Christy Mori & Dr. Josephine Palermo talk about the world of remote working and Dr. Palermo shares her personal story about opening a Coworking Space, Higher Spaces, in Melbourne.
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Welcome to Gears, Action, Growth: Shifting business culture, one conversation at a time. My name is Christy Mori and I’m joining Dr. Josephine Palermo, whose superpower is to create business cultures that transform organizations team by team. Today, we’ll be chatting about remote work and co-working. Hope you get value from it.
Hey, everybody. So this episode is near and dear to us, as we will give you a bit of a tidbit of how co-working has brought us together to eventually creating this podcast. And we met because of Higher Spaces, the co-working space that Josephine co-owns with her business partner, Shu. So when they were looking for a little bit of help over a year ago, I answered an ad. That’s it. We met first online with Joe, and in person with Shu, and we clicked as humans. Yay. And I started to help part-time with running Higher Spaces. Would you say that’s a good overview, Joe?
Dr. Josephine (01:10):
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. That’s exactly what happened.
Awesome. So today, we’ll be discussing a bit about the world of remote work and co-working. In particular, how much the way we work has changed over the last 10 years, especially now with COVID, the concept of remote work, to what is co-working, and what are the benefits of co-working, and how to go about remote work, and finding a place to work, if you’re interested in that. So remote work has been around since the internet connected all of us, but it was a concept that certain industries like tech were able to do. Many industries still require people to go to the office physically. So over the last five years have seen a huge explosion of co-working spaces everywhere in the world, with more entrepreneurship going on and people starting their own businesses. People’s way of working have changed. And of course, COVID. We can’t speak about this without mentioning the pandemic. What are you thinking, Joe?
Dr. Josephine (02:11):
Absolutely, absolutely. The pandemic itself has really, massively accelerated a trend that we were seeing anyway, towards more flexible arrangements in workplaces. And you mentioned tech companies, but there were lots of other organizations, and also solo entrepreneurs who were working remotely and really wanted a place, a workspace that was outside of their home. But what COVID did was, it created this incredible situation with lockdowns and restrictions where people experienced something completely different. Before the pandemic there were only a few us in co-working spaces. I think in Australia, it was something like 8%. During COVID of course, you had the majority of professionals anyway, who could work from home working from home and across many States in Australia, that’s still the case. So suddenly you had this mass exit out of the cities, out of, particularly, the CBD, into people’s homes and neighborhoods. And surprise, people loved it. Most people really liked it. And what we see, because there’s been a lot of global surveys conducted about this phenomenon because suddenly, everybody’s working from home. And when we look at, particularly, these Australian statistics on this, you can easily see it because almost seven in 10 Australians have basically said they’re really happy with remote working. They have a better satisfaction with their work life balance, and a greater appreciation of the kind of life outside of their workplace. So they’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience. When you think about it, there’s been the challenges of having children home-schooled as well, and lots of other, challenges in that, but overwhelmingly, people, particularly in Australia, you can see it replicated around the world as well. But particularly in Australia had said, “This is great.” “This is the way I want to work.” And from a, I guess, a business owner perspective, we were expecting some drop in productivity. Because people had to really, quickly get used to technology. They weren’t meeting face-to-face anymore. But what we found, because that’s been measured too, is that the productivity hasn’t decreased necessarily. And in some ways, and in other ways, it’s increased because people are attending to work longer hours, because they’re not commuting. And they’re also working in ways that are more flexible and suited to their home life. So they might be, for example, not working during school pickup times, but then they’re working later at night and because they had those flexible arrangements, they’re still feeling satisfied about that. So it’s basically changed everything, Christy.
Yeah. So flexibility is one of the number one things about remote working, isn’t it? That would be beneficial for people.
Dr. Josephine (05:39):
Absolutely. We’ve been talking a lot about, I guess, autonomy, it keeps coming up in our conversations, but it’s such a simple concept. But when you give people the right to choose, when you give them a choice about how they want work, where they want to work, when they want to work, they will usually do the best for them, and the best for the organization, that I think we have this idea, I think some business owners and managers have this idea that if you give people choice, they’ll do what’s right for them, but not what’s right for the company. And we don’t see that. Again, and again, and again, we don’t see that most people are going to do what’s right for them and what’s right for the company. And so what you end up with are workers who are super engaged, super satisfied, and they’re doing great work. It’s an absolute win-win.
That’s really, really true. So in terms of, conveniently for this particular conversation, you also co-own a co-working space in Melbourne. And we did a shout out for Higher Spaces in an episode before. Maybe you could share a little bit about your inspiration of starting a co-working space at the beginning.
