Ottawa

Federal public service co-working spaces popping up

Can't stand your commute? Working from home not an option? Welcome to one of the federal government's new co-working space near the Ottawa airport.

2-year pilot project will see 5 co-working spaces in capital, 5 across country

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) employees Sonia Powell, director general of workplace solutions and real property services, and Frédéric Guénette, a program manager. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Thousands of government workers commute from outside the downtown core to office buildings in central Ottawa and Gatineau, snarling traffic during rush hour.

Some people arrange to work from home, but that option's not always possible, appropriate or productive.

To address the problem, the federal government is setting up up co-working spaces in both cities as part of a two-year pilot project expanding across the country.

Two already opened in May: at L'Esplanade Laurier on O'Connor Street in Ottawa, and at 335 River Rd. near the Ottawa airport.

They feature collaborative work areas, no assigned seating and desks that allow people to sit or stand. Workers bring their own laptops and mobile phones. 

"You bring what it is you need, you plop down for a few hours, and then you go about the rest of your day," said Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) program manager Frédéric Guénette during a recent tour.

Here's part of the federal government's new co-working space at 335 River Rd. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

There's no printer, either. This is a truly paperless workplace.

"This is a very progressive environment. People who absolutely do need to print, they can always go to their regular place of employment and go about that business, but here we strive to promote the best practices," Guénette explained.

Communal work areas promote collaboration, PSPC says. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Sonia Powell, director general of workplace solutions for PSPC, said workers value more natural light, a clear separation between work life and home life, reduced commute times and greater work-life balance.

Some people also appreciate being around others while they work, instead of sitting at home alone.

"Myself, I'm somebody who likes to be around people when I'm working — not necessarily interacting with them directly, but having that sense that there's people around," Powell said.

A few reviews

Stéphanie Girard-Bossé, who lives in Ottawa and normally works in Gatineau, said it used to take her 50 minutes to drive each way to and from work. Not anymore.

"It's super close to my place," she said.

This desk, unlike most others, has a phone for teleconferencing. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

James White, who lives in rural west Ottawa, commuted for an hour and 15 minutes twice a day to and from his office.

"A lot of saved commuting, a lot of saved money and gas, a lot of saved everything," he said. And he likes the look of the place, too.

"This is a big step up from even where we are, which is pretty modern."

Signage for a quiet zone. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Rola Teriaky's commute from the Glebe/Old Ottawa South area used to take her 25 minutes, but lately has been taking more like 45.

She appreciates not having to do that anymore and likes the separation from the hustle and bustle of the traditional workplace.

"I see [my team] often enough. Sometimes it's kind of nice just to telework and be away from all the business of the office, because you get a lot more done. You can be a lot more productive," she said.

Future co-working locations

  • Place d'Orléans is set to open in July 2019.
  • 555 Legget Dr. in Ottawa is set to open in August 2019.
  • 480 De La Cité Blvd. in Gatineau is set to open in August 2019.

The government is also opening co-working locations in other cities:

  • 655 Bay St. in Toronto is set to open in July 2019.
  • 3400 Jean-Béraud Ave. in Laval, Que., is set to open in December 2019.
  • 1 Challenger Dr. in Dartmouth, N.S., is set to open in December 2019.
  • A space in Vancouver is set to open in July 2019.
  • A space in Edmonton is set to open in July 2019.
Workers can choose to sit or stand at their desks. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Participating federal departments

  • Canada Border Services Agency.
  • Canada School of Public Service.
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  • Health Canada.
  • Canadian Heritage.
  • Infrastructure Canada.
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
  • Natural Resources Canada.
  • Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Public Services and Procurement Canada / Translation Bureau.
  • Shared Services Canada.
  • Statistics Canada.
  • Women and Gender Equality Canada.
  • Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
It's not a full kitchen, but you can microwave some food. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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