The Covid-19 lockdown forced people to work from home. Now, after being couped up trying to run a business from their living rooms, people are seeking shared spaces away from home to get the job done. Zoe Hunter reports.
Co-working and hot-desking were making a strong comeback post Covid-19.
The work-from-home theory was tested during lockdown and Tauranga businesses were now choosing to share their extra space as more people worked remotely.
Renting desks by the hour was also proving popular as people who had been working solo from home sought more of a social surrounding.
But in Rotorua, co-working was becoming a less-viable business model as tenants involved in big events that are now "few and far between" were no longer making use of shared spaces.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said many micro-business owners had adopted a hybrid model where they booked a hot-desk in shared office spaces for half the week.
"It was a strong trend prior to Covid. The pandemic obviously shut it down, but the demand for co-working or hot-desking is recovering even stronger since the lockdown."
Cowley said businesses with surplus office space as more staff work from home were sharing their spaces with suppliers or contractors they work closely with.
Sharing overheads and meeting spaces were benefits of shared workspaces, and helped reduce the sense of loneliness small business owners can have, he said.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said employers were more willing to be flexible post lockdown.
"Working from home would have some effect on co-working spaces, but we also know there has been a rise in people working remotely, which will improve demand for co-working spaces."
Basestation co-founder Steven Vincent said the Durham St co-working space had seen a "surge" in inquiries in the past four or five months.
Vincent said as life post Covid stabilised, people began looking at options other than working remotely, with a strong interest for daily hot-desk use or 10 days a month.
"We have also added desks, and now offices by the hour."
Basestation opened in November 2014 after Vincent said the company's previous office had more space than it needed.
"We decided that instead of downsizing the space and being on our own, we would upsize and share it with more people."
Vincent said there were 55 companies or organisations using their desks and offices on a permanent or regular basis, and 140 users booking meeting rooms or shared spaces.
He said they ranged from freelancers and single operators to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and branch offices of nationwide companies.
"Most of our 'branch office' teams started as one person and have grown during their time at Basestation.
"Some of these teams and also some startups have moved on to their own offices around the CBD. The flexibility of the spaces and 'lease' options allows for this."
The desks cost $10 plus GST an hour, $40 plus GST a day, and $150 plus GST a week. Single-occupancy offices are $250 plus GST a week, double occupancy is $300 plus GST a week and team offices start from $800 plus GST a week.
Vincent said a co-working space was the most cost-effective way to house your business compared with a normal leased office.
Fees covered the lease cost and outgoings (rates, water, building insurance, compliance), consumables such as kitchen, toilets, shower and utilities, newspaper subscriptions, internet, electricity, mail collection, office furniture, printers, rubbish and recycling, and security, he said.
Shared Workspaces director Tony Snow said shared offices and business hubs were nothing new, but had "taken off" post lockdown.
"It's becoming a bigger trend globally and in New Zealand."
Snow said post lockdown, businesses had implemented work-from-home policies and become more flexible in the workplace.
"There is a trend towards people working a couple of days at home and a few days in the office and they don't need as much commercial space any more."
Shared Workspaces had a co-working space in Chapel St and manager Angeline Williams said they planned to open about 10 new office spaces in Pāpāmoa in November.
The company had also opened a co-working space in Hamilton.
Williams said shared working spaces had "come back stronger" since the lockdown.
"The whole working from home has got to people ... I think people don't want to take leases out on big office spaces now."
Gordy Lockhart, general manager of The Kollective - a co-working space for not-for-profit organisations - said he had seen a "sizeable increase" in new-member interest.
"We're full at the moment in terms of our commercial members."
Think Co owner Dave Roberts said the Pāpāmoa co-working space was almost at capacity before the lockdown.
"Last year was reasonably tough ... quite a lot of members did move on. But it has started to come back.
"I think people have been working from home testing the concept and finding they are getting a bit distracted at home."
Roberts said Think Co had about 15 desks rented out Monday to Friday and another 10 members used the desks on a regular short-term basis one or two days a week.
People can rent a desk full time for $120 plus GST a week and $50 part-time.
He said there was a mix of people sharing the workspace, including people working remotely from Auckland-based companies.
"We have a lot of entrepreneurs," he said. "We have an architect, accountant, a life coach. That's part of the joy of co-working. You get exposure to people from different walks of life.
"It's a great way if you're new to the area to build up a business network."
Young entrepreneur Cam Leigh has been using the co-working space full time since December last year.
The 21-year-old is behind The Flatpack Co, which imports bedroom furniture from China and Malaysia giving students moving from university halls of residence into their first flats a more-affordable furniture option.
Students order their beds online, which are delivered in flat-packed boxes, with the frame taking about 30 minutes to build.
The University of Otago graduate completed his studies in November and moved to Pāpāmoa, while his business partner stayed in Christchurch.
"It's an e-commerce business so it's all done online. The space works really well and helps to keep home and work separate."
Rotorua's Digital Basecamp Coworking founder Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule said numbers had been steady in the last few months, but co-working was becoming less viable as a business model.
"Post covid I think times are still uncertain, a great number of our former tenants were tied into the large-scale events that Rotorua used to host and which are now few and far between. Until the border opens it will continue to be quiet."
Biasiny-Tule said the Hinemoa St co-working space had nine tenants - down from 24 post-lockdown.
"Most of our tenants have been with us for years. We have a mix of game developers, lawyers, environmental scientists, cloud specialists and economists."
It cost $35 a day and $170 a week to rent a space.
"The setup costs are negligible, you just need your computer and you are up and running. Access to shared meeting spaces, off-street parking, networking with other professionals, boardrooms with fibre."