Dr. Josephine (07:06):
Yeah. Yeah. So I do own a co-working space with my partner Shu Tan. So maybe I’m a little bit biased about co-working, but the reason we even got into this industry is not because we love real estate. Because we’re not real estate magnets, or anything like that. We actually got into this industry because both of us are passionate about changing people’s ideas about how they work. So both Shu and I are proponents of human centered design when it comes to working. We both love flexibility in work. We’ve experienced that ourselves in our workplaces. We both managed teams for many years and experienced a lot of different workplaces. And we could see the benefits when you give people that flexibility. And also, when you provide an environment that’s optimal to the way that people feel motivated and also is conducive to well-being. I kept looking at, and I was one of them, the hundreds of thousands of people that commute into the city every day, and then all, at the same time of day, try to get out of the city. And, you know, struggle through traffic, struggle with public transport. And it just never made sense to me. Particularly, when I’d go to work and most people would work by themselves on a desk and then go home. It just never made sense. And so, a lot of the work that I’ve done over many years is actually, trying to help leaders to get their staff more engaged in the work that they’re doing, through mainly changing what leaders are doing, not necessarily changing what staff are doing. And really making teams more effective and flexibility is part of that. Giving people the autonomy to work elsewhere, not be in the office all the time is important. And so co-working, for us, was really a passion around changing the way people work. And what we particularly did was sort of set out to make Higher Spaces a place where people really felt nurtured at work, because that was important for us too. And I think it’s not just because we’re female leaders, because we are leaders and managers in our own right. And we could see that when you set up a nurturing environment, an environment, which sort of tells people that you care about them, they feel supported they have greater well-being and you get better productivity out of people that way. You get more effective teaming out of people that way. So we wanted to set up a place that was beautiful, that made people feel like they’re supported and we care about them. And we wanted also to reduce stresses in the workplace. So we packed it with living plants and natural surfaces like plywood, because all the research shows, that when you’re surrounded by nature and you’re surrounded by natural surfaces, it just reduces your stress at an unconscious level. You don’t even know it’s happening, but you feel better. Right? And then the other thing we wanted to do was set a space where collaboration could take place. So we have very sort of, I guess configurable fit out in our co-working space where people have a lot of room. We have spacious desks, we have spacious rooms where we don’t hardwire any of the equipment in, so you can take all the tables out, take all the furniture out, create a really great space for collaboration. All the walls are white boards, you can use sticky notes, we wanted to set up a space where really people feel like they can be creative and collaborative. And then the last thing we wanted to do was really make sure that our community was going to have a place in our co-working space, as well. So we set up spaces where you can have community events in the evening, you can absolutely have classes, and creative things happening in the space. So all of that was part of our passion of also having a place that really symbolizes that you can bring your whole self to work. That you don’t have to leave the things you’re passionate about at home, at home. You bring your whole self to work. It’s a place where all of that can happen.
Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. Every time I have been there that is exactly it. It feels very home-ish, but it feels like an oasis at the same time. And I’m not just doing a plug-in because we work together. And we have a special offer later on for you listeners as well. If you want to experience this oasis that we’re talking about. But yeah, there’s real intentionality of how you guys have built the space. And we do have a lot of men working there as well.
Dr. Josephine (12:36):
Dr. Josephine (12:39):
Yeah, we do. We have whole men and women for some reason, I don’t know why.
It’s true. It’s so interesting to me though, because like, I was really attracted to the fact that there was two females who really cared about how people work. And I think that’s how I was like, this is a good place for me to be in. And then it was interesting. I really thought it would be very female-oriented, actually. But yeah, it’s funny. Like one of the units are most predominantly men.
Dr. Josephine (13:08):
So, yes. Whichever gender, you’re all welcome.
Dr. Josephine (13:11):
And you will all feel the benefits. So for people who are not in Melbourne, where we’re at, and where all these co-working spaces are at how can co-working, how can they find co-working spaces around the world? How can they balance now, especially with so much remote work going on. And if home isn’t exactly a place, how can people negotiate with their work on going to a co-working space?
