Gone are the days where “work” is confined to the four walls of a corporate office.

In fact, as more professionals prioritize a flexible lifestyle, we’re seeing an increasing number of Canadians working just about anywhere – at home, coffee shops, coworking spaces and even shopping centres.

According to the Globe and Mail, coworking is currently a multibillion dollar industry with Regus Canada predicting that there will be anywhere from 400 to 500 coworking facilities across Canada by 2020.

With new spaces continuing to open all the time, this trend is not slowing down anytime soon. For example, Canadian company Breather, which has since expanded into the United States and Europe, originally began with a presence in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

American coworking giant WeWork currently has six Canadian locations and has plans for expansion. Originating in Amsterdam, Spaces recently entered the Canadian market and has opened a location on Toronto’s Queen Street West and has Montreal and Vancouver locations slated to open in 2018. Independently owned spaces are also on the rise across the country.

Needless to say, over the last 10 years, Canada has seen a significant increase in the demand for shared workspace, with a report from the Commercial Real Estate Tenant Advisory Services predicting that shared spaces will soon make up 20% of the Canadian office market.

However, providing the space is the simple part. It’s ultimately coworking’s benefits that pique the interest of both entrepreneurs and remote/flex workers alike – two of the most valuable audiences to this growing industry.

So, what exactly are current spaces providing that has made coworking such an attractive option for Canadian professionals?

Rachel Kelly, Founder of Toronto coworking space Make Lemonade, spent a lot of time researching the needs of the modern Canadian worker before she opened the doors to her new business in September 2017.

“When designing Make Lemonade, there was a lot of discussion around how the space would function and what would make the most sense,” says Kelly. For instance, having strong WiFi was a big concern for her, as most entrepreneurs and remote workers can't operate without an internet connection.

Everything from the furniture to the layout was built for coworking in mind. For example, Make Lemonade’s ‘patio area,’ was designed with a, “lighter approach, understanding that as entrepreneurs, we need visual stimulation and areas to stretch, think and converse,” explains Kelly.

In addition to offering private meeting rooms and designated desks to members, Make Lemonade has successfully filled a gap in the Toronto community as its visually-appealing, multi-purpose space is now a hotspot for those looking to host events and even shoot editorial photos.

Toronto-based Workwell Cafe is another great example of a business that has committed to catering to today’s entrepreneur. With a mission of powering productivity, it offers customers the chance “work alongside freelancers and entrepreneurs in an hourly coworking space with a coffee shop vibe.”

Although working in coffee shops has been, and continues to be, a favourite among freelancers and entrepreneurs, most “traditional” cafes have yet to adapt to their needs.

Workwell Cafe has stepped up to the challenge by building a space specifically for coworking – super fast WiFi, plugs at every seat, and the opportunity to pay $5 per hour to get unlimited coffee and tea are just a few of the amenities that are still scarce at most coffee shops.

We’re also beginning to see another interesting evolution in the retail industry.

As e-commerce continues to grow in popularity, this has made the resulting vacant space within Canadian shopping centres even more lucrative.

On December 1st, Canada’s first mall-located coworking space, MindShare WorkSpace opened to the public within Erin Mills Town Centre, a shopping centre based in Mississauga, Ontario.

The first of its kind, MindShare WorkSpace provides consulting, sponsorship, educational sessions and a state-of-the-art podcasting studio, in addition to desk and office space.

Furthermore, Hudson’s Bay Company and WeWork recently announced a strategic, multi-faceted partnership. According to a press release, WeWork will lease retail space within select HBC department stores, beginning with the upper floors of the Hudson’s Bay locations on Queen Street in Toronto and Granville Street in Vancouver. This move will “allow the rapidly growing global membership of WeWork to participate in exclusive HBC sales online and in store.”

To that end, retail real estate is not the only sector that has been impacted by the trend of flexible work. The use of residential space has also evolved as we continue to see an increase in the number of both entrepreneurs and corporate employees who have the option to work from home.

Many people looking to rent or purchase a home now consider room for office space to be a major priority.

In their mid-twenties, couple Tyler McKissick and Chenda Noun are on the hunt for a one-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto. One special consideration which narrows their search is the need for a den, to be used as an office and guest room.

“Tyler frequently works from home, so it’s nice to have a designated work space for him to focus,” says Noun.

In fact, working remotely is a trend that traditional corporate companies nationwide have been embracing, much to the appreciation of their employees.

For example, since 2010, TD Bank has executed three pilot programs that provide employees with a more freedom in where and when they work.

Tactics include reducing the number of assigned desks and integrating technology that allows for staff to be productive no matter where they choose to work.

By helping to reduce commute times and give workers more autonomy over their workday, this move gives Canadian TD employees better work/life balance – something that young people in particular are prioritizing over career progression, according to a recent Deloitte survey.

In essence, Canadians are not only redefining how they work, but where they work.

Additionally, with the Canadian government recently announcing a $3 million investment in Vancouver coworking spaces alone (part of a larger investment to support the creation of creative spaces across the country), it’s safe to say that as Canadians continue to work for flexible employers and pursue entrepreneurship, they’ll certainly have their pick of spaces to get work done.

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