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When flooding hit Quebec earlier this year, Regus leapt into action to provide shelter from the storm. We speak to Wayne Berger about what that commitment to the local community says about the company itself
In late April this year, a storm hit Ottawa, Ontario. It soon swept across the neighbouring province of Quebec and the city of Montreal, causing the kind of heavy rainfall and flooding that the region could never have anticipated.
“It is not an area that traditionally sees a lot of flooding or a lot of extreme weather patterns,” says Wayne Berger, CEO of IWG Canada and Latin America. (IWG is the parent company of Regus.)
“Canada has quite moderate weather patterns, four seasons a year. This was the most impactful rainfall and flooding that the Quebec region has seen in 100 years. It hit very quickly, and it was quite an expansive area – it literally covered around 100km.”
The storm hit Montreal without warning, and the Canadian armed forces were soon drafted in to evacuate people out of the city, to fill sandbags to control the flooding and to try and mediate. Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes.
For Regus, it was a call to action. “The day after we saw the floods hit,” says Berger, “we decided to gather our thoughts and see how we could provide support to the community. Obviously, there’s the support that’s required for living, but then there’s also the support we can provide in terms of productive workspaces. People need space where they can actually just gather – to be able to conduct work, connect with families, with relatives and just have a safe, dry place to be.
“So, 24 hours after what we saw, we reached out across the country. We let them know that all of our locations across Quebec, the ten in Montreal and three in Quebec City, as well as the three locations in Ottawa, Ontario, were all open to the extended community, so that they were able to meet and find a safe, dry spot. The business and club lounges gave people an opportunity to be able to work for the day, to stay productive, whether it was for their own small business that was forced to close or work that had to be done for a larger organisation.”
All of Montreal’s Regus centres opened their doors. Business lounges and meeting rooms were made available, and people were given the chance to make all-important phone calls, not only to colleagues and clients, but also to loved ones, friends and family. “As well as that,” adds Berger, “we gave people access to fresh water and hot coffee, so they could have a reasonable place to gather composure.”
It’s an approach to community that’s central to the Regus philosophy. At the heart of the co-working idea is a desire to encourage inter-organisational assistance and the sharing of ideas and resources. And, the way Berger sees it, it doesn’t stop there.
“That sense of community has to expand beyond just the member base within that individual centre,” he says. “We need to extend into the cities themselves. I think by doing so, it’s a demonstration of our commitment to the local communities.”
“Frankly, it’s more than just reaching out and extending across the 2.6 million people in the network,” explains Berger. “It’s also becoming a big community leader in the city that we serve.”
Aside from making connections, says Berger, this kind of approach also makes the job really mean something for employees.
“The interesting thing is it actually helps to increase the value that our team members discover in their jobs as well,” he adds. “It’s beyond just selling an office or maintaining a great centre. It’s about building true, immersive, high-value connections. The deeper they connect to what they do every day, the greater the engagement and job satisfaction. They recognise that we’re truly here to build a great revolution.
“I think we’re accomplishing amazing things. I go to bed every day excited about the next day.”
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