Capital Daily

Revisiting - The Future of Working Culture

Episode Summary

Today we revisit our afternoon at Kwench Work and Culture Club, where we had a conversation about the future of work as the pandemic continues to shift the needs and expectations of businesses and employees. We also discussed what employees should expect from their employers if they don't return to traditional offices.

Episode Notes

Today we revisit our afternoon at Kwench Work and Culture Club, where we had a conversation about the future of work as the pandemic continues to shift the needs and expectations of businesses and employees. We also discussed what employees should expect from their employers if they don't return to traditional offices.    

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Episode Transcription

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Jackie: Hi, my name is Jackie lamport. Today is Monday, September 6. Welcome to the Capital Daily Podcast. Today is Labour Day, so there's not going to be a new episode but in the spirit of Labour Day, a rerun is about the future of work.

For today's episode, we head down to the podcast studio at Kwench. There we meet up with Tessa McLoughlin, the founder and Director of Kwench Work & Culture Club, and Jocelyn Caldwell, the owner and operator of Reimagine Work. As the expectations of employers and employees continue a period of reevaluation, we discuss where the future could go and how all parties would benefit from changes. And we'll also get into how quench has created a community of working professionals from companies all across the country, right here in Victoria. 

Tessa and Jocelyn, welcome to the show. 

Tessa: Thank you, Jackie. 

Jackie: Let's start by addressing the thing we're here for, that's working a hybrid system. Not exactly from home, but not exactly in the office. Why, right now specifically, are we seeing that shift? 

Jocelyn: Well, I think that people who were required to work from home are wanting to have a choice for the next phase of their work life. So for some people, they loved working from home. And for other people, they missed the community that a workplace provided. And so hybrid work is our best approach, moving forward to make sure that we're meeting the demands of our current workforce or current office workforce.

Jackie: So you see people every day who are here for various reasons, and I'm assuming you have conversations with many people. What's something that you hear about the reason that people are shifting to this way of working? 

Tessa: There are usually three common things that we're hearing. We hear the individuals coming in and just expressing that they have to get out of their house. So whether it is that they're going crazy at home, because they're lonely, or they need to make their house a home again, and not an office. We have businesses that are coming in and, knowing that they need to downsize, they don't want to have such a big overhead. So they take a smaller office, but we'll have people rotating through it. We also have sometimes even bigger businesses that are going to move their team completely remotely, and then they are coming in and using our facilities for meeting spaces. The common thread between all of those is connection. People want to feel seen and like they're part of something.

Jackie: So people traditionally are used to working in offices, and the offices typically provided a lot of different resources that I think even looking back on people who were working in offices before the pandemic are starting to realize, for instance, I never paid for my own coffee when I worked in an office. Now that I work from home, I buy a lot more coffee than I used to. Let's talk about what companies should be providing for their employees if they are going to be working remotely, whether at home or even if they are paying for their own workspace. What kind of resources should their employers be offering?

Tessa: I did something with Douglas magazine, an article on this, and I think that during the pandemic, one of the things is everyone was pretty accommodating of everyone. We were all in the same situation and so on. Everyone worked from home with what they could. I think moving forward, we're going to notice that employees are not going to be so willing to take on those costs anymore because it is more costly to the individual. You had to work from home, and you've got your hydro expenses, coffee, all of the things that come with that desk space office space. 

I think that employers will have to embrace what I'm calling "the autonomy to choose," which is where each employee is going to be an individual and what their needs are. So some will want to remain at home. Employers will have to give them an allowance to do that. Then I also think that there might be people who want to work in a space, but a space that they choose, which could be a co-working space, or might be the office, and employees are then going to have to give them an allowance of how to do that. I think it's more around the employer understanding how to best support their employee to be the best for them.

Jocelyn: I think philosophically, any good employer wants to look at an individual as a whole being. And so when we look at, like stipends or even like health care spending accounts, what they do is they offer people choice. And so someplace like Kwench or another kind of model, such as this, allows people to attend yoga classes or pro-D, and meet people with who they are. I don't think we can just look at carbon copies of plans; I think we need to meet people with who they are and how they want to return to the office.

Jackie: Yeah, and this is kind of speculative, on my part, but it seems like companies for a long time were experimenting with different ways to make everybody happy to maximize productivity for a while. That was cubicles that were an open concept. I feel like people kind of discovered that nothing is going to work for everybody. So this almost seems like a solution for businesses, to make sure that each and every one of their employees are happy in their different ways.

