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Downtown Montréal: Some reflections on new ways of defining its workplace environments

The pandemic has accelerated an existing trend that blended areas of expertise and blurred territorial boundaries in favour of complementary knowledge.

(Image courtesy: Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal)

(Image courtesy: Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal)

The pandemic has accelerated an existing trend that blended areas of expertise and blurred territorial boundaries in favour of complementary knowledge. We saw that happen when Sun Life Insurance announced its intention of opening an office in Mile End, and when the creative agency Sid Lee set up camp in Place Ville Marie offices formerly occupied by the bankers of RBC.

One of downtown Montréal’s key attractions is its urban feel. Its density and its mix of functions attract the kinds of employees who are happy to be free of cars, have access to a wide array of independent shops, enjoy novel dining options like Le Cathcart, Time Out Market or Le Central, and relax in its unique variety of cafés and bars. This is precisely the type of young professional that many businesses are seeking, and it is transforming the choice of location and job type into a strategic decision for attracting a whole new generation of talent.

So choosing Montréal means sending a clear signal—that you firmly believe in attracting talent, your business is growing, and you value having a vibrant and accessible work environment.

Sharing space can build synergies between large businesses, functions and sectors

Reflections by Geneviève Provencher, founder of the Flow human resources platform, and Thomas Bastien, CEO of the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ)

“We strongly believe that flexibility should be at the heart of how we organize service delivery,” says Geneviève Provencher, “but our team wanted a fixed space for working, meeting and exchanging ideas.”

Knowing how much it cost to rent an office—and that it would only be used a fraction of the time—the Flow leader asked two other similar-size businesses to share the space. Some areas would be allocated to separate teams, while other areas would be enjoyed in common.

This concept of having corporate co-tenants, known as space sharing, is on the rise in these post-pandemic times. It provides the flexibility of shared working space but also builds synergies, as people who work in the same place discover each other’s talents.

“This way of organizing offices has all kinds of advantages,” says Thomas Bastien, “First off, our offices are gorgeous and everyone wants to come back in, getting the most out of in-person working. Also, all the organizations that share space are making significant economies of scale, because they are getting top-quality places they would not be able to afford any other way. Lastly, since we share areas like the kitchen and the common room, we have regular discussions on major topics like sustainable health, which boosts the sharing and transfer of information and spurs us on to reach our goals.”

The future of offices

Reflections from Maxime-Alexis Frappier, President of ADCF Architecture

“My own outlook on the future of business offices is changing as the pandemic progresses. That being said, although no one can predict how things will look in five or ten years, we believe strongly that the return to work will be more robust than it is now, and so we strongly believe in the future of downtown and its business offices,” says Maxime-Alexis Frappier.

How do you design an office for tomorrow when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring? The architect says the design progress must focus on agility. “Today we are concentrating on multi-use, adaptable spaces. The era of finely detailed but unchangeable designs is over. Right now we are designing offices like performance spaces, like adaptable places.” That approach calls for moveable furniture and cooling and heating systems that adapt to changing office layouts

“For years, we have been trying to get seniors out of isolation, because solitude can plunge people into distress. Today, we are putting young employees into environments that are not conducive to career development because they are cut off from fellowship and from learning by example while being surrounded by attitudes of complete indifference.” The architect suggests that his clients reduce their office renovation budgets and use the money to create funds for employee wellbeing in the form of social activities or psychological help. Comfort factors like acoustics and brightness should also be taken into account.

And what about attracting new talent?

Reflections of Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

“Office spaces are a strategic investment on many levels. First, the quality of the work space is a strong attraction for talent, especially for university graduates,” he says. “Second, the spaces should be configured to maximize both formal and informal collaboration among the teams, since it will encourage innovation and emulation. Lastly, sharing spaces helps people to adopt and affirm a company’s values,” he says.

“The Espaces et cie platform, created by the CCMM, is aimed at reducing risks in the management of companies’ commercial leases. We want to build synergies between complementary large businesses, functions and sectors and help raise the occupation rate of the downtown offices. That’s a goal we have to reach if we want to save this strategic asset of the city’s economy.”

To learn more about Espaces et cie (or to list or search for office space), visit the platform’s website.



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Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Website: Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

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