Working from home: an escape from the creativity-killing drudgery of office life? Or a lonely pit of Facebook scrolling, Netflix-induced procrastination? In truth, it’s probably a bit of both.
Over the past decade, shared workspaces for creative types and online entrepreneurs have been popping up in cities across North America as a way to remedy this twin-edged sword of home-based work. The idea is simple: provide a space where independent business people can work, network, socialize and stay focused.
Yellowknife is set to get its first shared workspace shortly, with the launch of Good Company Co-Working and Innovation Centre in the old Union of Northern Workers building on 52 St. The space, which is expected to “soft-launch” in April and be fully up and running by the summer, will have around 25 desks laid out in a open-office concept, a bookable conference room, printing equipment and a kitchen. People will be able to sign up for membership packages based on the number of hours a week they’ll be using the space, which will likely range from less than $100 a month up to several hundred a month for full-time use.
“We want it to have very distinct membership packages,” says project lead James Young. “If someone is looking to use the space, say they got a 9-5 but just need a space to come in on Thursdays to work on a pet project, there’s like a ten-hour-a-month membership, all the way up to the dedicated desks, if there’s a demand for it.”
Beyond the physical space with office-like amenities, Good Company – a sub-organization of IserveU*, though separate from the yet-to-materialize e-democracy platform – is hoping the space will become something of a networking and innovation hub for Yellowknife’s growing “creative class.”
“I’ve seen coworking spaces referred to as something like facilitating serendipity, giving people with a diverse set of skills facetime with one another and hopefully making things that are greater than the sum of their parts,” says Young. “This interdisciplinary group of people who happen to share the same space… might be able to put a bid in on a project or a tender, that they wouldn’t even have been able to consider on their own.”
This has already started happening in Whitehorse, where a shared workspace called (co)space opened up last fall and already has around 30 members.
“We have four independent business people working together doing a kind of test project to see what contracts they could take on,” says (co)space program director Alessia Guthrie. “As independents they can only take on so much, but as a group they can take on larger contracts … They knew each other beforehand, but have only started doing that since opening the space.”
As Whitehorse is doing, the Yellowknife version is hoping to offer their members workshops several times a month. These could include sessions on basic business skills like bookkeeping and marketing to more niche courses on programming or digital mapping, says Young. Unlike Whitehorse, the group hasn’t yet managed to secure territorial funding for the project or deals with companies like Northwestel, which provided six months of free internet to (co)space. But Young says they’re working on it, and actively seeking partnerships with organizations in town: “We see this as both a piece of social infrastructure for the city and also to help with economic development. So for organizations and individuals interested in either of those pillars, we would definitely like to sit down and talk about ways to be involved together.”
“It is a not-for-profit venture, but it is something that we want to have self-sustainable on its own as soon as possible,” he adds. The plan is to “build it up through bootstrapping and anything extra we’re able to furnish though grants, that’s fantastic. But one of the things that’s very important is that it’s a self-sustaining entity.”
How the whole thing shapes up, in terms of programming, interior design and amenities will depend in part on input from members and would-be members; as Young says, “The things that I want are not necessarily what everyone wants.” The group’s first public engagement session is this Friday from 5:30 to 7:30, where they’ll be doing a walkthrough and presenting some design ideas.
*Full disclosure: Paige Saunders, founder of IServeU, is a partner in Verge Communications, which publishes EDGE North. He has no influence on EDGE North editorial content.