New Montreal office building has perks to lure back staff: an arena and field on the roof

Pierre-Antoine Fernet has a shirt adorned with his personal motto: "Work, play, thrive."

For the 41-year-old serial entrepreneur, the three words sum up how he sees life. When he got into the real-estate game a few years ago, staying true to it led him to a niche.

“I just felt the offices could do a little bit better," he says.

Anyone who's usually stuck in a cubicle they're not too fond of would probably agree.

Fernet designed the new Fabrik8 building on Waverly St., in the quickly transforming Mile-Ex neighbourhood, to rival anything Silicon Valley has to offer -- but with a distinctly Canadian twist.

On the roof, there’s a refrigerated rink, which in the summer months becomes a soccer pitch and basketball court. Fernet says when the pandemic is over and people return to offices, his will have shinny games at lunchtime and after work.

There’s also a huge gym, a ping-pong area, a lounge that will host events, and a cafeteria that serves gourmet, healthy meals. 

“The whole idea is to offer the most options possible for those people who want to get in shape and stay in shape," he says.

The office space will be leased to various tenants.

It’s far from a new concept -- tech companies have a long history of giving their employees perks -- but in COVID times, buildings like Fabrik8 are getting new attention. 

Fernet says he’s heard from employers who are eager to get their workers back to the office but are having a hard time convincing them.

“A lot of people seem to like working from home," said David Inzlicht, the founder of Proforce Personnel. He points out that many are saving time in commuting.

”When you just have to wake up 15 minutes before working versus an hour before you start working, it’s a convenience factor,” he said.

But some CEOs still wonder whether productivity will increase when everyone is under the same roof.

“It definitely brings a lot in terms of team spirit, all of us being in the one location,” said Karen O’Mahony, the CEO of Brandlucent, who recently took office space at Fabrik8.

“It definitely works from a creative standpoint, where people can actually work together, brainstorm together.”

but O’Mahony believes that in order to get workers back to the office, many employers may have to find new ways of motivating them.

“Company culture isn’t always about the things that we see, but it’s about treating people well," she said. “And this is a way that we show people that we’re treating our employees well.”

Inzlicht adds the local labour market remains tight and employers are desperate to find the best employees.

“Offering more money is just not enough," he said. "People want better conditions, people want to be able to go into an office that’s vibrant, people want a culture, people want extra amenities.”

Fernet believes that with his NHL-quality rooftop rink and professional gym, he has one answer.

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