Jocelyn: Cubicles and open concept is a great example of some people leaving jobs because the cubicles or the open concepts did not work for them. And so I think it's similar with this, some people will want to stay at home, and we'll leave employers that want them to return to work, or like traditional office space. Other people need to get out of their house, I could be working from home, and I need to get out of the house because that's what's best for me. So I returned to a space that was important for me to do my best work.

Jackie: I think that people are valuing that choice right now. Because there are people who have a family at home that they cannot be around and their workday if they want to be productive, or people who prefer working from home instead of going and being distracted by different socialization, opportunities and such.

Tessa: You've got to acknowledge that workplaces are trying to adapt to that, too. I know some offices like government offices, and things are really trying to adapt to that sort of way that people need to work in different ways. I think you raised a good point: some people can't work from home because their kids are there. Some people need to work from home because of their kids, and then some people don't. We were talking just before we started this podcast about housing; some people don't have the space to work from home. Even though I really liked the whole Zoom thing that has sort of brought reality. Kids running into the screen into this shot or pets, it was nice, but for some people, that's an incredibly vulnerable space to be in. As employers, we need to acknowledge that not everyone's going to be the same. And so allowing people the choice of an allowance or some kind of monthly allowance, and people use it, they need to put the trust back in the employee to know how they work best.

Jackie: Before we move on from that specifically, I feel like some businesses might see this as an opportunity to cut costs when it comes to what their employees deserve. Is there a place for employees who do want to stay at home or want to work remotely? Is there a place for them to start asking their companies for more? 

Jocelyn: This leads into the whole great resignation. The last year and a half, we've had our heads down, and people just did the work that they were asked to do with all the layoffs going on around them. Now, their eyes are much more towards the horizon. I think if people don't ask for what they need, and employers are not willing to listen, then there'll be mass attrition in the workforce. And I think workers can really go to places that accommodate them, especially with the skill shortage. If employers don't want to accommodate them, then they will not keep their workers. So I think it needs to be a conversation, and it probably needs to be an employer-driven conversation. "How can I help you? What do you need from me? What will allow you to stay?"

Tessa: Your point to some employees, both sorry, employers, seeing the cost savings is a huge thing. I would point out that what we've seen here at Kwench is that, yes, there's been savings from the office space. We've also seen those companies lose their employees. And so once again, we come back to that, that autonomy and give people that whatever it is that allowance that allows them to, to choose how they do it, and some people will come into the office, and some people won't because they don't want to travel that far. Some people might use that allowance to get after-school care. So they can work a longer day than finishing at 230, which you have to do when you've got kids that come home from school. So I think it's going to be a change. 

We know that the average cost an employee has to run an office space, the average cost an employee costs, the company is between $750 and $1,000 per employee. So if you look, if a company can look at that and go, Okay, how can we maybe cut that down a bit, and we make it $600. But we give that to the employee and allow them to set up their office, and maybe they have a room in their house that they're not able to rent anymore. That was a mortgage helper, and there are just so many ways that people can use that money.

Jocelyn: I think you need to people, employers need to look at that as like a total compensation, right, you have your salary, you have your healthcare, and then you have your spending account that you put towards your office, whether it be in a co-working space or at home, and you can choose what works for best for you, as a worker, I feel like from a retention standpoint, we need to move to that kind of compensation being part of our packages. 

Jackie: This is something that's been discussed a lot in my personal social circles. Does a company have to provide the computers or whatever electronics or whatnot you're using at home? Should you use your own equipment at all?

Jocelyn: It depends on who the people are and what their employment relationship is. These are the things that people notice. "You work for me, and you are part of my team. I pay for your computer, and I pay for your Zoom." If you have a different consulting relationship with me, then I would not be our viewer, a casual worker on a contract. Those are the kind of things that we need to do as part of taking care of the people who work for us. I think that became muddled during the pandemic. And when you asked earlier around, like, am I okay to ask for my needs to be met? Do you have the tools to do your job? Is it my job to provide you with those tools? As a person who works for me. To clarify, from an employer's point of view, you want to own that stuff. If something happens, and all of that material that you've been working on is on that computer, I want to own that computer. I want that back, and you want to own the Google Drive and all of those things.

Jackie: I didn't even think about it from that side of things. Clearly, I'm not an employer. Let's talk about something that we've been dancing around a little bit. And that's this term, the great resignation, which I'm sure a lot of people have heard, but maybe not explained to them quite yet. Can you break down what exactly that is?

