By next year, 40 percent of the workforce will be independent workers. The number of freelancers, digital nomads, and remote employees has skyrocketed in recent years, with companies regularly offering contract jobs to those working for themselves. At the same time, bigger organizations struggle to find desk space for those who remain in-house employees.
To match that trend, Vancouver has seen a healthy collection of coworking spaces open up in the downtown core. International giant WeWork is no exception. Four of the five spaces it currently advertises in the city cater to freelancers and companies of all sizes and are situated in prime professional locations: two at the east edge of Coal Harbour, one next to Waterfront, and another in the heart of Mount Pleasant.
While other brands might focus exclusively on snapping up in-demand buildings in the tiny downtown centre, though, WeWork is thinking bigger. Rather than simply clamouring to pick up any office space not locked in by the city’s dismally low commercial vacancy rate, the company is looking further afield.
Building on its Marine Gateway offering in east Marpole, a stone’s throw from YVR, WeWork has announced its first building outside of the city of Vancouver: a brand-new coworking space in Burnaby.
By focusing on urban locations outside of the downtown core as well as its central offerings, WeWork hopes to transform the idea of collective offices.
“Part of our strategy is to open buildings where people are living and wanting to work so that we can cut down commute times and give people their time back so they can do something more aspirational,” Gina Phillips, VP and general manager of WeWork in the Northwest, tells the Georgia Straight by phone from Seattle. “Generally, we’re trying to create this constellation of buildings and touchdown of spaces so we can meet people where they are. Now people who are living in Burnaby and commuting into Vancouver every day have more options.”
The new Burnaby location will be established at Station Square (6060 Silver Avenue). Situated right in the middle of the Metrotown neighbourhood—a 20-minute journey on transit from most major centres in the Lower Mainland—the building will feature two floors and space for more than 1,200 desks. WeWork’s traditional offerings of phone booths, hot-desk areas, various-sized conference rooms, and collections of private offices will all be present, and its art-designed interior will be built around the lounge and reception area: a double-height space flooded with natural light. The pet-friendly building is set to open in September this year.
WeWork’s data has revealed that when a new building opens in a city, it acts as a two-times economic multiplier. That means that for every WeWork location with 1,000 members, an additional 1,000 net jobs are created through indirect and induced employment. As a result, the Burnaby government is excited for the company to launch in the city.
“I am happy to welcome WeWork to Burnaby because they have demonstrated their willingness to engage locally and support diverse communities,” says the city’s mayor, Mike Hurley. “By providing access to thriving workspaces for companies of all sizes, the WeWork model can help businesses get started and grow.”
WeWork has been investing heavily in Metro Vancouver since opening its first space in 2017. Last year, the company’s offerings in the region increased by 180 percent, from 1,435 desks to 4,040. By the end of 2019, it hopes to boast seven locations and show more than 100-percent growth across the Lower Mainland.
Phillips attributes this aggressive expansion to people’s healthy desire to live in the city and Vancouver’s thriving tech industry.
“I would feel confident in saying that the majority of the members that we have work in the tech space,” she says. “Tech can be difficult to recruit for, and to have these beautiful spaces you can choose to work out of is in tune with the style of today’s workforce.…Tech talent has the privilege of being in demand, and to differentiate yourself you might make the same offer from a salary standpoint, but the environment, connectivity, and the ability to have touchdown space in any WeWork building around the globe really adds value.”
Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays