Posted at 5:00 am
Co-working places are not just the joy of young shoots and small technologies. IBM confirmed it a few years ago by settling, until 2020, at a WeWork New York address.
In Quebec, while the pandemic redefines the rules of flexible working to the point of questioning the long-term rental of space in office towers, Cossette has changed its universe and has made a leap into the WeWork constellation. In November 2021, the agency’s Montreal branch vacated its 86,000 square feet of space for 35,000 square feet on an entire floor, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest.
“The lease was coming to an end,” says Louis Duchesne, president of Quebec and Eastern Canada. We had to decide whether to renew or not. We take advantage of COVID to ask questions about remote work. »
We thought it would be a great opportunity to choose a collaborative space as an experiment. We couldn’t predict how our way of working would change. Let’s learn without committing by signing a 10 year lease.
Louis Duchesne, President, Quebec and Eastern Canada, at Cossette
The agency has moved its 500 employees to offices specially designed for it. Cossette has her own flat. “Other members of WeWork can’t work on our floor, but we can go to other spaces,” confirms Louis Duchesne. It is not a pure solution collaborative work. That’s what turned us on. It was more or less conceivable to go to an essentially collaborative place. We feel the need to have our house. »
Such a move may be associated with a loss of prestige… “We thought about that, admits Louis Duchesne. But we are in 2022. The pandemic has been an accelerator of important values in business. To deliver an engaging employee experience, we can no longer simply define ourselves in an office space. Even top management does not have an assigned office. The idea is to choose your space according to the tasks to be carried out when you come to the office. »
the rules have changed
COVID-19, hand in hand with the labor crisis, has altered the desires and priorities of employees and has forced companies to question where they work. The moving truck now invites itself into the reflection! “We sold some furniture and works of art 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 big companies would make such a long-term leap,” replies Mathieu Turnier, senior partner at commercial real estate agency Colliers. But the demand for flexibility will increase. In these uncertain times, most of the companies consider it as a short-term solution, because they don’t need to do any work, furnishing, wiring. Coworking offers all turnkey services, while construction costs have skyrocketed. »
Currently, few organizations based in downtown Montreal are closing. “It stabilized in the last quarter, says Mathieu Turnier. You see more businesses not taking up all of their square footage or remodeling their current space. Office towers are emptier than before, but that’s how it was before the pandemic. »
Heading for the suburbs
So rare are addresses that adopt the Cossette formula (and its agencies under the Plus Compagnie umbrella), that many are considering opening satellite offices in suburban coworking spaces to be closer to their employees.
“More traditional businesses have been calling us since the start of the pandemic,” says Francis Talbot, founder of Montreal CoWork. But we have to educate them. Some expect to pay less. However, it is often more expensive per square foot, but they pay for flexibility. The space can be reduced or increased each year. »
Meanwhile, office spaces are multiplying in Montreal. According to Colliers, in Brossard, 500,000 square feet of office space have sprung up since the end of 2020. At Espace Montmorency in Laval alone, the new area amounts to 300,000 square feet.
In terms of coworking, 2C2B Coworking alone, which already offers spaces in Boisbriand and Terrebonne, plans to add five floors of space in Mascouche in the fall. “The next step will be to open on the South Shore due to the three-year construction of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel, explains lead director Cassy Baillargeon. We want to offer North Shore-South Shore hubs to businesses. »
“The search for satellite offices is a trend that comes from abroad, explains Olga Belkin, communications strategist, business development, 2C2B. We have been contacted by US real estate agents looking for co-working satellite offices for large teams. The suburbs, near the residences of the employees, interest them. Therefore, it is easier to recruit. Very large companies will drive this trend: 95% of Fortune 500 companies have decentralized offices. »
According to the American podcast All Coworking, there is an explosion of flexible spaces in the suburbs, says Cassy Baillargeon. “In Montreal, currently, we are at less than 1%, she says. In the United States, before the pandemic, it was already at 5%. »
“Our proposal is complementary, adds Olga Belkin. But the small spaces that are currently offered in the suburbs are not suitable for large companies. At the same time, in 2021, I floated the idea of testing a multi-CEO satellite office. In more traditional areas, we see more rigidity. We know, however, that the world is changing, that we need to be agile. »
Cossette could stay at WeWork for a long time, according to its president. “But beauty is flexibility,” says Louis Duchesne. It’s utopian to sign a firm 15-year lease these days. »
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