The Rise of Remote Workspaces

Free beer, free coffee, and free food – all at the office. These are the perks of WeWork, the latest franchise in co-working spaces.

There’s a growing trend among businesspeople shedding high-rent offices for rent-a-cubicles – with free-flowing food and drink. Today, there are scores of such companies offering “alt” workspaces. Entrepreneurs are increasingly utilizing companies such as Regus, We Work, Signature Office, and North Space. Global brands, too, have partaken in these spaces: CitiGroup, by way of example, rents space at WeWork in New York, while this year Fiverr hosted events at WeWork Toronto.

Who needs a regular office with all the attendant expenses, when you can rent one, a la carte, whenever you think you might need one?

Ottawa lawyer Adam Aptowitzer says that he is a frequent user of Regus, particularly when he has meetings in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

“In fact, it’s our official office address in Calgary and Toronto. The odd time we’ve rented the Ottawa office has been because we needed a larger boardroom,” says the partner in the firm Drache Aptowitzer LLP.

“In Toronto, it’s because I’m based in Ottawa, and it’s cheaper to have a Toronto office on an as-needed basis, and in Calgary, our lawyer there prefers to work out of her home, but it’s not appropriate to meet clients there. It’s simply cheaper to use a pay as you go office if you don’t need to work there consistently. I think it’s good, unless you grow to a size where you have a team of people working together.”

WeWork launched in 2010, and today is worth $20 billion US, has more than 250 locations in 22 countries, and a quarter of a million members in 72 cities. All told, the company rents out in excess of 1.3 million square metres of space. In London alone, it leases about a quarter-million square metres, second only to the office usage of the British government.

Regus (now IWG) launched in 1989, and with 3,000 offices, has more than a dozen times the locations as WeWork. Big name investors back the company such as Fidelity Investments, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Harvard Management Company, and scores of others.

Business columnist and coach Lena Elkins began using co-working spaces in Tel Aviv in 2015. Previously, she was primarily working from her apartment and cafes.

“Working from home was very distracting for me and I had a hard time differentiating ‘work time’ and ‘relaxing time’. It can also be lonely working by yourself 24/7,” she noted.

“Not only am I much more productive in co-working spaces without the distraction of the refrigerator, TV, etc., but it’s inspiring being around other like-minded entrepreneurs. The connections I’ve made there over the years have blossomed into incredible collaborations, clients, and friends.”

The greatest benefit, for her, is that the WeWork franchise is “dependable internationally” – no matter where in the world she is, there’s an office to use. She also touts their in-house manicurists, yoga classes, WiFi, air conditioning, “a beautiful and quiet workspace” as well as “parties that enable you to engage with the community and constantly grow as a creative.”

Co-working spaces are going to be increasingly relevant in the months to come, for many entrepreneurs and small businesses. Nearly two million Canadians work independently already, and in two years, nearly half of the country’s workers will be self-employed or freelance.

 

Dave Gordon | Contributing Writer

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