The increasing demand for telecommuting has given rise to the need for space for workers who cannot work from home. Two telecom veterans think they have found the perfect solution by establishing a telework hub outside of Toronto. George Horhota and John Cameron have each held executive positions at BCE Emergis, Cannect Networks Ltd. and ACC TelEnterprises Ltd. They have joined together to form SuiteWorks, a telework centre in Barrie ON that will be able to accommodate 120 workers at any one time. Employees would work out of the centre rather than driving all the way into Toronto. Horhota hopes to have two-thirds of the spaces filled when the building opens in August. "We’ve got a shovel going in the ground in a couple of months," he tells Network Letter. "Just think of a condo that’s already designed and ready to be built, so we’re just going through the sales process right now." Two spots have already been sold with several others expressing interest, he adds. The company has different options available for different work patterns. Horhota expects those who use SuiteWorks’ office complex will be regular attendees. "The hoteling option is designed for those who really are only in one or two days a week," he explains. "Most of our clients, we anticipate, will be coming in four days a week and commuting to their office at least one day a week. Depending on what you do, it could be one day every two weeks." While Horhota and Cameron have gone after potential clients in the high-tech and financial sectors, most of the prospects have approached the company directly. And in most cases, it is the workers who are fed up with long and boring commutes into Toronto who are facilitating the marriage between their employers and the telework centre. "One of the ways that we measure the degree of the burden of the commute is whether the employee’s willing to commit to giving back some of the commuting time to the employer, in terms of putting some extra time in, in sharing the travel savings, and whether they’re actually willing to redirect a portion of their hard commute costs to their employer to help pay for SuiteWorks," Horhota states. "We found in none of the cases have the employers been willing to accept the offer but when the employee puts that on the table it sends a very clear message to the employer that this employee is very serious about this issue and that they may be at risk of losing this employee." He says the telecommuting option can end up providing great savings for all involved. He estimates that a person driving the 90 km from Barrie to the outlying regions of Toronto spends $13,000 a year in gas, depreciation and car maintenance. That figure rises slightly if workers have to drive the extra 20 km into downtown Toronto. Employers realize financial benefits in several ways, Horhota asserts. The costs of replacing an employee who leaves range anywhere from four months to two years’ salary. Commuters who take time off during the workday to go to medical and other appointments waste hours of otherwise productive time. Rent at SuiteWorks’ location in Barrie is more reasonable than that charged in Toronto. "If they’re bursting at the seams, it’s a direct savings in real estate, because our real estate costs are less than what they would be paying in the GTA," he determines. "In all cases, though, they can save at least the fax line, the local phone line, the paper that’s printed, a minimum of $200 a month, that is being transferred from the GTA to our centre." Once the Barrie operation is underway, Horhota and Cameron will explore opening similar centres around the Toronto area. Likely markets would be Cambridge, Oshawa, and either St. Catharines or Hamilton. Eventual expansion to other Canadian metropolises is being considered, Horhota offers.