‘The staff love it’: Halton businesses find community through coworking


After two decades working from home as a writer and editor, Nancy Fornasiero was conflicted. She loved the freedom of working for herself, but was lonely for coworkers and found herself easily distracted by household tasks. Working from the coffee shop was little better.

“Often I’d run into people I knew and they’d come over and chat, or I’d have a meeting with a client and someone from my personal life would come by and chat about something that maybe didn’t need to be chatted about in a professional environment,” said the Oakville resident. “I could never find someone to collaborate on projects with because I was working home in my silo.”

At the time, she thought she couldn’t afford an office. Now she runs one for herself and dozens of others: Ace Coworking, on Robinson Street in downtown Oakville. She opened the doors to the business in January.

Ace’s patrons are part of a growing movement of businesses and self-employed workers sharing space under one roof, providing workers a sense of community and pooled resources. Ace’s members pay a monthly fee to work from the building, which offers private offices, dedicated desks and hot desks — unreserved workspaces available for any member’s use.

The way we think about work still involves getting dressed and having a place to go.

“A hot desk is compared to your spot at Starbucks, except our chairs are more comfy and the coffee is free and excellent,” said Fornasiero, touting free printing, in-house events and use of private meeting- and phone-call rooms among member benefits. “It’s more like a gym. There is a lot of equipment there but we all share it.”

Ace’s least-expensive monthly membership is $225 per month. People who only need office space occasionally can drop in for $25 per day.

Co-workers often build relationships that develop into business partnerships, she said, adding that the people who do well in a coworking environment are those who want to be part of a community. “For people who are just looking for an office to work on their own, maybe we’re not the place.”

The region boasts several coworking options, including Halton Hive and Founder’s Hub in Burlington, and the Milton Education Village (MEV) Innovation Centre. The 2018 Global Coworking Study by Deskmag, a magazine covering changing workplaces, found that cities with more than a million residents still dominate the coworking sphere. However, “an increased share of coworking spaces is now situated … in cities with between 100,000 and one million inhabitants.

“In contrast, the percentage of coworking spaces in … cities of less than 100,000 people fell slightly for the first time since 2010, to a quarter of coworking spaces worldwide. Located in such cities, they usually have no more than one other competitor — given that a coworking space exists at all,” states a report on the study’s findings published in September.

Kevin Samra, MEV Innovation Centre manager, says his organization has room for between 60 and 70 coworkers, and increasingly often, the space is packed. In addition to appealing to solo workers, he says small companies see coworking as a flexible option, perfect for organizations that don’t have the same number of people in the office every day.

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