They call it The Retreat. The 8,000-square-foot on-site/off-site office in the former Monk House in Kanata serves as a kind of home away from home for Fullscript employees.Tyrie says shifting demographics and employee preferences guided the Fullscript decision. Pre-pandemic, about 70 per cent of Fullscript’s Ottawa employees lived in or near downtown, whereas now 50 per cent live downtown or east of it and 50 per cent live west of Bronson Avenue. “For a lot of people, it is about commuting after being in their homes for a long time,” Tyrie says, citing employee feedback. “It takes a lot for somebody to get in their car and pack a lunch and put on office clothes, so putting it closer to their home makes such a huge difference.” Tyrie admits that typical downtown amenities are lacking in Kanata. It's a great place to take a beautiful hike at lunch, but you can’t grab a quick meal and coffee, she points out. Cross says the push for businesses to meet employees where they are is shifting the thinking around development as well. Questions about amenities are more common. “Amenities used to service people where they work and so the downtown is full of dental offices, coffee shops and dry cleaners that are no longer being actively used by workers coming to downtown,” Cross says. “So, we need to recreate those amenities spaces where people live.”
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They call it The Retreat. The 8,000-square-foot on-site/off-site office in the former Monk House in Kanata serves as a kind of home away from home for Fullscript employees who used to work downtown. Heather Tyrie, chief talent officer with the Ottawa tech company, says the limestone heritage house at the end of a wooded drive had just the feel they were looking for. “The vibe that we went with when we renovated this place was that it needed to feel like home,” Tyrie says. “We kept the original wood floors. We didn’t really change the character of it.” The heritage house has been renovated as a meeting and team-building space that opens onto modern-style offices at the rear and complements Fullscript’s downtown offices at Constitution Square. The company’s 250 Ottawa-based employees are free to choose their preferred workplace — Kanata, downtown, or remote — with a desk reserved for those who are in the office more than three days per week. The Kanata location opened in September and is, according to Tyrie, a response to the pandemic, employee preferences and company growth. Jennifer Cross, business development manager with Marant Construction, thinks more businesses will “need to start taking a risk” as Fullscript has done as work patterns change.
“We’ve seen employers surveying their workers — meaning if hubs were open, where would those places be — and what we’re seeing is that in neighbourhoods like Orleans, Barrhaven and Kanata, employees want to eliminate the commute but still have the opportunity to work with their colleagues and out of their own house,” Cross says.
Cross likens it to the need for so-called 15-minute neighbourhoods that put a person’s day-to-day needs just a short trip from home. Josée Anne Pronovost, an architect and partner with Linebox Studio, has experience in this tricky multi-play of building a holistic workplace ecosystem that also accounts for informal social spaces. Linebox designed the Hub350 tech centre in Kanata aimed at boosting tech community interaction. The Hub350 space, located in Mitel’s former headquarters at 350 Legget Dr., is a meeting place for industry leaders, academia and finance professionals to collaborate on projects. The 12,000-square-foot “living lab” features open-concept meeting rooms as well as smaller private offices, lounges, booths, seating areas and auditoriums with stadium-style seating where founders can pitch their businesses to potential investors. In addition, it houses a full-service media studio where companies and individuals can produce and broadcast stories and promotional materials. “But then you also need the other interacting spaces,” Pronovost says. “So, the coffee shop and the grocery store and the corner store and the pharmacy and the restaurants.” Linebox is now finalizing another project that also reimagines the work and home life relationship, although the aim is almost opposite that of Fullscript in Kanata. Linebox is converting a commercial property at 473 Albert St. into 100 apartments for CLV Group, with the aim of enticing residents into repurposed offices. Among many baked-in amenities is a remote business centre.
“A place to work from home, but not necessarily in your home,” is how Pronovost describes it. “It's of the time, whereas we're talking about office spaces being vacated and the building parks of the government being now potentially up for grabs. And what do you do with those buildings?” Pronovost notes that repurposing a building is not the easiest thing to do but it is a sustainable option. “We're in a time of a lot of reinvention, a lot of rethinking,” she says. Cross says it remains a time of uncertainty but also a time for action. “I think any company that can be agile right now is going to be successful,” she says.