Value in A New World

How valuable are the physical things that we strive to obtain and harbor in life? Converting to co-living.

My journey to co-living was in stages… the tipping point was when COVID hit Australia — who would’ve thought!

Coming from startup land in Sydney, I’m across new businesses and market entrants. My first impression of UKO was — a great concept… it embodies minimalist and flexible living, however, it isn’t quite practical for me right now. During this time two things were becoming apparent in my life:

Firstly, that my career would revolve around technology and my lifestyle would always be to a degree nomadic — traveling domestically and internationally for leisure, work, friends, and family. It wasn’t a stage or a once-off event like a uni exchange.

Secondly, my have for life admin became stronger— it’s boring and I see little value in it. I’m always looking for ways to eliminate it and I disagree with the notion that ‘it’s part having responsibilities’. I never liked signing any contracts (for example phone plans) because long-term commitment didn’t match the evolution in my life. Minimalism and the need for flexibility were emerging more in my life.

Converting to co-living

The first stage of converting to co-living was deciding to avoid real estate agents at all costs (the rental system is the worst system ever!). So, I sold all of my furniture and appliances — all of which I outlaid a cost of $4000 and gave away/ sold for 10% of the purchase price. I had no lease for the first time in a while, I went to Europe not having to pay rent back home for a month — great! When I came back to Sydney I stayed in an Airbnb until I found a place on Flatmates — no lease and not much furniture ($1000 worth) — great. I lost money again when I moved as COVID hit. I had flexibility but I still had to have some furniture.

The second stage of converting to co-living was when I flew to regional Australia for a couple of months, I was considering joining a local co-working space however in COVID, I couldn’t justify the value anymore. I was confused about what I should be doing.

When I returned to Sydney UKO was the solution. It could accommodate my 2 suitcase concept, I didn’t have to outlay costs for furniture and appliances and I could eliminate life admin through UKO’s subscription modesl — an all-inclusive price — Amazing! I subscribed in 15 minutes. #signmeup

COVID — the tipping point

When my world became 100% online and there was no physical reason for me to be in Sydney, this was an exciting concept. However, I didn’t expect to find it as challenging as I did being outside of a city. I took lockdown as an opportunity to focus on a project that I had running in South Australia. What I was lacking was a network and connectedness to a community that could support and enhance my lifestyle.

Contrasting the UKO community with being in Adelaide — a regional city, it’s clear how important a role co-living has in shaping this new world. I struggled to work in Adelaide as COVID presented a huge challenge for how we are to now engage with people and expand our network to generate value.

Thinking about lifestyle and how far mine is adapted — value now really is in the non-physical things; when driving a car, owning a fridge or a TV has no relationship to my work… it’s all just stuff. And more, all of this stuff becomes a liability when you’re stuck with it — like a rental lease with a bad housemate. Co-living becomes an asset.

How we create our lives and what we fill it with is so important. With systems designed for a new world that’s shaped around both technology and the knowledge economy, why use services or commit to responsibilities that aren’t suited to this new world? The physical things that we aspire to, and harbour so closely, we should perhaps think quite differently about.

Intersecting Lifestyle with Design and Tech

How design and technology are re-inventing our lifestyles.

UKO is a collection of unique spaces where you can live in inner-Sydney in your own way. Each space is unique and purpose-built for its site and suburb.

UKO co-living communities are inspired by the Unite d’Habitation in Marseille, France, designed by architect, Le Corbusier. The 1950’s design was a response to families in need of housing after the bombings of France. This new housing project focused on the concept of functionality and communal living… yes, very far-flung from the ‘American dream’ of a car and a house in the suburbs born out of the late 20th century.

In another project, Le Corbusier explored minimalist living designing and living, for a time, in Cabanon de Vacances (holiday cottage). This design is starkly different from the Unite d’Habitation, however, embodies the same concepts and the exploration of minimalism and functionality through design.

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Cabanon de vacances

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UKO Stanmore

The influence of green colour and raw materials utilised in the Cabanon de vacances is evident at UKO Stanmore. UKO has taken tried concepts, combined them, and is executing them in a new context — time and place. Now is a time of significant disruption, now is technologically advanced and how we create communities is fundamentally different to the 1950’s.

A new age

The concepts of community, locality, and practicality pioneered by Le Corbusier are carried through in co-living. Co-living embodies a similar role of cafes during the Age of Enlightenment that brought on social change in Europe. Two centuries before Le Corbusier, it was the cafes that were a significant place for meetings and interaction — the generation of, and collaboration on ideas. UKO communities are becoming such places.

How living spaces and communities are now transcending change is aided by technology in a new age that’s globalized and digital. However, the way in which it intersects with the real-world yearns for authenticity from users. We’re all human so the intersection is delicate. The family-unit and work may have evolved dramatically but home or community will always be a focal point of our lives.

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We hold supercomputers in the palms of our hands.

Technology designed around UKO Life

The way that co-living spaces, such as UKO, are employing technology evolves tenants as customers by delivering a complete rental experience. With simply your phone you can organise a UKO tour, subscribe to live at a space, pay your weekly subscription, unlock your front door, and connect with the UKO social networks and to events. When Design as a discipline is elevated with technology we’re on our way to achieving the new 21st-century dream.

The Co-working Evolution

You’ve heard of co-working, but co-living?

