I wanted to see what all this talk is about.
WeWork is SO cool all my younger friends would say. They have lemon water, chilled coffee, fresh fruit and in many locations (eyes widening) free beer!
Since I’m 49 and an aspiring millennial, I decided to give it a shot. I installed SnapChat on my phone, filled up my Paypal account and made sure Netflix was at the ready. Never know when you might have downtime to watch your latest binge.
Practice What You Preach
We in my business discuss open concept workplaces as if everyone should do it. I talk about the benefits of increased communication and zero barrier workplaces on conference calls – from my office.
I needed, in fact I must, see what all the buzz is about if for no other reason than to have an authentic experience to share. It’s a little like describing the color blue if you’ve never seen it. Sometimes in life, the experience is worth its weight in gold.
The whole idea came to life for me at a C&W meeting in Chicago where I bumped into WeWork CEO Adam Neumann. I told him of my concept and with a big smile, he quickly green lighted my initiative.
What is WeWork anyway?
WeWork is one of a number of competitors in the area of coworking. The company says it provides workspace, services and a community for anyone in the business world.
WeWork has plans as low as $45 per person all the way up to $450 a month per seat for a private office environment. For these dollars, an entrepreneur has onsite staff, a cool look, all the amenities, and an instant group of new friends. The commitment? Month to month.
One of their sales approaches is to contrast a monthly WeWork card with leasing a small office space, procuring a phone system, securing furniture and trying to make the space cool. It’s a little harder and more expensive than one might think, they say.
With 128 office locations in 39 cities, the company was one of the largest consumers of leased office space in the past year and as of midyear was sporting a valuation of $16 billion. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
My team was accommodating and agreed to hold our Monday morning meeting at the Buckhead location of WeWork in Atlanta. I arrived to a warm greeting by the staff and community leader Aja Anderson. With a little help from the WeWork, I got my card set up which gives one access, the ability to reserve conference areas, and make purchases at the on premises store. The process involved scanning my driver’s license and a biometric scan of my face.
As our meeting began, we were all pleased to see we could easily connect wirelessly to the presentation screen. We also quickly noticed what Gigabit fiber is all about – wow!
After the meeting, I was able to grab a cup of terrific coffee and sit outside on one of the nicest fall days we’ve had in Atlanta. It felt a little intoxicating and even a little sinful to be able to sit outside on calls and working on documents. But I liked it!
As the day wore on, it was a little strange to not have an assigned workspace (which you can purchase for yourself, if you like). I had to pack my bag up for lunch, and when I came back, it felt a little like walking into an airport business club – where would be the best strategic location for my afternoon tasks?
I also found that concentration in an open environment can happen, but that it’s an acquired skill. Back to the airport club analogy – you can let you mind wander and people watch if your not careful. As the week progressed, I developed better discipline and became much more productive.
I’ve become used to working physically close to my team, so when they left to head to our office, I had to reach out by phone or email. Not a problem…just a slightly different way of handling the day to day.
It’s Really About the Community
WE Work. Now I get the goal — center manager Aja explained that the mission is for everyone at WeWork to find a way to support each other. If you need a PR guy, an accounting lady or any other service under the sun, check out the app. There is also a huge flat screen at every WeWork in the world that show’s Instagram profiles of WeWorkers from all over.
I enjoyed bumping into fellow WeWorkers (I say that with some pride) and hearing their stories too. Plus the community doesn’t stop at your local location either. WeWorkers can sit down at any location worldwide on their travels. Same for the WeWork app — that expert you seek might sit in Seoul or Mexico City.
Everyday I would get a message through my WeWork telling me of the networking event occurring that afternoon or evening at my location. These ranged from “build your own parfait” sessions to Yappy Hour to which many brings his or her dog. WeWork told me their dog policy is simple: they are friendly to dogs that are friendly to them.
On a side note, I’ve wanted to bring my dog to work for many years. I did it. And I found out that, at least in my case, having
another dependent at the office was far more work than it was worth. It was a fun one-time experiment though. Plus Max loved all the attention.
Not everyone working at my location was just off the turnip truck. In fact, I saw workers and folks touring of all ages. One of our clients has a 40 person office located in a pod with adjacent offices.
This is consistent with recent reporting by Bloomberg describing WeWork as “a co-working startup (that) is adding corporate giants, including Microsoft.” I know of a number of other corporates who are at least interested in the concept.
WeWork has a concept called WeLive which offers fully furnished apartments in both NY and Washington, DC. I understand that the company is also talking about taking over entire buildings and offering both short term and long terms options for corporate America. Oh, and CEO Adam has been very open about the fact that the company will go public in due time. At a projected $1 billion in revenue with a valuation of north of $16 billion, this gig is a homerun for it’s founders and investors.
Well, I’m not quite a millenial yet, but at least I can tell you that I’ve given it a spin. Plus I made alot of new friends at WeWork Atlanta.
I have to give Adam and his team credit. They looked at a very old mousetrap and created a new approach – and the world is noticing.
I worked at WeWork and I’d do it again.