We moved to WeWork to expand our knowledge of workplace trends
OUR INSIGHT #4
WHY WE “WEWORKED” AND WHAT WE’VE LEARNT
There is a lot of talk in the property industry about co-working and flexible offices, mostly from people who have never occupied one. We wanted to learn from first-hand experience so when the lease on our Mayfair offices was approaching expiry, I persuaded my colleagues to leave early and move to a WeWork until our new premises were signed and ready.
We moved to WeWork to expand our knowledge of workplace trends, effectively disrupting our own business so that we could understand this office sub-sector more deeply. Being London office specialists, the goal was to further inform our work both as investors in the office sector and also as creators and asset managers of office buildings.
The easy-in, easy-out simplicity of the contract was remarkable. We viewed the space, decided it was what we wanted and by the time I’d got back to my office, the contract was in my inbox as promised. I signed up online and paid one month’s deposit on my Amex card. The packages are simple and inclusive and we can leave at a month’s notice if we want to. This contrasts sharply with the leasing experience on our new Mayfair offices where, as is par for the course for a conventional lease, it took several months to sign.
The experience has disrupted our behaviour; it has forced us to make sacrifices we hadn't envisaged, from getting used to smaller floor space and desk size and the availability of meeting rooms and how all these factors impact our privacy.
Our behavior has adapted; we have gone largely paperless and discarded clutter from our old offices, which has been a difficult transition. We have become closer to our colleagues, literally, by giving up cellular offices and working together in a smaller space. This has been good for integration, especially for recent joiners like John. We have also adopted “WeWorker” as a term to describe our approach – to sharing meeting space, to joining with guests in preparing our tea and coffee and clearing up our own meeting rooms afterwards. We have consciously made an effort to participate in functions and events and to be “WeWorkers”.
At times we have relaxed our dress code, which though never strict, does tend towards conventional business dress. This has helped us fit in, but we still need to be suited for many of our meetings, so we have stood out a bit at times. John’s classic chalk pinstripes do turn some heads!
Brand alignment is arguably the crux of the matter. When you move to a WeWork you assume their brand to a great extent. It’s their brand that signifies or potentially even shapes your business culture and behaviours, to greater or lesser degrees. That won’t suit everybody. We have held meetings here, but they have been with contacts who know us well and understand our WeWork experiment. For others, an explanation of our experiment is required.
We are an established business for whom our own front door and a sense of being well-established is crucial to our brand. There is a big tier of such businesses, especially in the investment world, and a West End address is still an important part of the brand identity.
It remains to be seen whether these disrupted behaviours remain embedded in our culture and operations. I suspect we may revert to type when we move into our new, more permanent space in Mayfair. As Churchill said, “we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.”