Co-working in the Kootenays
You work from home, you’ve got an important meeting with a client coming up, a PJ’s and slippers meeting in your attic office just won’t do and the local cafe just isn’t private enough. What do you do? Where do you go?
You’re a one person operation working from home, or perhaps a virtual worker collaborating online with your team. With the kids crying and playing in the next room, you just need a few quiet moments alone, or perhaps some creative interaction with like-minded others. Where can you go?
These questions are being asked more and more regularly as the growth of home based and virtual workers in the Kootenays has been growing rapidly. For those virtual workers seeking a real space every now and again but not quite a full move out of the basement, guest room, attic or home office, several answers to those questions and more are popping up around the region.
The trend is called co-working and appears to be a natural fit for the ever growing independent and virtual workers in the West Kootenay.
Co-working is a style of work which involves a shared working environment, yet independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those co-working are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Co-working is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space
For years, and particularly since the introduction of higher speed internet to the Kootenays in the early 2000’s a new opportunity opened up to attract so called lifestyle-migrants to the area. The pace and style of life offered in the Kootenays could now be enjoyed as a home base for those whose work may be elsewhere but can work online from anywhere.
In Rossland, this trend was tapped into as a potential source of growth in the community through the Visions to Action project. Labelled as Nomadic Entrepreneurs, a growing host of talented individuals are living and working in Rossland and working virtually, often on projects that have little or nothing to do with the local community. Visions to Actions tapped into that segment of the population for their advice and thoughts on how to grow their numbers. One common theme emerging was a desire for an area to work or meet in occasionally to get out of the home office, without having to rent a space full time, and a creative, collaborative space to meet and interact with similar minded entrepreneurs.
Local entrepreneur Amber Hayes recently picked up on that trend and has co-founded The Hub. Situated on the second floor of the old Bank of Montreal heritage building on Rossland’s main intersection, The Hub is a “drop in office,” with users paying a monthly or drop in fee depending on their needs. Offering Wi-Fi, couches, desks, open and private meeting areas, kitchenette and a presentation / conference room the space is designed to serve both existing local virtual / home based workers as well as those in town visiting in need of a place to work for a few hours.
“The concept is important to both support the remote worker sector and potentially demonstrate a community’s suitability for remote workers to move to,” explained Hayes. “The Kootenay region offers incredible lifestyle opportunities and low cost living. If we can also demonstrate infrastructure and community perhaps we can begin to attract more remote workers to the region and grow the local economy and talent base.”
In Nelson, there is a similar movement brewing. What started as a blog post in late winter of 2012 by Carlo Alcos, writer and managing editor of Matador and cofounder of Confronting Love online magazines, exploring the possibilities of getting together with other virtual workers, quickly gained momentum.
“I've been working independently full time since I moved to Nelson in Oct 2010,” detailed Alcos. “For the past several months I've struggled with inspiration/motivation (I'm a writer/editor) and basically have been craving more structure and social interaction in my work day. I worked in a corporate office environment for around 14 years and there are definitely some things I miss about working with a team (not to say that I'd ever want to return to this kind of office). I got tired of complaining about this and finally decided to actually do something about it.”
Launching the Facebook group “Nelson Independent Co-workers Collective” with the intention of seeking out others in the same boat, his paths crossed with a group working on a parallel project.
“Right when I was about to start doing that, a friend of mine said she saw some flyers in Oso Negro advertising something similar. I went there and found the little card about a co-working space, and that's how I got into contact with Eddy (Boxerman).”
Alcos’ desire to interact and collaborate with other entrepreneurs and Boxerman’s desire to seek out a physical space to launch a co-working collective meshed, word got out and 16 members quickly gravitated to the concept following local media coverage of their ideals.
The group is currently seeking out space with several leads as they carry their ideas momentum forward into a co-working reality in Nelson.
If you do find yourself in need of the occasional get-away to a professional office space occasionally but aren’t ready to make the leap of renting your own office space, or just need some human interaction with other creative individuals, the rapidly growing co-working trend locally may have just have both your answer, and the seed for future economic growth in the Kootenays.
The Hub, Rossland
Phone: 250 368 7618
Nelson Independent Workers Collective