Major firms seek shared local offices as Victoria’s lockdown lifts

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As Victoria emerges from another lockdown, the future of work in the garden state looks increasingly local.

Operators of co-working spaces across Melbourne’s suburban fringe are preparing for another surge in occupancy levels as major companies increasingly abandon traditional CBD office spaces for more flexible, local arrangements.

Waterman Business Centres, which operates four workspaces across Melbourne’s suburbs – including the new Eastland location – expects occupancy rates to near full capacity in the wake of the latest lockdown

The Waterman prediction follows a grim forecast from the country’s peak property body, showing

Melbourne CBD office occupancy at just 26 per cent of pre-COVID ahead of the current lockdown, and recovery not expected for months.

“Melbourne city has been hit hard by this pandemic. It is a real challenge for city-based businesses that cannot relocate or reimagine their workspaces,” said Waterman Managing Director, Neville Waterman.

“Employees are crying out for more flexible, local options when it comes to work, and many major firms are responding in kind.

“Working remotely from an office space only minutes from your house; having that human interaction but not having to endure a wasteful two-hour daily round trip; not experiencing the daily stress of juggling school drop-off or pick-up; and just having more time for life are all driving this evolution in the post-pandemic workplace,” said Waterman.

Alison Robb, HR and operations manager for Kodak Alaris, said the company quickly sought less restrictive commercial office leasing arrangements, and moved operations to Waterman Chadstone during the first week of the Victorian lockdown.

“We were specifically looking for a co-working space because standard commercial office leases are restrictive and we were seeking more flexibility,” Robb said.

“Most of our team members are located in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne and our main customer, Kmart, is located in Glen Waverley, so we are literally on their doorstep.

“The non-conventional Waterman model ticked all the boxes for us; reduced lease terms, minimal capital expenditure and the flexibility to work from multiple suburban locations.”

Fujitsu Australia now allows its 230 Victorian employees to choose how often they come into the office, and where they work. Facilities coordinator Avril Dallas said Fujitsu had embraced the ultra-flexible working model since 2018. On any given day, staff can check availability, book and attend desks at Waterman locations – giving them the ability to work as close or far from home as they like.

“We are cutting down commute times and giving our team autonomy to design their own work week,” said Dallas.

“These shared work hubs in key suburban areas are, quite simply, giving our workers back hours of potentially wasted time every single day. And that keeps them energised, engaged and around for longer.”

How many hot desk members do Waterman currently have across the network: 815

Total Businesses based at Waterman, across all locations: 1,208

Total amount of people accessing Waterman, across all locations: 3,696