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Co-working spaces are not just the joy of young shoots and small technologies. IBM confirmed this a few years ago by securing WeWork’s New York address until 2020.
In Quebec, where the pandemic is redefining the rules of work flexibility to the point of questioning the long-term rental of space in office towers, Cassette changed its universe and jumped into the WeWork alliance. In November 2021, the agency’s Montreal branch vacated its 86,000-square-foot space on rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, with a total floor area of 35,000 square feet.
“The lease is coming to an end,” said Louis Duchesne, president of Quebec and Eastern Canada. Had to decide whether to renew or not. We took advantage of COVID to ask questions about remote work. »
We thought this was a great opportunity to choose an experimental space. We could not imagine how our work would change. Let’s learn not to commit by signing a 10-year lease.
Louis Duchesne, President, Quebec and Eastern Canada, in cassette
The agency brought its 500 employees into specially-purposed offices. A cassette has its own floor. “Other WeWork members can’t work on our floor, but we can go to other locations,” confirms Louise Duchesne. This is not a pure solution a colleague. That’s what turned us on. Essentially moving to a co-working space is more or less an afterthought. It felt like we wanted our house. »
Such a move would be associated with a loss of prestige… “We thought about it, Louis Duchesne admitted. But we are in 2022. The pandemic accelerates important values in business. To provide an interesting experience for employees, we can no longer define ourselves in the office space. Even senior management does not have a dedicated office. You When it comes to the office, the idea is to choose your space according to the tasks to be completed. »
The rules have changed
COVID-19, hand-in-hand with the workforce crisis, has heightened employee desires and priorities and forced companies to question where they work. A moving truck now invites reflection! “We sold some furniture and artwork to employees, we donated others to organizations, to auctions, we took some pieces with us,” lists Louis Duchesne.
Will other big companies follow? “I doubt the major companies are going to push this long,” replied Matthew Turnier, senior partner at commercial real estate agency Colliers. But the demand for flexibility will increase. In these uncertain times, many companies think of it as a short-term solution because they don’t need to do any work, furnish, wire. Co-working offers all turnkey services, but construction costs have skyrocketed. »
Currently, some establishments located in downtown Montreal are going out of business. “It stabilized in the last quarter, says Mathieu Turnier. You’re seeing more businesses not taking all their square footage or renovating their existing space. Office towers are emptier than before, but that was before the pandemic. »
Going to the suburbs
Managements adopting the Cossette formula (and its agencies under the Plus company umbrella) are rare, with many considering opening satellite offices in suburban co-working spaces to be closer to their employees.
“More traditional companies have been calling us since the pandemic began,” said Frances Talbot, founder of Montreal CoWork. But we need to educate them. Some expect to pay less. However, it is often more expensive per square foot, but they pay for the flexibility. Space can be reduced or increased every year. »
Meanwhile, office spaces are multiplying around Montreal. In Brossard, 500,000 square feet of office space has been added since the end of 2020, according to Colliers. At Espace Montmorency in Laval alone, the new area covers 300,000 square feet.
In terms of coworking, only 2C2B Coworking, which already offers spaces in Boisbriand and Terrebonne, plans to add five floors of space in Mascouche in the fall. “The three-year construction of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel will open the next phase on the South Shore, explained Principal Director Cassie Baillargeon. We want to provide North Shore-South Shore hubs for businesses. »
“The search for satellite offices is a trend coming from abroad,” explains Olga Belkin, 2C2B’s Communications Strategist, Business Development. US real estate agents approached us looking for co-working satellite offices for large teams. They are interested in suburbs, near employee residences. This will make recruitment easier. Most large companies buck this trend: 95% of Fortune 500 companies have decentralized offices. »
According to an American podcast Everything is a colleague, there is an explosion of suitable places in the suburbs, says Cassie Baillargeon. “In Montreal, currently, we are less than 1%, she said. In the United States, before the pandemic, it was already at 5%. »
“Our proposal is complementary, adds Olga Belkin. But the small spaces currently offered in the suburbs are not suitable for large companies. At the same time, in 2021, I started the idea of testing a multi-CEO satellite office. In more traditional areas, we see more stability. But the world is changing, we We know to be proactive.”
Cossette could stay at WeWork for a long time, according to its president. “But beauty is flexibility,” says Louis Duchesne. These days it is ideal for a company to sign a 15 year lease. »