For entrepreneurs, co-working was an exciting concept for a work environment. Access to affordable, flexible workspace, and a community. I remember the old days of Fishburners, Haymarket in Sydney — the original building. I’d attend the Friday drinks, hang out, see businesses pitch and listen to guest speakers from the ecosystem. There was hype and excitement from the success stories from within it. Fishburners has since integrated into the NSW Government’s Sydney Startup Hub in the CBD — an 11-floor building established to generate SME’s through co-working, of which have created 100 percent of all net jobs growth in NSW in the 6 years leading up to 2014 (*Source: Jobs for the Future Report). Co-working has played a part in many startup’s lifecycles — many do launch and start out in these communities because of the support that’s so valuable during a business’s infancy.

COVID-19, earlier in the year, I was sitting in a co-working space seeing people leave their hot desks or small office space wondering what would be next for co-working. Teams distributed overnight. What had been an emerging norm and source of so much value in my work for the past 4.5 years looked to be going down the drain. I left for regional Australia.

The workplace literally became anywhere. For the first time, locality was irrelevant so long as you had your laptop and Wifi. As individuals and teams weren’t in co-working spaces where did they go… anywhere but a Fishburners, which the Government boosted to grow the economy or a WeWork, which in recent news has been the center of co-working controversy.

The workplace is anywhere

The demand for co-working is predicted to increase, that’s undoubtedly true but how co-working will evolve is still being defined.

Today’s workplace can be anywhere — remote employees, startups, and freelancers are now migrating seamlessly between home offices, coffee shops, and co-working spaces. As I write from the common room of UKO Stanmore I’m about to go for a meeting at a cafe and then spend the afternoon at +U Collective. As part of my co-living subscription, I have 10 days/ month access to UKO’s partner co-working space. Combined co-working co-living subscriptions at UKO start from $400/ week, all-inclusive. Other international co-living providers Mason & Fifth (London) and Outsite (USA & Global) offer similar solutions where members live in private studio apartments and share access to common areas.

When I left my last co-working space to go to regional Australia, I was confident that as long as I had my laptop I could be anywhere for opportunities. In South Australia, I thought — why don’t people do co-working — well they didn’t want to pay for something that they could do in their four-bedroom detached home.

I see co-living as the next biggest thing in housing due to the benefits of all-inclusive rent, added conveniences, and access to a community that lowers the cost of living. As 1 billion people are predicted to access co-working by 2030, right now is only the begging for co-living — what’ll be a bigger and better version of co-working. How it continues to evolve is still unknown.

Give Up Defining Yourself

Harnessing Opportunities in a Digital Age

An old-world told us to stick to a single discipline but also that we’re likely to have multiple careers within a lifetime. In university, we studied in the one faculty and at careers fairs, we were segmented to aim for a single career to gain market entry. This is paradoxical to market prospects.

From what I’ve seen studying in institutions and engaging with the corporate sector, following definition is limiting; and it has been those that haven’t wanted change who’ve been afraid of growth because of how it might disrupt a system that defined them. That’s right — there’s growth in change and learning in adaption.

During a time where a virus outbreak has upended systems that these mentalities were built around, any definition has to be erased and we have to start thinking differently about our lifestyles — how we live, work, what the growth industries are, and how we apply our education. Give up defining yourself, you won’t fail you’ll come to life.

Image: Fall by Julius Popp, MONA. Popp’s work often uses technology, resulting in interdisciplinary ventures which reach across the boundaries of art and science.

How people in co-living are working

UKO is a collection of unique co-living spaces in Sydney comprised of remote workers, freelancers, startup founders, and recent grads breaking into industries… it’s global and it’s diverse. Within co-living, the people that you share your resources with are not just neighbors. They’re family at group dinners, friends for weekend adventures, and your inspiration for your next business idea or a collaborator on a project.

How people in co-living are learning

There’s an approach from a co-living community to design lifestyles as a collective. With such ambition, it’s essential to be a problem-solver and to think a bit differently. The collective is reflective of a growth mindset and full of inspiration.

A friend that I’ve made within the UKO community exemplifies this mentality… I met her as a digital marketer however discovered her background as a fashion designer. In her case, although educated and experienced in the discipline of fashion design, she was using digital technologies in her work which translates to digital marketing. It’s a world defined by social media — it’s full of content — visual imagery — like fashion design. In marketing terminology, the imagery is known as ‘assets’ in and messaging is how you communicate a brand…wow, how value is changing and existing virtually! Her education is applied in a new profession which adds value. Design is an interesting angle to work from within digital marketing, a profession heavily focussed on analytics and performance indicators and return on investment.

This is the importance of developing diverse networks. Wherever there’s different knowledge and experience to what you have there’s so much to be learned. Don’t be bound by what you perceive as your limits… to the contrary always think about how to push them further. I see that now is not the time to back down from evolution but to pursue it. The value in a lifestyle built around community amplifies the opportunities and ability to create such networks.

The future professional

As COVID has upended the systems that we were indoctrinated into, there’s the opportunity to create new ones in a community that supports the adaption of work and life. Co-living is shaping the future professional and there’s no better time than now than to contribute to creating this.

If you’ve defined yourself — give it up. Lean into a community such as a UKO and investigate the ‘how’ in terms of addressing challenges and understanding the ways in which people are freelancing, consulting, working from home, and building side hustles. If you’re wondering how to get started, watch this space as we look further into the specifics. Breaks in the system mean the opportunity to create something new — old ways won’t open new doors.