Jocelyn: Yeah, sure. It came out of a professor at the University of Texas, and he talked about this next phase of our working lives being around the great resignation, which means people were taking stock of where they were at in their lives and moving forward, they would want to move into more meaningful work. They would shift either into a gig economy or contract or pursuing their own businesses. And the stats are quite astounding, like 30% of millennials want to leave their current jobs. I think that COVID gave us a lot of time to watch Netflix and think about what we want to do with our lives. Lots of people want to find more meaningful work than they may have historically had, or they're leaving. Places that want them to return to the office or not return to the office, depending on their personal preferences.

Jackie: People quit their jobs, but they aren't doing it to travel the world as was the custom before because you can't. So what are people doing to test it? Have you noticed that people are coming in and working freelance and working for themselves? Is that something that might be taking people from regular jobs? 

Tessa: It's a little bit hard for me to speak to that because we attract freelancers and contract workers and entrepreneurs. So that is sort of our clientele. I think that we've got many people here who are doing amazing things, and it's pretty cool to be around a community of people who are all doing different but amazing things because it propels and inspires you.

Jocelyn: So phone calls, on my end, people want to look at a career change and pursue self-employment, or a lot of people want to look for short-term contracts or different types of work rather than return to a nine to five traditional job. I just don't want to do that anymore.

Jackie: Let's talk about that then a little bit, because it's interesting, a 9 to 5 job always seemed like that's the goal. That's the goal because it has benefits; you have stability. Some workers want some workplaces that will match your pension or whatnot. What's the benefit of people choosing these contract jobs? Are they missing out if they aren't taking the typical cushy jobs? 

Jocelyn: It depends on who you are as a person. It's very rare now that people are calling and saying," Hey, find me a job, that's nine to five with a stable pension." Especially I think that when really what we've shown is that the stability is not what we thought it was, right? They're calling and saying that I want a job that I love to work in a place where I feel valued. I even read a stat on Gallup this morning that says it's easy for me to poach staff from an employer just with a 20% increase in pay. So people are not leaving for money. They're not leaving for pension. I think they're leaving because they want work that matters to them in whatever form that looks like.

Tessa: And I think another stat shows that in the US, over 67% of people would take a pay cut to have more flexibility. So they give him more flexibility but take less money. 

Jackie: It makes sense, especially right now. We've talked about the pandemic to death. But I don't want to go too hard on it, but I feel like people are re-evaluating what matters to them and what their lifestyle looks like. I want to talk more about quench and the types of businesses and people that you're attracting here. You said that you do get a lot of freelancers. I know that you get a lot of local businesses who are kind of using this as their HQ. How does that work? What kind of businesses are you attracting? 

Tessa: It varies greatly as to the people that we have here. We have people who are starting up their own businesses. So we have Fasto, who's an awesome member and has a great product. We have people who work for Nike, people who work for Hootsuite, people who work for Boeing. We also have creative companies that do graphic design work. We have filmmakers, and we have film musicians; we have reciprocity. We have PR companies, lots of First Nations activists, and it's honestly an awesome safe space for people to come and work from. 

One of the companies that we do have is here, which I think I'm not allowed to say anything about, but it's great because they have a lot of business students here. And those business students can come in and mix with all these people who've just been working at Facebook for ten years, and then they've got the ability to sell someone like Jocelyn, or we have Joe, who's an accountant. So they've got on at their fingertips, these other people who they can quickly go, "Hey, Jocelyn, do you know what I would do in this situation?"

Jocelyn: My great existential crisis came three years ago, and what led me to quench it was I no longer wanted to work in a traditional job. The company that I worked for wasn't meeting my needs. I found Kwench, and through quench, I was able to establish my own business and my own path moving forward in self-employment because it is a community that provides you with just so many different resources all in one place. So actually, Kwench was part of my great resignation for myself. I was able to land here in a really amazing way. I have to give thanks to both Tess and the whole Kwench community for being here. Now, 50 to 60% of them are my HR clients, which is quite incredible. 

Tessa: It's so great about being another business in the space because of the amount of time you usually have to spend going to find a graphic designer or a copywriter or HR professional or a bookkeeper. That's a lot of time when you're running your own business. To be able to put a Slack message on, there's a Slack Kwench, and people just go, "Hey, what software do people use for this?" And you get 20 responses. 

Jocelyn: My doctor retired this month, and I asked on Slack, "Can anybody recommend a family doctor?"  I got back a couple of people that were like, "How about you try this?" That's pretty amazing from a community standpoint. 

Tessa: She also asked if she should get a hedgehog. 

Jocelyn: I've gone to the Slack group for all of my self-employment needs, as well as my medical needs. Now I also have used them to determine whether our family should get a hedgehog. 

