The changing workplace
New workplace models growing in popularity as business approaches evolve
With apologies to Bob Dylan, “The business times, they are a-changin’.”
The traditional workplace setting isn’t exactly destined to go the way of the dodo, but it certainly is experiencing an evolution that appears to be permanent. COVID-related issues pushed a large number of people into work-from-home settings in the past couple of years. as Add in the rising costs of renting or owning office buildings, and many people are evaluating just how practical it is to set up shop in a basement, a spare bedroom or even on the kitchen table.
Whether spurred by creativity, necessity or COVID, tangible solutions to challenges for businesses of all shapes and sizes have emerged in the past few years right here in Kawartha Lakes, and they appear to be here to stay.
“This is all about adapting to changing or emerging business needs,” says Ramona Kozak, co-owner of the Lindsay Business Hub along with her husband Larry. “I’m just listening to what I think is a need in our community.”
The Business Hub, at 1 Russell St. E. in Lindsay, is filled to capacity with a range of clients who have rental agreements of varying lengths to suit their needs. The Hub’s dozen offices are home to legal professionals, counsellors, financial advisers and real estate agents. It’s so busy, in fact, that Kozak sees a need for expansion in the near future.
The Hub has been operating for about a year and has been welcomed by a variety of clients seeking office space in a professional setting, without the need for an entire building — let alone the additional costs and responsibilities associated with such occupancy, such as utilities and insurance.
Call it coworking, flexspace or hybrid offices. It means something a bit different for every client or user, but that is a key to the concept’s success and its future growth. It may also be an ideal solution for businesses with employees wanting to operate professionally in rural settings such as Kawartha Lakes.
Open since April, Thrive Coworking Community also offers all facilities and related amenities of a professional office, without the long-term expenses and responsibilities associated with such an operation.
In the past couple of pandemic-influenced years, many people have discovered that working from home has positives, but is not without its downfalls, says Thrive’s Matt Geraghty of. He and his wife Meg opened Thrive downtown at 18 Kent St. W. when they identified that many people were operating businesses such as digital marketing from their homes. They add that COVID accelerated the need for co-working space such as Thrive.
Doing Business Differently
The idea of doing business a bit differently emerged barely a decade ago in New York City, when a large contingent of professionals were feeling cramped and in need of more space – but not necessarily enamoured with the idea of buying or renting entire buildings. The key to flex space’s success is designing an exciting place for people and companies to come together to share operating expenses, and to have a “community” feel. After all, working from home doesn’t provide many “water cooler” social opportunities with others.
The concept isn’t just suited to a large metropolitan centre. In fact, Geraghty emphasizes that he feels it’s an ideal approach to doing business in the rural settings that make up such a large portion of this sprawling city.
“Spotty rural internet in Lindsay and across Kawartha Lakes is frustrating and not productive,” says Geraghty. “And while many people from outside of our area are fortunate to have a cottage to spend time at in the summer, they all don’t take the entire summer months off.”
During an Advocate photo shoot, Dr. Brandy Schillace from Euclid, Ohio, happened to walk into Thrive, looking for a spot to work for the afternoon. Just passing through, the author, podcaster and editor-in-chief of the Medical Humanities journal was looking for a comfortable place with good wifi.
Geraghty says people often need a more professional setting from which to conduct their business. Thrive means they don’t have to set up office space at a family cottage, but they can have a professional meeting here in town when they need to do so, he says.
For Kozak , it’s all “privacy and professionalism” at the Lindsay Business Hub.
“Many of our clients are actually from out of town, such as lawyers who may come to Lindsay to work on a court case for a few days or weeks. They appreciate having an office to set up from, rather than in a motel or coffee shop.” The building is secure, with alarms, security cameras and unique access codes that let clients use at any time of the day or night. “Clients don’t have to worry about any of the things associated with managing a building — including utilities, maintenance or shovelling snow in a parking lot.”
The same is true for Thrive, which directs much of its marketing to professionals in metropolitan areas who come to Kawartha Lakes to visit family or to vacation.
“Summer will see many people coming to the area for blocks of time, but they may still need to be working at least some of the time. So, they can have our facilities and services here, which the family cottage likely doesn’t offer,” Geraghty says.
Kozak points out that Business Hub clients are also able to use the site as their business mailing office. Mail is kept for them at the central front desk and clients drop in regularly to pick up messages and items.
The concept attracts a variety of users because of its flexible nature. Entrepreneurs just trying to get their financial footing prefer it over committing to long-term leases and rental agreements. Perhaps surprisingly, many established professionals also like the option of a different workspace outside of the traditional office that is busy with other colleagues.
Thrive client Brian Rump, a local small business adviser who owns Profit Coach, stresses that work environment is a very important factor in doing good work for anyone, regardless of the business size.
“Thrive is a space that just feels great to work in. The design is nice, the coffee is outstanding and being able to interact with other professionals building businesses is an added bonus.”
Rump thinks once others check it out they will be able to imagine better what they could do with their business in such an environment.
The advantage for clients is that Lindsay Business Hub and Thrive offer users a turnkey operation the minute they walk in. The facilities have all of the amenities and support associated with a professional business setting, including technological connectivity, printing stations, private office space and larger board rooms for group meetings. There are flexible lease and rental levels for short and long-term users, professional support staff, kitchen and washroom facilities, and custodial services. Geraghty, a marketing expert himself, is particularly excited about Thrive’s room dedicated for podcasting.