Outgrown your home office? Anthony Caruana rented a desk in a shared office for a week and found he was happy with the price and facilities.
A recent contract job meant that I needed a workspace. I only needed the space for about a week so a serviced office seemed like a perfect solution. After a week at The Cluster, in Melbourne's CBD, here's what I learned.
A business associate I know uses The Cluster as her main office so it was on that recommendation that I signed up for a week. I didn’t need the space full time so I ended up paying for four half-days and one full day. In addition, I had access to meeting rooms, an LCD screen, mouse and keyboard as well as a generous allocation of desk space. For the week, this cost $132 including GST.
As well as the physical gear, The Cluster includes unlimited Internet access over a robust fibre connection that worked flawlessly during our time. If you're less technically savvy there's also on-site technical support to get you up and running. There's also a reception desk and for an extra $22 per week you can have a dedicated phone line with a number from any Australian state.
I rented a hot desk – that meant that I didn’t have a fixed place in the office. Each day, I could sit at a different spot in the office. For long-term renters, there's an option to have a permanent desk that you can personalise.
From the moment I arrived until my week was done, the staff at The Cluster was exceedingly helpful. Every question or request was responded to cheerfully and promptly. Even when I needed a meeting room at short notice, everything was easy.
I needed to send a couple of faxes – my first faxes in many years – and the staff at reception did this quickly, providing me with the confirmation notices as soon as the documents were transmitted.
The desk and office facilities were perfect for my needs. I didn’t need the screen but it was there and worked well when I tested it. Internet access over The Cluster's wireless network worked perfectly.
One of The Cluster's rules is that eating at the workspace is not permitted. However, they provide a well-equipped kitchen with tea and coffee facilities as part of the service. The only rule is to keep things neat and tidy for the others.
The great benefit of this sort of environment is the ability to network and meet lots of different people from many different industries. Just standing in the tea room, I spoke to designers, casual call centre staff, HR professionals and many other people. This free and informal exchange of notes and ideas is one of the great benefits of places like The Cluster.
What didn't I like? My only criticism was the noise level. There were times when the noise level from people making phone calls and conducting other conversations was a little distracting – something that's a common gripe in open office environments. However, armed with a decent set of headphones, I was able to overcome this easily.
There are many sole traders and small businesses that outgrow working from home. However, they aren’t quite big enough to justify renting an office space and then fitting it out with all the extras that an operating office needs. These are the businesses that The Cluster fits perfectly.
The costs are reasonable, there are plenty of included services and you can move in and start working in almost no time. With The Cluster, there's no long-term commitment with flexible terms lasting from a week to indefinitely.
As the business grows you can move from a hot desk to a permanent desk – this can delay the need for moving to your own premises for some time.
Permanent desks cost:
- 150x70cm desk – $140/wk +GST
- 180x90cm desk – $150/wk +GST
- Window Desks + $10/wk +GST
Casual arrangements cost:
- 20 Hour Package – $80+GST/week: This allows 20 hours of hot desk access and 1 hour of meeting room or board room hire per week.
- 40 Hour Package – $110+GST/week: This allows 40 hours of hot desk access and 2 hour of meeting room or board room hire per week.
There are also pay as you go arrangements that cost $7/hr+GST, $40/day+GST or $180/wk+GST.
[We'd like to thank The Cluster for kindly giving us permission to post the images you see here of their offices.]