Jackie: I'm assuming the answer was yes. 

Jocelyn: It was quite incredible. People wore t-shirts, they asked for photographs. They wanted to know all about the hedgehog dilemma.

Jackie: It feels a little bit like a town center in a way, which is fascinating because it's something that we strayed so far away from. Everybody's heard that you've got this local hub, and you got all these people who are able to network so easily. Is that something that you have seen because this workplace idea isn't necessarily completely new? Is that something that Kwench is doing differently or trying to evolve the workplace into?

Tessa: The foundation of quench for me was I wanted to build a space that created that facilitated happiness in people's lives. Now, and that's with the belief that happiness comes from a multitude of things, which is the acronym of Kwench, knowledge, wellness, experiences, novelty, curiosity, and connection, bring health and happiness. So the foundation of happiness is connection. If that's why COVID has been so hard for people is because we've lost that connection. I truly believe that the happier we are as individuals and the more connected we are, the safer our communities are, the more inspiring and innovative our communities are. That's what Kwench is on a small scale, and that's what we hope to be as we expand and grow. 

Jocelyn: Working from home, six or seven hours a day on Zoom, did not meet my needs. This morning, I parked my car at eight, cut through Neighbourly, and got a coffee. I talked about how nervous I was about this podcast, and I can't do that at home. As a person being self-employed, I don't have people that I can connect with in that way. And that, for me, is the beauty of an office community. I can't personally get that from my interactions on Zoom.

Tessa: I think that you can have an office space that does that. We have very, very focused on connecting our community. And that's what makes quench unique to other co-working spaces. I think it's going to be something that's going to be across the board. It's kind of that third wave of CO working. I mean, we're not just space. We offer fitness classes, we offer workshops, and we have a library meditation, and we have all these other things. So with this kind of next-generation working space, do I think you can get this kind of experience in an office with another company? Yes. However, you need to have dedicated people that are there, for the people, because that's what my staff and I were here just for our members. So it's not like we also had to get some programming done or something within the company. It's like, "No, we're here for our members." And so if companies are able to afford that, I think that that's how they could make their workplaces a little more connected. That takes a lot of financial commitment from the companies to do that. 

Jocelyn: And companies need to evaluate.

Tessa: A lot of them don't. 

Jocelyn: They need to value their people and culture and give them the resources to support the staff in the workplace. 

Jackie: Would you say one of the responses to the great resignations, keeping people employed, is moving with these shifts?

Jocelyn: The great resignation is to look at why people might be leaving you as an employer and have conversations and meet them with what they need to be productive and happy and connected and valued.

Jackie: I want to bring this back to Victoria, so Kwench is focused in Victoria, and you have a lot of businesses that are running out of Victoria. Do you feel like the value of Kwench is to a city like Victoria? 

Tessa: Obviously, I'm a little biased. If I think back to what happened at startup COVID, we were in this new building for five months before COVID hit, which was incredibly stressful for a startup and a new company. And we'd taken over 25,000 square feet. So it was very nerve-racking. Honestly, the thing that got us through COVID, and we still haven't really come through it, was the community, and I had so many other business owners and community members reaching out to me and saying, "We have to make Kwench survive. So what do we do? What do you need? What kind of help do you need from us because Kwench has put Victoria on the map, and it's such an amazing space, and we want it to be this big story that goes to Vancouver." So that was so wonderful to hear. It was a lonely and frustrating ride to open up this location. To all of a sudden have all this community behind me helping was amazing. 

Jackie: I will say Victoria is like the perfect place where you could have something like this. A lot of people are moving west to the island specifically to get away from the super busy world that Ontario is or Quebec even. So you get a bunch of people moving here to be closer to nature, working remotely and then looking for a place to find community. It actually kind of seemed like the perfect storm for you.

Tessa: You're right. I think when I was trying to start Kwench, everyone was like, "Don't do it, we don't have the population and people won't come to the events." I just said, "I'm doing it in Victoria because I'm not moving to Vancouver." I do think that COVID has shown companies what it is to have the overhead of a lease. They're going to be out to seek the benefits of a one-year term, which is what co-working usually provides. I want to stress that Kwench isn't the only co-working space in Victoria as there are a lot of other ones that offer different things. And we will often direct people to the best suits where we think they'll be best and where they'll do their best work. I think we're pretty great, but again, I'm biased. 

