Woman typing on laptop in cafe

Those who work from home or out of noisy coffee shops are finding new places to get their fix thanks to shared work spaces popping up across the world. (Hero Images/Getty Images)

World | Trends

Forget flex hours. Now it’s all about flex locations.

There’s a growing trend of working from non-traditional workspaces and choosing those places can depend on your mood 

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A little office banter goes a long way during the workday. And those who work from home or out of noisy coffee shops are finding new places to get their fix thanks to shared work spaces popping up across the world.

“When I started, there were about 10 of us in the world,” says Ashley Proctor, executive producer of Canada’s Global Coworking Unconference Conference (CGUC), on global coworking spaces. “Now there are about 18,000 spaces.” Canada, she says, has between 400 and 500 coworking spaces, which is quite strong per capita.

Experts point to a growing freelance market, the rise of technology which allows mobility and overcrowded corporate office space as reasons for this growing trend. A 2017 GCUC report predicts that by 2022 there will be more than 30,000 coworking spaces globally.

“The workforce is more mobile than ever before,” says Proctor. “Technology is a good start—now it’s just possible. Many people who work for big corporations have the option of working remotely.” She adds that people who work from home may feel isolated and coworking offers a sense of community, while providing a productive place to work.

Coworking and shared work spaces are available in everything from a traditional office setting, to a restaurant rented out as an office during the day, to niche women-focused office spaces.

“It’s like flavours of ice cream, there’s something for everyone,” says Proctor, who encourages people to find the right space for them and feel comfortable in their new work community. Proctor has seen some coworking members share a space for several years. “It’s a family, more than anything.”

Besides community, Justin Raymond, founder of Toronto’s Flexday—a shared workspace company which offers monthly memberships to work in places like trendy restaurants during the day while offering bottomless coffee and other amenities—sees the flexible work arrangement as a movement that will continue to gain traction.

“Employees value time over money, they value happiness over money, they want more time with families,” he says. “The concept of the nine-to-five work day is dying. You can work from wherever…and it’s more beneficial to choose where you want to work.”

Raymond says working close to home, such as at a neighbourhood coffee shop, avoids a long commute, which is how Flexday originated. And while freelancers and consultants make up the largest of his membership base, the company also works with HR departments who offer corporate passes as a company perk. “It allows people the flex work arrangements they want…and still leads to productivity,” he adds.

Flexday has been in market for just nine months, but already has 2,000 members in Toronto with plans to be operating in 50 restaurants by the end of 2018. “You’re going to see 45 per cent of the workforce moving into freelance-type roles by 2020. These are changing times,” he says.

FOR MORE

Freelancing is taking off in many industries. Read Pivot magazine’s Lessons from the Gig Economy for a more in-depth look. Those looking for more privacy in their workday will find valuable insights in Private spaces make for a balanced workplace.