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Nov 17 2011

How Co-Working Can Save You Money

There was a time in the mid-1990s when lots of people thought the conventional office building was doomed. The commercial property bubble had popped, a recession hit and, with the advent of the Internet, many figured the downtown towers and suburban office parks might never recover. We’d all soon be working from our homes.

Like so many predictions around the Internet, it was wrong, or at least premature. Commercial office space would claw its way back. Cranes would once again crowd skylines, busily erecting new monuments to the nine-to-five.

Nearly two decades on, though, the way and the place many of us work has changed. In 2008, nearly one in five working Canadians—evenly divided between employees and the self-employed—worked from home, Statistics Canada reports. And the momentum for so-called telework is growing.

In September, the City of Calgary, which has some of the highest office rents in the country, adopted an Alternative Workplace Strategies policy encouraging employees who can to work from home. A study commissioned by the city’s economic development authority estimated that the bottom-line benefits of telecommuting for employers, employees and communities across Canada could be as high as $53 billion a year.

Yet for a growing number of untethered workers, home isn’t the answer, either. So hybrid solutions are emerging—halfway houses of the working world with names like “virtual offices” and “co-working” spaces. While their formats vary widely, the common denominator is a desk and Wi-Fi access, often available on a drop-in basis and by the hour.

In 1995, Ralph Gregory took the concept of the hosted business centre—where you lease an office or room but share reception, office machines and additional amenities with others—a step further when he founded Intelligent Office in Boulder, Colo. Instead of renting office space per se, the company focused on helping entrepreneurs work at home without compromising their privacy or corporate image. That meant providing a mailing address, phone number and live reception service and, when needed, an office or meeting room.

Today, 10,000 subscribers paying $50 a month and up can rent an office for $20 an hour at any of Intelligent Office’s 20 Canadian locations, says Brian Monteith, who bought the national franchise in 2005. For small-business people who mostly work at home or on the road, office space “is now a variable cost instead of a fixed cost. They only pay for what they use,” he says. Each of the company’s locations has 18 to 20 workstations providing a desk, Internet access and a phone that, at the touch of a four-digit code, can be “hot-desked” to show your company identity on outgoing calls.

But even a phone is more than some independent workers need or are willing to pay for in this wireless age. Still others crave the energy of working around other people and the discipline that comes with leaving the house. For them, there is now the option of co-working.

The term was coined in 2005 by Brad Neuberg, a freelance computer programmer and one of the founding members of the Spiral Muse collective in San Francisco. Similar shared workspaces, both co-operative and for-profit, sprang up in other cities, as did a Google co-working group that defined the movement’s principles as collaboration, openness, community, accessibility and sustainability.

Today, there are dozens of co-working spaces across Canada, ranging from the high-profile Hive Vancouver (where a desk costs $4 to $7 an hour) and the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, to Thunder Bay, Ont., Charlottetown and Prince George, B.C. Co-working sites range from coffee shops with simple lines of desks to pricey designer rooms. Most let you try before you join, so you can find out for yourself if it’s too noisy or you feel funny talking on the phone next to strangers.

“The trick with co-working is putting people at the centre,” says Susan Evans, who co-founded Seattle co-working space Office Nomads in 2007. Evans concedes co-working isn’t for everyone—“some people need a silent, serene, private space to get their work done”—but it’s an option for people who feel isolated or less productive working at home all the time.

While offering workers choices, the emergence of drop-in workspace is also sending a message to employers, says Robyn Bews, who manages Calgary Economic Development’s WorkShift program, which promotes the use of technology to reduce commuting. According to research, she notes, 30% to 50% of cubicles or offices in traditional spaces are empty at any given time. “Where are these people? They’re working in other places”—boardrooms, coffee shops, a partner’s site, wherever they can be most productive. Providing dedicated space for every employee is not only anachronistic, she says. It’s a waste.

Nov 1 2008

Virtual Office a Real Success

By Entrepreneurship Expert Roger Pierce, www.BizLaunch.ca

Brian Monteith is looking for convenience and rewards from his Visa Business card.When small businesses need presence in major centres - but can't justify the overhead - a virtual office is often the preferred workplace solution. Virtual offices are shared spaces available for temporary use, with all the amenities of a real office. With premium locations and à la carte services, Intelligent Office (www.intelligentoffice.com) offers small businesses, consultancies, and start-ups a prime address and all the services they need - in an easy, cost-efficient, 24/7 solution.

Intelligent Office is a prestigious franchise of virtual offices with locations across North America. Brian Monteith, president of Intelligent Office in Canada, purchased one franchise in 2005, saw the success, and purchased the master rights to sell Intelligent Office franchises throughout Canada in 2006.

To promote the business, Brian advertises extensively on radio. He buys radio time with his Visa® Business Card. "It's more convenient than writing cheques. I earn points and defer the payment to the end of my card's invoice cycle. There is a huge upside to using my Visa Business card," says Brian.

Brian also uses his Visa Business Card for traditional expenses such as travel. "Because we're selling franchises across Canada I travel a lot. The card makes it easy to book hotels, travel, and entertainment." Then, when the statement arrives at the end of the month, it's used to reconcile the books. "The organization of the statement into categories like restaurants, entertainment, and travel shows me where I'm spending my money and helps with accounting."

Intelligent Office started in Boulder, Colorado in 1995. Clients can use Intelligent Office locations at over 50 locations across North America. With a complete menu of services and anytime-access to their offices, clients enjoy a complete office solution customized to their needs.

The remote reception services are particularly popular. Intelligent Office has up to 8 receptionists working at their call center at one time so that clients and their customers always get personal service. Receptionists will answer and screen a call, announce the call, and direct it anywhere in the world. If you're a home-based business, reception services give callers the appearance of a fully staffed office.

Intelligent Office helps small business avoid leases, equipment, and staff with a quality location and support at a fraction of the cost. The virtual office is an alternative to consider.

Please call me anytime
(416) 929-3500

Lisa Toste Regional Sales Manager

Intelligent Office, Toronto (Hudsons Bay Centre)

“Let me work with you to help make your business grow.”

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