Phillip Smith

Working the west-coast way

Have you ever asked yourself the question: Just how portable is my work? Before heading out last week -- the first leg of a four-week, west-coast journey with Melanie -- I asked that question repeatedly with increasing anxiety and trepidation. Now that I've safely landed in a workers' paradise in downtown Vancouver, I can honesty answer that question and say: yep, my work is pretty portable.

Though I've spent time traveling and working many times before, this time I decided to give the "co-working" scene a try along the way. Those of you who've been to the Community Bandwidth office in Toronto, which is nestled in the cozy womb of the Centre for Social Innovation, have probably had a taste of the co-working movement. Though, undoubtedly, the Workspace Cafe in downtown Vancouver is by far the most individualistic workspace that I've visited (and I mean that in the most complimentary way).

Bill MacEwan described an early vision of the space that was free of "anchor tenants," or other larger groups of workers that can tend to detract from the hip, nomadic feel of dedicated co-working space. And, for sure, this experiment is in every way a success; from the overly helpful coffee baristas / space animators, to the constantly-changing faces of polite and busily working people. And then, of course, there is the view. It's hard to not be surprised every time I look up from the glowing screen to see ocean and mountains so close that I can touch them.

Step outside Workspace and you'll find yourself right in the middle of Gastown: one of the hippest, up-and-coming, tech and start-up neighborhoods in Vancouver. In one direction is Communicopia's office, in the other is Bryght's (stop by Thursdays for their regular BBQ lunch), around the corner is Nitobi, and a few blocks away I can find the Tyee and Geist too. It's hard to walk a block without running into people you know. (And, If you happen to run into Andre Charland of Nitiobi on a Friday afternoon, it's likely that he'll insist you visit his home-away-from-home in Whistler for a weekend of hiking, biking, and relaxing with adult beverages.)

One could get addicted to working the west-coast way in no time flat.

Next week: I'll be working from the Web Collective office in Seattle (located in the same building as ONE/Northwest, but I'll try to check out Seattle's co-working movement too, with a visit to Office Nomads and My Day Office.

(Photos courtesy of Miss Melanie)


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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