Ignite Spotlight on Business by Quin Hauck
Work Nicer: Welcome Home
Work Nicer founder Alex Putici is reconceptualizing what it means to be at the office by applying his own family-style flavour to Alberta’s coworking ecosystem.
“It would be much easier to just look at it as pure, square footage and chop it up, that’s what a lot of coworking companies are doing” Putici says.
“For us, that’s not what it’s about: it’s a look, a feel… We have offices, coffee and desks, but ultimately it's about the support we can give each other. From there we began to attract like-minded people.”
As Putici explains, this concept applies to every aspect of a Work Nicer outpost; when a member walks in, there is no reception desk, simply a doormat beckoning: “Welcome home.” While creating a productive work environment is central to Work Nicer, by no means is this its sole defining trait.
Alex Putici///Work Nicer
“We are way more of a catalyst than a top-down management approach.”
Work Nicer sees Putici’s guiding philosophy of community care come to fruition, however his outlook began budding before the six years of Work Nicer’s life. Originally working in the security industry, Putici collected perspective and experience by living across the continent, ranging from Toronto to Detroit.
“I wound up back in Calgary but it wasn’t just because I grew up here,” the Taber native explains.
“What I loved about Calgary was the ‘big city, small town feel’ thing. Lots of people say that kind of stuff, but ultimately if you want to make an impact, I felt like this is a great place where you could actually do it. You’re not hindered by too small of a mindset like smaller cities, yet I believe it’s also still possible to break through the noise.”
Putici saw potential in the Calgary and Edmonton community that he re-established himself within, realizing he wanted more than to simply climb the cold corporate ladder.
“There were offers coming up but I wasn’t taking any of them… I ended up taking a journey, and started a charity.”
The charity Putici created is called 100 Men Who Give a Damn, and it is an apt name. The members meet once every quarter and discuss ways in which they can improve the local community, each member donating $100 to a discussed cause. The result is a $10,000 donation four times a year, injected directly back into the community. For Putici however, a fire had been lit and this was just the beginning.
“It’s not the most efficient way to raise money, but then I realized pretty quickly that this isn’t about raising money,” Putici says.
“The charity is not our customer… Ultimately it’s about 100 people from different backgrounds, demographics and industries that are aligned on something greater than themselves.”
This fresh perspective formed the philosophy from which Work Nicer came.
“I realized: I like this, and I’m good at it – this community building stuff. So I thought, how can I do this every day of the year instead of just four days?”
From that point, Putici began from the ground up.
“I’ve got ten people that are in this business group I’m a part of, and it’s the same idea, we’re going through these struggles together, we’re in totally separate industries. We hit each other up for support and advice, a shoulder to cry on, all that kind of stuff… So I thought, let's take these ten people and build this community that we’ve already got started.”
This formed the first ten members of the Work Nicer family. What began in a compact, 3000 square foot office six years ago has branched into four locations across Calgary and Edmonton, creating a community with wider reach than ever before, and remarkably during a global pandemic.
“We’ve doubled our space over the pandemic, our team has tripled or quadrupled. There are now only three of us, myself included, who have been around since before the pandemic.”
While the pandemic has proven the necessity of support during an isolating time— the growing numbers reflecting it— it still has had an impact on Work Nicer and its team.
“We’re in a big mode of putting the pieces back together,” the community builder says. “We have a whole team who has bought into Work Nicer and its dream, yet they have never seen it work in the way it was intended.”
Putici is careful in keeping the true spirit of Work Nicer while still rolling with the punches.
“It’s all a balance of growth as well as doing right by the team and members—it’s about ensuring the experience.”
Work Nicer is aware of the responsibility they hold within the local Calgary and Edmonton professional sphere. Putici explains that he believes small business and entrepreneurs to be the heart of the city; aware of the impact Work Nicer can have on the local economy.
“Beyond the amazing people and inspiration I see every day through our members, we contribute to small business. More jobs are employed through small business than anything else. Imagine if we could add just one job to every small business.”
By strengthening relationships and creating connections throughout local entrepreneurship, Work Nicer has an active role in the growth and shaping of the Alberta entrepreneurial community.
“What are the cool places to go? It’s the small pubs, coffee shops, breweries… how is that not the heartbeat of the community?”
For an organization based on growing through community, Putici and Work Nicer implore the community to keep them in check.
“We want constant feedback and continued patience. What we don’t know, we can’t fix,” the founder explains.
“Feedback, suggestions, gripes, complaints—and a little bit of praise—sometimes I think helps fuel people. But ultimately we want to hear what we can do better. So much of this place is built on members' ideas.”
For Putici, the journey is still underway. The ripples within the Calgary and Edmonton coworking community continue to grow and strengthen, expanding the family and building an even bigger home.