Jackie: I do want to mention it really quickly. We're getting more into the speculation, which stuff that I don't have facts for, but it feels like workspaces and working remotely could be a driving factor in creating younger communities in different cities across Canada. Right now, Vancouver and Toronto are the places you've got to be if you want to work as a young person. And now we're seeing that you can live in Victoria, be in your 20s and still work for these major companies. Or even if you want it to move to Edmonton or something. Does it feel like this is a future of dispersing Canada's young population, maybe? 

Jocelyn: I think it would be a big mistake, and I have already seen it with some people that have moved to BC, like bigger companies that historically have their headquarters in Toronto, and everyone worked successfully remotely. Now they're saying, "Return to the office." Employees are saying, "I want to move to Squamish, or I want to go to Vancouver." And the companies are saying "No," and people decide to resign. You want me to return to a big city, and I want to go to a place where I can work remotely. It will provide people everywhere with greater opportunities in their careers than we have ever seen before.

Tessa: ​​I had heard that happening quite a lot. And it does make me feel for the companies because I think, I think employees, they're trying to figure it out, too. They're going, especially employees that aren't service-based, like I look at what we are, we're service-based. So my employees have to be here because we're providing a service. I think that's where that working is exactly where the hybrid model is going to come in because you're going to let your employees work remotely, but then the employer is going to have to go, but every month, we all get together at a co-working space or our office and we do a day where we all work together. 

Currently, well before COVID, we have a lot of Shopify employees that are members, and Shopify was doing that before. So Shopify has so many remote workers that they all get together once a month, and they rent out one of our big board rooms. And they all know, 50 of them come, and they work for the day. They have it all catered, and it makes them feel seen and valued and all those things. I think that that's going to be an important aspect to that when people are resigning. Don't let them resign, say "Yes, you can work remotely. But we want you to come in once every three months or once every month." 

Jocelyn: Or don't let them resign. "I hear that you want to go to Squamish. How about we let you work remotely three to four months a year? Would that meet your needs?" I think it's less of a black and white return to work.

Jackie: Let's end this with a question that both of you can answer. What do you think the future of work will look like? Most pandemic is not necessarily your ideal future of work, but what do you think will happen post-pandemic. We'll start with you, Jocelyn. 

Jocelyn: I think it will be around a shift where employers have to get to know their staff and try and meet them where they are at. I think that's the only way that we can

keep a business thriving. 

Tessa: I'm pretty excited because I see the millennials and the Gen Zs. And honestly, every time I do interviews, I am so impressed with this that the millennial generation and the Zs I'm just like, "Holy moly, you guys are going to change the world." It feels super exciting to me. And so I'm really excited for the older generations to be open-minded and willing to change because if there's one thing that we have no control over, it is that giant change is going to happen no matter what. So I think that the world workforce will be more values-based. It's going to be more driven by social and environmental commitments and responsibilities. I'm excited to see that because I might take a word that you just used, it's about time, and I'm excited to see that happen. However the workspace shifts; as long as people remember, you need a connection. I think it's like a frog in boiling water. When people don't get that connection, they don't realize that they're starting to feel depressed. So that would be my only warning for the millennial generation. 

Jocelyn: Can I change my answer? I think I think it's been quite talked down like I am hiring. I am in a power position. What I see now is because of this shortage, like here is what I'm asking for, here's what I need from you. And the employer will have to look more at the demands of the worker rather than vice versa. I think that's going to be a huge shift.

Jackie: Speaking as somebody who's only been in the workforce in the "We have an opportunity for you, you can choose to take this or not" kind of environment. I have heard from my Mother-in-Law about how they used to offer you things that will incentivize you to come work for them. And so if that's right, I'm very interested in seeing what my future employment looks like because that's quite interesting.

Tessa: I think the only thing that I would caveat that way, is that we've experienced recently, too, is that you've got to look at which businesses you're going for when you're asking them. What you're asking of Amazon or Shopify or Apple, you can't ask of Kwench. We can't compete because we have different revenue and business models. It's understanding if you want to go for a smaller company, "What does that look like?" It might look less like less pay. 

Jackie: But your values might align. I think what we're seeing is more important to a lot of people. Jocelyn and Tessa, thank you so much. This has been wonderful. 

Tessa: Thanks, Jackie. 

Jocelyn: Thank you. 

Jackie: If you want to help support Capital Daily’s local journalism, and connect your business with our engaged and curious Greater Victoria audience of over 50,000, email our partnerships team at

Thanks so much for listening to the podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a rating and a review and also subscribe so that you don't miss any episodes going forward. We post new shows every Monday to Friday. My name is Jackie Lamport. This is the Capital Daily Podcast. We'll talk to you tomorrow.