Launching a coworking space in a pandemic seems counterintuitive, but the B.C. Government’s new West Shore ShareSpace is anything but.
Ann Squires Ferguson, CEO at Western Design + Build, describes the space as confident and optimistic: “It’s leaning into a future self … and how it’s going to evolve. It’s forward-looking with a sense of anticipation.”
That ethos drove progress through the pandemic. It caused some pivots to the project, which had been in the pipeline for years. Research within the B.C. Government’s Leading Workplace Strategies (LWS) team identified that workspaces across North America, both public and private, are typically underused by 40 to 60 per cent.
“It’s the real estate, the technology and HR working together to determine and see what our future focus is,” says Rob Macdonald, director of Workplace Strategies + Planning in the Ministry of Citizen’s Services.
And for ShareSpace, says Macdonald, that focus is “providing as much choice and flexibility as possible.” That goal is increasingly important as the future of work is now even more reliant on flexibility. Other motivations include cost of living, work/life balance, accessibility and the potential to collaborate with “a community that extends the boundaries of your normal office or ministry.”
“We were really talking about compressing the footprint [of an individual], and now we’re talking about expanding the footprint and giving people more space,” says Squires Ferguson of the impact COVID-19 has on how employees would use the space. “That arc happened during design.”
Drawing reference from the work her company had done in the health-care sector, Squires Ferguson and her team were able to respecify materials quickly, choosing hard wearing and easily-to-clean alternatives. Privacy barriers were raised and plexiglass shields added.
“The real magic of this ShareSpace is that there’s so much variety,” says Squires Ferguson of the 85 work points, various sized meeting rooms and flexible features that create an environment that can be personalized.
Capacity has been reduced by half, down to 50 from 100, with new booking and security software giving the ability to analyze the anonymous data for frequency and patterns of use.