Co-working giant IWG puts the spotlight on Surrey with another location in the works

The company has over 30 workspaces in B.C. and is continuing to expand

It sure doesn’t seem like it’s a good time to be invested in coworking spaces. WeWork, which was reportedly valued at US$47 billion once upon a time filed for bankruptcy this week. Increasingly, employers are demanding that their workers come back to the office for at least a few days a week. With unemployment starting to rise in North America—not yet in B.C., but some prognosticators think that’s coming—companies could have the upper hand over employees in that debate.

But Wayne Berger remains undeterred. Berger oversees the Americas (North and Latin America) for coworking giant IWG. The multinational giant that has its headquarters in Switzerland operates a handful of different brands (including the popular Regus and Spaces) in countries around the world. And though IWG’s stock hasn’t been averse to industry trends (it’s down some £30 year-over-year on the London Stock Exchange), the company has continued to grow aggressively. That includes British Columbia, where IWG recently announced that its fourth Surrey location (an 18,500-square-foot Spaces office in The Professional Centre) will be open in February 2024.

“Surrey has always been a high-growth, high-demand market—we have grown in Surrey over the last 10 years to support the expanding need,” says Berger over a Zoom call. “If you think about how workers are living and working differently today than ever before, the need for great flexible work locations—co-working locations in each neighbourhood of Surrey—is critical. People are looking to eliminate long commutes.”

It’s not just Surrey, of course. IWG seems intent on expanding to most every major municipality in the province, with locations in Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Langley and Port Moody, as well as the Okanagan and Victoria. The company has some 350 employees across Canada.

And Berger, for one, isn’t worried about employers demanding staff back to work. “The reality is that 90 percent of Canadian workers are demanding the ability to work flexibly,” he says. “It’s become the number one decision-making factor in whether employees stay with their organization or go to another one. Every once in awhile you see a headline like, ‘Companies asking or requiring employees to come back to the office.’ I always read to the second paragraph where it’s more often companies saying, ‘We want people to come back who are close to a corporate HQ for perhaps two days a week.’ That’s not a return to the office, that’s trying to find a way to understand what the future of work looks like for that specific company.”

Berger thinks that, as organizations evolve, they’ll continue to expand geographically and not lean on the office-only ways of the past. It’s a big bet. But as IWG executives speculate about snapping up abandoned WeWork territory, the company’s chips are all in.

“Progressive companies are looking to make sure they’re training managers to manage teams that aren’t present across one location,” he says. “They’re moving away from long-term conventional leases as they expire and looking for optionality, looking to become much more dynamic and flexible. They’re not looking to invest capital in a rigid 10-year lease.”