Using an office at WeWork feels a lot like checking in at a swank hotel. Indie music plays softly in the reception area. Young professionals with laptops sprawl across couches, beanbag chairs, and even pillow-covered stacks of wooden pallets, sipping artisanal coffee or lemon-accented water. Depending on the day, help yourself to a waffle brunch, or sign up for a $1-per-minute massage in a conference room.
Fortune Magazine’s Best Places to Work had a special piece on WeWork, which is a new take on the shared workspace model. Most shared workspaces focus on cost reduction. A telecommuter or entrepreneur can rent an office or a desk in an open workplace and share facilities such as secretarial, reception, copying, wi-fi, conference rooms, and so on. By sharing these costs with others, you only pay for what you need. These are taking off like crazy all over the world. I worked in one myself in Miami for a while before moving to Boston.
But as I alluded to, WeWork takes a different approach. It is not about cost savings at all. In fact, it might cost more to house workers at WeWork than to rent a full office space. Their spaces run $400-$650 per person per month. But the reason is that they are recreating the allegorical start-up model from the dotcom boom. Their facilities have foosball tables, beanbag chairs, free waffle brunches, beer kegs, and all the things we associate with the halcion days of startup yore. They promote collaboration by hosting members-only happy hours and other events. They promote serendipitous collaboration by designing the layout so that members are likely to bump into each other on the way in and out, going to a conference room, the restroom, or to the kitchen.
They have so many corporations trying to sign up that they have to limit these to 20% of overall membership. Otherwise, it would lose the startup vibe. It would just be a bunch of suits playacting their entrepreneur dreams.
What do you think? Is it worth the extra money to have a shared workspace like this? Are they smart to limit corporate membership?
Image Credit: WeWork