Co-working facilities are big business at the moment. Rather than requiring businesses to enter long-term leasing arrangements for office space that might not be fully utilised, they allow companies to rent workspaces as they are needed. In an effort to stand out from a rapidly growing pack, Waterman Business Centres has created co-working spaces that focus on community and comfort, as well as providing business services. I spent some time at its newest centre, in Melbourne's south east.
Unlike many co-working spaces, which take over existing office spaces, Waterman had the new centre in the Caribbean Gardens area in Scoresby purpose built. Although the company doesn't own the building, it worked with the owners to create a workplace that includes a small shopping strip with a barber, bank, bar, healthcare, a pharmacy, gym and more. They are all independently operated.
The building is surrounded by gardens and there's a lake wth a surrounding track for lunchtime walks or runs. It's adjacent to the Eastlink Tollway which has a great cycling path running alongside so access for drivers and cyclists is relatively straightforward.
But all that is pointless if the workspaces aren't up to scratch.
Like most co-working spaces, there are dedicated spaces where you can safely lock your gear away and return to the same desk each day as well as hot desks. There are also communal areas, where you can just sit as well as meeting rooms. There are a couple of larger training/seminar rooms with full AV facilities as well with capacity for more than 100 people.
As well as the attractive and trendy styling you'd expect at a new co-working space, Waterman has created a Rainforest level at the Caribbean site. With artificial grass on the floors, lots of plants and subdued lighting, it's a calm work area that adds something different to the co-working experience.
There's also a soundproofed recreational area that's used for table tennis and yoga that has a basketball hoop for anyone who needs a place to chill when their brain is fried.
Not Just For Startups
The startup scene loves co-working spaces but larger companies are also looking at them. And that means having flexible options.
Every customer gets access to the 500Mbps internet connection, which is about to be upgraded to 1Gbps. Businesses can also access server facilities or install their own gear in Waterman's racks. All of their centres - there are currently three which are all in Melbourne - are connected so customers with space at multiple locations or who move between locations don't have to mess around with network settings.
This is one area where Waterman stands out from other co-working spaces. They offer connectivity for clients ranging from simple access to WiFi though to ISP-like services including public fixed IP addresses so customers can use their own routers, firewalls and other appliances. This is why banks and other large companies are able to use the facilities for corporate offices.
All of this is automatically provisioned at the time of sign up. Waterman's on boarding process lets you choose the services required at sign-on. Once they are entered, the customer management system integrates with backend systems to automatically provision the services. Each customer gets their own subnet allowing them to move from one Waterman facility to another or have staff at multiple locations and appear on the same network.
There's no messing around with IT teams. As a result, Waterman doesn't have any full-time IT staff as everything is fully automated.
There are a variety of pricing plans with a new option kicking in later this year. Hot desks start at $350 a month with dedicated spaces, leased offices and a meeting room only option also available.
A new pricing plan will provide business hours access to communal areas such as cafes and lounges for $30 per month. And while you won't get a "proper" desk, there are lots of tables to work at as well the cafe. If you work from home but need to get away from time to time, this will be a great option.