There are solutions for people who want to work for themselves, but who still want an office life.

Is working from home all it’s cracked up to be? Many freelancers or small businesses don’t think so, and are turning to another solution.

When Kate Iselin ditched her corporate human resources job – and office life – to work on her own fashion label and website, she thought she was headed for a dream set-up. It’s difficult only having a cat for company … there’s no one to sound ideas off.”

Her days working from home might go like this: an invigorating jog in the morning, back to the ranch to answer a few emails, and a productive and fulfilling day working in her own space.

Kate Iselin: didn’t enjoy working alone. But Iselin, 25, said she found the situation to be quite the opposite. “It was really very insular,” she says. “Some days I wouldn’t leave the house. If I was busy I wouldn’t see daylight. I’m a very social person and the industry I work in is very social. It’s difficult only having a cat for company … there’s no one to sound ideas off.”

After “rattling around” at home for about a year while the rest of her household headed off to work, Iselin saw a tweet about Melbourne co-working space themanroom (which has since renamed 1derground), and decided to give it a try. “I came in and I actually thought ‘it’s nice getting dressed up, taking off your PJs and working with human beings’,” says Iselin.

Kate Iselin: didn't enjoy working alone.

Kate Iselin: didn’t enjoy working alone.She is one of a growing number finding that working from home – although more possible than ever – might not live up to expectations, with isolation and a lack of motivation often overshadowing the thrill of being able to work in your tracksuit pants.

Entrepreneurs around the world are also increasingly running with the idea that many people want the freedom of working for themselves, but don’t always want to work by themselves.

Co-working spaces, still a relatively new idea in Australia, are aimed at freelancers and small businesses, but also cater for corporations and governments who want to try something new. The idea of most spaces is to foster a casual, but productive working environment where chance collaboration occurs and a community is formed.

Third Spaces Group, which includes Hub Australia, CoActiv8 and MESH, released the report Breaking the Productivity Impasse last year. It found that a network of “work hubs” around Australia would not only decrease isolation, but enable increased productivity by cutting traffic congestion and commute times.

Jay Chubb, who founded Melbourne’s Nest Coworking late last year, says co-working spaces, which have proved hugely popular in start-up hot-spots such as San Francisco and Berlin, are no longer the preserve of “digital denizens”.

Among the 24 people who have so far signed up to work at Nest, there’s a financial adviser, a horticulturalist, a PhD researcher, copywriter, video producer, lawyer and a migration agent.

Chubb says those who have taken up co-working tell him they find a number of different barriers to working from home. For parents of young children who don’t yet understand the concept of work, it can be hard to continually say “no” to their constant requests to play with them, says Chubb.

Some of those choosing to co-work are “knowledge workers” who are used to communicating heavily and are taken aback by the reality of working from home. “The experience of that is they’re staring at a screen and they’re actually in a room by themselves,” says Chubb.

He says that in the past many freelancers escaped the house by working from cafes, but he believes that route really only offers “an illusion of company”. Working from home full-time “doesn’t suit most people, I think”, says Chubb. “I think there’s far more people for whom working from home is a huge disappointment.”

Anne Lise De Lorenzo runs design studio &company, and works two days a week from Sydney co-working space Homework. Lorenzo worked from home initially but says: “I started going crazy definitely … I think because there’s a lot of distractions that are really unhelpful when you work from home”. She says she started to lose track of time while working at home, and it was difficult to remain productive. Co-working has helped her make new connections and given her more structure in the working day. “There might be music and there might be conversation, but generally speaking everyone’s there to get work done,” she says.

Lorenzo says a nice byproduct is being able to share her small successes with those around her, and enjoy theirs too.

Some other co-working spaces around Australia


The Workbench, Ultimo
Fishburners, Ultimo
EngineRoom, Chippendale and Darlinghurst


Hub Melbourne, CBD
Collins Collective, CBD
Hive Studio, Fitzroy


River City Labs, Fortitude Valley
Thought Fort, Fortitude Valley


Spacecubed, CBD
fSpace, Fremantle


Entry 29

Nest Coworking, Thornbury, Melbourne

Nest Coworking, Thornbury, Melbourne

This story Could you work from home? was first published on Sydney Morning Herald.