London bus for a tour of the coworking spaces supporting the conference. Starting at Fishburner’s who sponsored the bus.

First stop was Tank Stream Labs, followed by Gravity and then Your Desk before ending in Hub Sydney were drinks began and conversations continued.

The conference was thus an amazing mixture of high quality content and also community building for the community of community builders (try saying that three times fast). While coworking was initially dismissed as a fad by some, it is clear that it is here to stay with over 140 Australian coworking spaces and more on the way.

Liz Elam noted, "We were able to bring together coworking leaders, commercial real estate, designers, architects and corporations to discuss this growing industry and examine the drivers and future of this global trend.  GCUC worked as the connecting fiber for an industry that is uniquely poised to change the future of work.”

In the Deskmag’s annual survey for the Coworking Forecast in 2013 people were already reporting that coworking was a positive influence in their lives, with 62% reporting significant improvement in their work, 71% said they were more creative, 90% said they felt more confident and 70% said they felt healthier then they had in a traditional office setting. So it’s no wonder that coworking has a future, but why is it so great?

Coworking combines many positive lifestyle trends into one while removing the negative effects of others. A shorter commute, a friendlier environment, community support, more flexibility, and increased business connections all factor into this new way of working. When you consider the advantages, it's no wonder that coworking is growing.

But when you think about the activities offered at coworking spaces - the wonderful distractions ping-pong, weekly drinks and lunches, and fascinating people - it's surprising that productivity increases. Those running spaces understand that increased ownership of outcomes and conducive work environment make a big difference.

The conversations had and the friendships made are clearly going to be the basis of the future of work.
The most exciting thing about GCUC AU is are all the serendipitous connections we don’t even know about yet … investments, consulting, purchases, partnership and friendships that will ripple effect out of GCUC have yet to be felt … we have just begun … - Liz Elam

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