Dr. Josephine (13:42):
Yeah, that’s a good question, Christy. Because I think that it is actually about you, yourself having a sense of what you want and being able to voice that. You know, people are doing this at a company level too. So lots of companies are also creating different types of policies where they’re saying they’ve had this experience of people working remotely. It’s worked really well. Let’s just change the company to a hundred percent remote. So for example I think Red Bubble, a company that had gone a hundred percent remote now. Microsoft, I think, are also a hundred percent remote. And what that means is that you don’t have to be in the office. You can be anywhere else. And part of anywhere else could be a co-working space because we know that not everyone has an optimal environment at home. You may be like, you know, during COVID, I know a lot of people were working on their kitchen tables and that’s fine for a little while. It might not be great for the long-term. So what a lot of companies are doing are giving for example their workers a budget where they can either fit out their own office at home or use that budget for a co-working space. And a co-working space can be really ideal for people because you don’t even have to be a full-time member at a co-working space. Most co-working spaces will have a flexible option where you can be there, you know, part of the week, you don’t have to be there every day. So for some people, you know, an ideal situation will be to be in a co-working space, you know, two or three days a week, and to be home the rest of the time or in the office, the rest of the time. The other flexibility, and, you know, for example, Higher Spaces has offices too. You can book a desk for an hour or a day. So it may be that some people want to go to a co-working space after they’ve dropped the kids at school. And they want to go to an office to work, but they don’t necessarily want to go to an office in the city. They don’t want to commute. They want to stay in their neighborhood. And your best ideal workplace will be a co-working space in your neighborhood. So there are lots of co-working spaces around. I’m happy to recommend people in Melbourne to some really great co-working spaces that I know about but they are all over the world. So there are many, many co-working spaces globally that basically, you can Google in your local area and there will be a co-working space. And the way to kind of pitch this to your company, or if you are a business owner, the things to think about is the reduced cost. So we know that whenever an organization has an office space for every individual staff that they need to accommodate, they’re probably spending around about, you know, 1500 Australian dollars a month. And that’s a minimum. So we know that you can have a very reduced rate by looking into co-working. Co-working will reduce that by about a third. So, there you go. So there’s reduced costs. There’s also less hassle when your workers are not in an office you know, when everyone is in an office together, so a lot of co-working spaces reduce the hassle of all of those outgoing things that you don’t have to worry about. They take care of the coffee, and the tea, and the milk in the fridge, and the cleaning, and, you know, all of those things, but they also take care of the culture. They usually have learning events. They usually have social gatherings, they link people to interesting you know, information. So there’s lots of other things that co-working management does that you don’t even have to think about anymore. And you know, at Higher Spaces, we even have a business coaching service where we will coach your staff. So, you know, all of those things are usually included in a co-working package. The other thing, the other benefits are that when you’re in a co-working space, you will connect with people who are outside of your business or outside of your company, maybe in a different industry or, or maybe, you know, in the same industry, but in a different organization. And so those connections are really valuable. They often spark a lot of innovation between people. So to give you an example, in our co-working space, we had a landscape commercial landscape company. And then we had another company that helps developers sort of navigate that terrain around disability regulations when you’re building. So they were both kind of working with architects and builders. And so they actually did collaborate on a tender together. So it’s things like that where they may not have even come across each other or known about each other if they weren’t in the co-working space together. So those kind of benefits are, you know, so the return on investment is so clear. They’re so tangible, that often you can really easily build a case for your company to include co-working as part of their flexible workspace arrangement. And then I guess the last thing is that for some people, you know, working at home has been great, but it also has meant that some people find it difficult to navigate that boundary between work life and home life, because work is now being done at home. So for some people, they really do need a physical space to create that boundary for them. And we know that from our co-working members, a lot of our clients say that they just need somewhere to go. Otherwise, they can’t turn off if they’re working from home and they end up working all the way through the night, and we know that that’s not good for any employee, it’s not good for you to not have a boundary between your working life and then your leisure, or home, or family life. You do need to have time for you in your day and your week. You need to have time for others, and you need to have time, you know, away from screens, away from work, just to recover and recuperate, do something joyous, like that’s all important. And we know that health and well-being is such an important consideration for the business owners and employees.
That’s right. So we’ve provided a little bit about the benefits, ask us any questions. If you’re curious about co-working. And today, we also have a special podcast gift for you, just the listeners, our first one ever. So if you’re in Melbourne or one day in the future visiting, we would like to meet you and give you a complimentary day at Higher Spaces. So all that oasis stuff you’ve been hearing about, you can experience it yourself for a complimentary day, and we’ll set up a morning or afternoon tea, because we want to meet you and treat you. There’s a link below and the special code is “PODCAST” in capital letters. One word, just type it in, in the link. And that’s all you have to do to get this offer. And by the way, I just want to say the password won’t be in the description just to avoid hackers on our end. But yeah, we really appreciate your support as we just started this podcast and we want to express it. So please take up this offer. And thanks for listening, everyone. As always, looking forward to connecting with you next time. Are you currently working in a co-working space? Let us know. Please send us your comments and questions at [email protected], which is in the description. Also, we appreciate you and hope you found this episode useful. Bye for now, everyone.
Dr. Josephine (22:09):