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looked at international trends in shared collaborative workspaces.

What does our local market provide in the co-working space, you might have wondered.

I'm pleased to report that there are some very smart, effective young Kiwi entrepreneurs doing a brilliant job in the same field, and growing fast. At last count there were currently 13 large operators in the sector in New Zealand, from a start-up base of only three providers five years ago.

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And that's not counting the smaller companies doing excellent work in regional areas. For instance, a few months ago I had the pleasure of visiting The Hangar at Arthur's Point, Queenstown.

If you're living out of Auckland, or thinking about moving, you'll probably find many similar operations in most regional centres of New Zealand now. (And if they're not there yet, there's an opportunity.)

Now, back to Auckland.

Paul Blomfield, communications and PR consultant: 'Generator in Britomart has been going for five years, with approximately 250 members working over three buildings.

'Other locals like Biz Dojo have just worked on a huge development at Wynyard Quarter at The Grid), and have locations throughout the country.

(GridAKL is supported by ATEED Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development and focuses on stimulating growth for the Auckland region and the wider New Zealand innovation community.)

'And a third major operator is Colab NZ. It has recently done a deal with The Department Store to have an operation in Takapuna.'

Lloyd Budd from Bayleys kindly pointed me in the direction of their White Paper on CoWorking in Auckland: '485,000 people, or 21% of the New Zealand workforce, are self-employed. In Auckland approximately 150,000 are self-employed which is around one in every five in the workforce. Over the next five years millennials (21 to 34 yr olds) will be the fastest growing age demographic, contributing around 70,000 people to Auckland's workforce.'

We all know that New Zealand is a nation of small businesses. MBIE tells us that 97 per cent employ less than 20 people, yet contribute 27 per cent of our GDP.

Tie all the above figures together and it's no wonder that the trend for sharing flexible space is exponentially growing. There are so many benefits.

If I was starting up business today I'd certainly be looking seriously at co-working. It's here to stay.

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A central theme for all of them is flexibility, community, collaboration, reduction in the costs of maintaining your own office premises, often networking and cross-pollination of business opportunities between fellow tenants, and not least of all, a strong social emphasis on fun and community.

You don't just hire a desk or office; you're a member of a community, with supportive people to facilitate connections with other members and to assist you with the admin functions of your business.

From what I can gather, the factors that might influence a prospective candidate to consider one of these rather funky cool environments, many of them in repurposed historic buildings or rejuvenated ex-industrial facilities, are:

• Your budget. A range of price points are available.

• The distance from home.

• Ease of parking for you and your prospective clients (if people come to meet you).

• Access to public transport.

• Whether you need a smart city address for your clients, or somewhere less central will work well and have little or no parking costs.

• The kind of other businesses you'd like to mingle with.

• What kinds of other occupants are already in the space? Are they businesses you might be able to swap ideas with? Or possibly become future clients or collaborative partners?

• Do you work best in complete quiet, or does a stimulating and funky environment activate your creative brain?

• Do you need an office space all the time, or just a small amount of time per week? (Most of the operations have flexible packages to suit a range of usage patterns.)

Generator

At a visit to Generator, whose slogan is 'where work and life meet', I noticed that, like a number of the other flexible leasing companies, they have a wide range of industries and innovative companies. Their 'family' includes New Zealand offices of online businesses such as Pandora and Expedia. Other industries represented include technology, media, IT, civil engineers, PR and recruiters.

• They're open to the public and casual users from 7.30 am - 6 pm, although if you're a regular you have your own key access.

• Different categories of membership are available. For example, events membership for those who wish to regularly hire their smart function and seminar rooms.

Business trends

A number of trends come together in this clever way of working:

• the latest thinking on workplace design and space management
• modern and more flexible leasing models
• flexible work practices now possible with modern technology
• the healthy trend away from formal and tightly structured business
• the desire for collaboration and community
• the lean start-up movement

If I was starting up business today I'd certainly be looking seriously at co-working. It's here to stay.