Everything is now WeWork

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Coworking SaksWorks A space in Greenwich, Connecticut, tucked away inside what was once a Saks Fifth Avenue department store, looks like a well-equipped library where no one reads: a fireplace, plush couches and large plant pots. When I visited on a Monday in March, the books on each wall, grouped by color rather than topic, provided an eye-catching backdrop for my afternoon Zoom meeting. There were several rooms I could have booked to make a more private call, but the space was so sparsely populated that it hardly seemed necessary.

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SaksWorks was something of a marriage of convenience for a retailer looking to repurpose some of its real estate as in-person purchases dwindle, and We are working, the fallen coworking giant that ruled the space until recently. (parent company of Saks Hudson’s Bay Co. since invested heavily in Convene, WeWork’s rival, who will take over.) The unlikely transformation also speaks to a special consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic: the office can be anywhere these days. And every office is more and more like WeWork.

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This is an unexpected twist. The collapse of WeWork is legendary – or at least in podcasts, books, Hulu documentaryand Apple TV+ series. By 2019, the coworking pioneer had skyrocketed to a $47 billion valuation thanks to stylish, convenience-rich office space and overzealous venture capital. But as the company prepared to go public that year, questions arose about its viability. Within weeks, Adam Neumann, the charismatic co-founder responsible for much of WeWork’s myth-making, stepped down as CEO, the company’s valuation dropped to $10 billion, and the IPO was frozen.

But while WeWork has become a cautionary tale, U.S. office life has quietly adopted a few of its core principles. Many workers who have spent the last two years at home – a small part of the total workforce – are being called back to offices that look different from the ones they vacated in 2020, with fewer jobs and more open spaces dedicated to developing a collaborative work. A survey conducted by CBRE, a commercial real estate company, found that 51% of respondents expect flexible spaces to take up a significant portion of their offices in the next two years. Even the US government is working on its own pilot co-working space called FlexHub for federal employees and contractors. Commercial landlords are also adding co-working spaces to their buildings.

Those employees who do not have a company office also have the opportunity to work anywhere: in elite residential complexes; Sojo, Korean style day spa in new jersey; and a music venue, bar, arcade, and arts venue targeted at communities of color called 7th West in Oakland, not to mention WeWork and its many competitors like Industrious and Daybase. Even virtual co-working spaces appeared.

“The office is undergoing major changes,” says Paul Fiorilla, director of research at commercial property analysis firm Yardi Matrix. Employers, he said, must now justify to employees why they should come in person.

A LinkedIn survey found that 87% of its employees actually want to go to the office — at least part of their work time. The company lets workers and teams decide when to show up and has redesigned its Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters to focus on meetings or open spaces rather than desktops, says Shannon Hardy, LinkedIn’s vice president of flexible working. It now includes amenities such as cafes open outside mealtimes and library “deep focus zones”.

LinkedIn assigns workers to “districts,” areas dedicated to specific teams or work functions. Other companies have adoptedhot desktop” when you arrive and take any available seat, or “hotel” where you can reserve your seat in advance, usually through an app.

For companies that rent out their offices, moving to flexible space can be an effective way to reduce space and save money, even if some workers report they miss the dedicated table. “I would be sad if I once appeared in my place in front of a stranger,” says one Spotify employee who always returns to his pre-pandemic New York office job, even though his office offers better real estate. “Next door”. “. In late 2020, Dropbox ditched desktops and perks like free food prepared by chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants in favor of a “virtual first” setup. Former employees said business insider that the transition hurt the company’s culture and retention.

Even more solid jobs such as banks and law firms not immune to the trend. Last year, HSBC moved to a public offering – even for executives – at its London headquarters, as part of a plan to reduce overall office space by 40 percent, according to Financial Times. JPMorgan made similar switch.

