Room to grow: IWG sees opportunity in Atlantic Canada
Posted on March 10, 2022 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments
IWG Americas CEO Wayne Berger smiles as he describes how today’s workers are “living a renaissance.” Large employers of the white-collar ranks have opened to new approaches to how work gets done. As has been said ad nauseum now by more than just Berger, new habits in remote work and flex time that were adopted en masse during the pandemic are now well established.
It’s a relatively simple idea from the employee perspective: remote work is great, but you may also not want to always work from home when working remotely. From the employer’s perspective, a short-term lease of a single office in a third-party location (somewhere between home and a downtown office) may make sense in some cases.
Berger has reason to smile. His company happens to supply workspaces that differ from the traditional office building and are geared toward the new way of working. In Canada, under its various brands, IWG grew from 48 to 130 locations from 2015 to 2021 – from about one million to about three million square feet of office space in seven years.
“We still collectively cannot keep up with demand,” he told Atlantic Business Magazine. That includes the demand in Atlantic Canada.
The models IWG offer were popular with the technology start-up community long before the pandemic-accelerated trend. Basically, start-ups in their earliest stages may not have fixed office space, opting to keep overhead as low as possible and rent space only as needed. Berger said it was growth of the start-up community in the Maritimes, with increased demand on three existing IWG locations in Nova Scotia, that had already drawn the parent company’s attention pre-pandemic. IWG’s presence to date in Nova Scotia has been under the Regus brand, with two locations in Halifax (Founder’s Square and Purdy’s Wharf) and a location in Dartmouth.
“We started seeing material changes in the diversification of the economy,” he said, with new office seekers in the mix, marking the region as an area of opportunity.
It’s now led to the creation of Spaces Burnside, IWG’s fourth location in the province, at 2 Ralston Avenue in the Burnside Business Park in Dartmouth, N.S. The 14,000-square-foot facility has been re-vamped into a mix of 60 private offices of varying sizes, meeting rooms, desks and co-working space. Spaces Burnside was created through a partnership of an IWG subsidiary (handling IWG’s Spaces brand in Canada), Office Interiors and Cabco.
In addition to principal actors bringing the property itself to the table, president and CEO of Office Interiors Jim Mills said Office Interiors and Cabco have been in the process of outfitting the location. Cabco has handled cabling, wifi installation and the addition of commercial security systems. Office Interiors has worked on most of the interior essentials, from flooring to moveable walls in select areas, to furnishings.
In thinking about how workspaces are best outfitted today and what customers come looking for, Mills said there has been a drop off in certain furnishings. “There’s much less demand for what’s called benching,” he said, describing long desks with work areas on either side and a central divider that is short, keeping the person on the opposite side visible. “That trend has almost stopped dead in its tracks.”
Mills said changes like this are not a rejection of open-plan office spaces as far as he can see, but there has been a realization that different people will work differently and, regardless, most employees will have times when they want to get away from chats across the table. Mills said companies have come looking for extenders, to give greater privacy to individual work areas, while they also create some open, communal and formal collaboration spaces, giving workers a little of column A and a little of column B.
The partnership development of Spaces Burnside offers co-working space. The facility is a single space with multiple tenants in their own offices side-by-side, along with meeting rooms for collaborations and more open, common area. Offices for rent range in size, with the smallest away-from-home workspace getting down to 80 square feet. Sometimes, it’s all you need.
Mills said from what he’s seen Halifax is at about half the Canadian average for office space that is co-working space, suggesting there’s room to grow. From that perspective, the Spaces Burnside partnership made sense.
“We think companies are going to want more flexibility in terms of the spaces they lease, with flexibility defined as smaller spaces and shorter-term leases,” he said.
The partnership has significantly given Office Interiors and Cabco a new relationship with IWG that may serve them well in future, given IWG’s eyes on further expansion. Berger said the company has already been looking at possible locations for a new addition of co-working space in Moncton.
“It’s just been such a struggle to get to every single market to meet the demand,” he reiterated.
Entirely new builds from the ground-up are time consuming, capital intensive and come with higher risks, so Berger also said IWG has hired “partnership growth directors” for every region, with the specific aim of being able to take existing properties and retrofit to bring IWG-branded locations on stream quickly, when the right partnership opportunities present themselves.
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