Interview with Living Lab expert Louise Guay on the future of work environment

Louise Guay

Louise Guay is a president of Montréal Living Lab, a centre for co-creation and open innovation where she manages projects on the future of work, co-working spaces based on Blockchain, urban mobility, gamification and open economy. Her work focuses on experimenting with new approaches to public consultation in urban co-design. Louise shared her insights about the future of work environment and workspaces. First co-working space has been opened in Montreal last year, with 300 more to follow. We were eager to hear more about this new concept of office sharing environment where users can book an office via a mobile app and access it 24/7. 


Why did you decide to embark on this project? 

Montreal Living Lab was founded in 2010 when the concept of Smart City was still bubbling up. In Montreal, sustainable mobility was one of our major issues. Studying large traffic attractors such as workplaces and universities, we put our focus on the future of work and the work spaces. Developing the Interspace Network as a way to bring work closer to where people live seemed the most impactful approach to provide sustainable mobility to Montreal.


What are the benefits of co-working?

Benefits depends on stakeholders. For end-users it is: to Break out from isolated home environment; Better business opportunities; Better work-life balance; Time savings; Gas savings and Less stress. Employers benefit from reduced real estate footprint, reduced fixed cost of work and transitioning towards results-based management. Cities experience neighbourhood revitalization, reduced traffic confestion and as a result less CO2. And finally, space operators benefit from this new working environment by having a reduced vacancy rate, higher revenues per square foot, increased occupancy 24/7 and reduced management costs by allowing self-service. 



Could you predict this new type of work environment to become a norm in the 21st century?

Self-employed workers are expected to grow from 20% of active work force to 40% in 2020. Flexible working schedules and mobile environments are combining to provide people with the choice to work from home, in an Interspace or at the central office. Being able to get office services on demand, in real-time, and in a safe, open and confidential environment, is in high demand in the digital economy.


You have launched a prototype of the shared offices. What kind of feedback did you receive from its users?

Too early to say. We need to open many more spaces so people can benefit from the network effect. A critical mass of closely related spaces will provide services to people closer to their home and needs. For this to happen, the network must be dense and intertwined.


What kind of users book the offices? Do they interact with each other in the office? 

  • Freelancers and entrepreneurs are the firsts to show up.
  • The Federal Government of Canada wants to use the Interspace Network for their employees. They will get more flexible schedules and a choice of spaces to work at.
  • Also, colleges and universities want to open public Interspaces on their campus to develop an entrepreneurial mixer approach.


How does co-working help deal with urban congestion? 

As more than half of the daily working population of Montreal goes back to sleep at night in suburbs and regions, working just a few days per week near their home has a direct impact on traffic.


Will you be joining us at the OpenLivingLab Days 2017 to present your project? If yes, please explain what you would share with other Living Lab practitioners.

Yes we will join.

We will share the societal aspects: 

  • How people need to be supported to create their own jobs. 
  • How a collaborative space network (like Interspaces) helps to support economic development, entrepreneurship and innovation. 
  • How algos can help to select space locations and sizes, and match people's talents with business opportunities. 
  • How Interspaces can revitalize and develop eco-villages.


Interview was conducted by Spela Zalokar on 28 February 2017