When people talk about remote or tele-workers they’re usually picturing someone working at the kitchen table or in a home office, occasionally venturing out to a coffee shop. However, as many teleworkers are discovering, that’s not always ideal.
Instead some are finding co-working spaces – and their companies are paying for their desks.
Alan Leonard worked as a front-end web developer in Guelph for a year before deciding he wanted to move to Toronto, but his employer didn’t want to lose his experience or skills. They offered him the opportunity to work from home, but after a year he was dissatisfied with the situation.
“I tried to quit again and they offered me an incentive to stay on board and one of the things was that they would set me up in a remote office,” Leonard said. “I don’t like working from home. A lot of it is the discipline of leaving your house.”
One of the most difficult things was the lack of interaction with people. Leonard occasionally went a full business week without talking to anyone except the local barista. Now he has a dedicated desk, complete with filing cabinet and two monitors, at a downtown Toronto coworking space.
His story is one that Project Rhino co-founder Neil Martin has heard a number of times. The companies Toronto-based coworking spaces include a kitchen, mail service, very fast internet – and plenty of opportunities to interact.
“There’s a big difference between working remotely and working in isolation,” Martin said. “Happiness and productivity improves in shared spaces.”
At this stage they see it as an employee-led process, where workers approach their manager or HR about finding an office space. It can be a powerful retention tool for employers who are based outside urban centres, but need skilled young workers who are keen to live where the action is. Many of their clients are in tech industries.
For other employers it’s about finding the right person at the right time in the wrong place. Simon Price is a specialist in artificial intelligence design. It’s a highly specialized area and there are not a lot of employees or employers, and most are based in Silicon Valley. Instead, Price works from Toronto for a London, England, based company.
Immediately after starting in the coworking space Leonard saw his productivity and work satisfaction go up.
“I worked from home for two years, but moved because being home all day every day was driving me crazy. I wanted a desk in a place where there were other human beings,” he said. He told his manager that he intended to find a coworking space and asked if the company would contribute. The organization gave him a budget to work with, which covers the cost of a permanent desk.
“It definitely has made a huge difference. I was working at home for a long time and I could see my productivity going down steadily at home,” Price said. “I think this is the way of the future, really, especially for people like me who do really specific things. It’s hard to attract particular kinds of talent but with the internet we don’t need to be in the same place.”