Open table systems are nothing new; advertising agency TBWAChiatDay actively experimented with it in the 90s, and this attempt WIRED called a resounding failure at that time. Some of the frustrations found may be fixed today programmatically-including offer from WeWork and Yardi to book tables, find time for teams to work together, and manage the distribution of people around the office.

I spent a couple of weeks working in various co-working spaces, including WeWork. six-story exhibit overlooking the Brooklyn Navy Yard, restaurant which goes from weekday brunch to happy hour at 2:30 sharp, climbing walland outpost Bond Collective so well furnished – “like a house in Soho,” one of my WIRED colleagues commented when I sent the photo to Slack, “you almost forgot that it overlooks a scrap yard on the industrial outskirts of Greenpoint.”

The spaces were inviting, sometimes beautiful, but seemed eerily devoid of personal belongings and collective noise. From time to time I found myself looking up from my computer or walking down the corridors of mostly empty glass-walled offices looking for signs that someone was living the “do what you love” principle stamped on key cards. We Work.

It’s a far cry from WeWork’s heyday, when individual offices were small, but the open spaces felt like the lobby of a busy boutique hotel. The premises were “a cool, cool place to work,” says Insurtech CEO and former WeWork regular Paul Gaglioti, referring to the events as well as coffee, beer, food and the occasional dog hanging around. Without that ecosystem of like-minded people in a well-designed space, it’s just “four walls and fruity water,” according to one former WeWork employee, referring to one of the company’s trademark perks in the days it was failing. VK money.

In an effort to get its finances in order, WeWork appointed real estate industry veteran Sandeep Matrani as CEO in 2020, and the company finally went public in 2021. Today, her reduced portfolio is centered in places like New York, Austin and Miami. , says global head of real estate Peter Greenspan, “cities where space is at a premium and creative and entrepreneurial workers flock. About half of its business is with large companies, many of which have found themselves during the pandemic with what Greenspan calls “albatross leases”: multi-year contracts that no longer meet their needs. The average WeWork membership agreement is 20 months, and offices can be set up quickly, avoiding the months-long construction required for more traditional spaces. WeWork is also focusing more on reaching agreements with landlords to manage their coworking spaces.

Part of the appeal of WeWork was that it didn’t look like a corporate office. Now that WeWork is becoming more corporate and coworking spaces are encroaching on empty malls, independent coworking spaces may offer the most potential for the built-in community that WeWork promised in its early days.

Over the past decade, as WeWork has taken over Manhattan office space, places like Miami Lab in the city’s arts district, Winwood have emerged in neighborhoods favored by young creatives. Roxette Miranda, managing director of the lab, says it’s rare for participants to work all day in outdoor areas these days, but they do drop in to take advantage of opportunities to socialize and network. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on independent coworking spaces, many of which have closed or faced relocation as developers encroach on the space.

PencilWorks, a co-working space in Brooklyn that opened in 2016 in the former Eberhard Faber Pencil Company building. The place I booked for the night was modest: a table, a concrete floor, a lamp, a few electrical outlets. But the room had a shared kitchen and a view of Manhattan and the nearby water tower. The tenants represented the cool employers Greenpointers might want to work for: Bandcamp, a small UNICEF outpost, and the office of the local Ovenly bakery. PencilWorks is currently 70 percent full, down from 99 percent before the pandemic, but on the day I visited, there were only one or two workers working in several offices that weren’t empty.

This got me thinking: why not use the money I spent on a day pass at a bar or cafe instead? So, at 6 pm, I did just that, crossing the street to a bar called pencil factory, which is not in the former pencil factory. I counted three laptops, two dogs, a child, and a man who appeared to be working on an art project. When I loaned the iPhone charger to the person next to me, it felt like the biggest co-working space I’ve done all week.

The draw of both pencil spots was obvious: it was a 10-minute walk to get to work. But after two weeks of coworking alone, I found myself missing the handful of co-workers who come to WIRED’s New York office. And I yearned for the table that I unofficially claimed as mine, contrary to the company’s hot-table policy.

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