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Pop Up Office: A Unique Approach to Shared Workspace

Jodi Morrell

Shared workspaces have become increasingly popular as savvy business owners realise their potential as a cost effective alternative to establishing an office. Exploding with popularity all over the world, the concept has been embraced in Canberra over the last couple of years.

The new kid on the shared workspace block in Canberra is Pop Up Office. The brainchild of freelance photographer Hilary Wardhaugh, Pop Up Office is an organisation that provides its members with the opportunity to collaborate with other self-employed business owners who normally work from home.

“It’s not just for the really young and trendy,” she explains. “Pop Up Office is focused on diversity and inclusiveness. It’s for anyone and we want a depth and variety of people so you can cross-pollinate ideas.”

Hilary created Pop Up Office to overcome the loneliness she was experiencing working from home. She even considered returning to employed work and abandoning her freelance photography career, but wasn’t convinced that this was an ideal solution to her problem. Instead Hilary bought a laptop which radically altered the approach she took to doing her work.

Instead of having to return home to process her images, she could stay out and go to cafés to be among people while working.

“But I was still sitting in cafes alone,” Hilary confesses.

As a single mother, Hilary was unable to access networking events held in the mornings and during the evenings, and other shared workspaces felt too much like going to work every day. Hilary was determined to find a solution that offered her the social aspect of a workplace with the flexibility needed by many small business owners who are sole traders.

Pop Up Office aims to replace the social aspect of having work colleagues for those working for themselves. Hilary has created a way to feel more connected with the community, gain support from other business owners who are in the same position as her members and most importantly, contributes to the personal and professional well-being of those who work from home. Working from home is largely considered to be a luxury, but for many it’s actually quite difficult and isolating. Pop Up Office overcomes the social isolation of working at home.

Hilary uses a variety of unique locations throughout the city to host collaborative work sessions. Upon deciding to implement her idea, Hilary called on the network of contacts she had built through her work as a freelance photographer and via Twitter.

Her proposal to each location was simple: donate free Wi-Fi and allocate space to Pop Up Office once a week, Hilary could assist with exposing them to a different, unique audience. Through Pop Up Office, Hilary creates an environment open to audiences that these locations would not normally reach. The mutual benefit to Pop Up Office members and each location was obvious, and the locations involved to date, include the Belconnen Arts Centre, the National Press Club, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, and King O’Malley’s in Civic. All whom have donated space free of charge.

The Pop Up Office concept is not tied to one location and additional locations are welcome says Hilary.

“I want to encourage more cross-pollination with lots of different businesses,” Hilary says of her search for new and unique locations.

In using a flexible approach to locations, hours and Pop Up Office setup, Hilary has created a non-threatening, inclusive environment for her members. Not only is the environment supportive and welcoming, it offers built-in opportunities to network, create and follow up on leads and develop organic connections with fellow business owners.

The location schedule for Pop Up Office can be found on the website – popupoffice.com.au – and regular references to events, locations and forthcoming activities are updated on the Twitter, just follow @popupofficeoz.

Membership is only $12 a month and applications can be submitted through the website. Membership gives you access to the Pop Up Office community and, according to Hilary, a lot of what you get out of it, is what you put into it. But then, “it only takes one moment, one idea, or one person to change your life”.

Hilary also organises extra-curricular activities for members including regular speakers at the Pop Up Office events. Attendees can suggest either speakers they are interested in hearing from or subjects they would like to learn more about, and then Hilary organises the relevant people to share their knowledge and experience. This gives the speakers the opportunity to promote themselves and attendees an opportunity to further their learning.

Hilary has also organised a Trade Fair to be held at the end of July at the Belconnen Arts Centre (see details below). As a business-to-business trade fair for local Canberra businesses, the Pop Up Small Business Fair will have 36 stalls and is a great opportunity to connect with Pop Up Office and promote your business.

If you’re interested in hanging out and working alongside other self-employed business owners, check out the Pop Up Office website for details.

The essentials
What: Pop Up Office Trade Fair
When: 1pm to 6pm, Friday 31 July
Where: Belconnen Arts Centre, Emu Bank Belconnen
Web: www.popupoffice.com.au or find them on Facebook


Jodi Morrell

Jodi Morrell recently abandoned her long-term public service career to pursue her passion for writing full time. She is passionate about politics, federal and local, and loves to explore and understand opposing political standpoints. Jodi loves travel, good food and wine, fitness and obstacle races (the muddier the better) and books. More about the Author

  • Anita Kelsall

    The pop up office sounds like a great way for solo entrepreneurs to collaborate and network with other business owners

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