Almost 12 months ago we relocated from our existing premises into the Orchard Business and Event Hub which is a shared work space located within Whangarei’s CBD.  The space is an initiative of Northland Inc and was recently recognized at a national level with the Economic Development NZ’s Best Practice Commendation.  At the time of our move there were a number of strong strategic drivers for the shift particularly in the area of creating a more collaborative environment between public and private sector organisations with a strong interest in improving Northland’s business environment.  These drivers still stand today.

Having said that it was always going to be interesting seeing how we would operate within the physical space with a variety of different occupants.   While it hasn’t been seamless it has not been particularly difficult and is a reminder of how the workplace through technology and other influences is dynamic and constantly changing.  To others considering such a move I would say for many businesses there are probably more advantages than disadvantages and while it has traditionally (if that’s the right word given how recent these places are) been the domain of small businesses, overseas trends now suggest that it is fast becoming the preferred option for larger corporates.

Obviously, it would be good to see over time a proliferation of these sort of work places of various size, location and character to provide more choice for Northland businesses.    For small business and start-ups money is one of the major factors controlling choice of workplace.  Their flexible leasing arrangements enable small, new or growing businesses with uncertain futures an opportunity to reduce their risk.  People are also beginning to realise that the traditional work space and the associated leasing arrangements often leaves them locked into long-term leases with much more space than their base need.

Given the proliferation of empty traditional office space within our CBD, encouraging or enabling more private-sector shared workspaces may well be a viable strategy for growing businesses and reinvigorating the CBD.  I imagine there are a number of barriers to this occurring but what I have noticed from the Orchard is that there was a real latent demand for the space and not always from those who you thought would use it.  It is also a reminder that today’s commercial workplace is not necessarily what it once was and that this should be reflected within local government regulatory frameworks and rating mechanisms which may no longer be fit for purpose.

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