The advent of the coworking space has been a boon to freelancers, startups, and nonprofit organizations, but last summer, the flexible workplace vendor WeWork revealed that its long-term strategy involved selling the coworking experience to major legacy corporations as well. On Wednesday, WeWork’s chief product officer David Fano and head of product research Joshua Emig announced that their company was working on a suite of “space as a service” offerings to help big companies revamp and better manage their existing office spaces, Fast Company’s Ruth Reader reports:
The new offerings would include everything from building out interiors to managing guests, booking conference rooms, coordinating events, analyzing office data on space usage, and providing a human community manager to instill WeWork philosophies. …
[Fano] says WeWork is only willing to architect and construct offices because it has design principles that play into how it manages office spaces. Additionally, he’s not looking to make money on overhauling other people’s workplaces. Rather, he and Emig see it as a way to give customers the cost savings that WeWork enjoys, because of its vendor relationships. The build-out also serves to entice businesses into its cultural management subscription as well as other possible uses for WeWork. As an example, Fano described how it whittled one Chicago business from three floors of office space down to two floors, while retaining the same number of employees. WeWork made up some of the square footage loss by giving the company desks inside of its own co-working network.
At Quartz, Alison Griswold points out that WeWork’s $17 billion valuation is “largely tied to WeWork’s ability to brand itself as more than just another property management firm”:
As the company takes on a more obvious design and development role, it’s wary of being labeled a glorified facilities manager. “We’re not ever just going to do design and construction services, that’s not for us,” Fano said. “What we really want to do is reinvigorate the culture.” He added that WeWork isn’t focused on making a profit on development work it does for corporate clients. “We don’t want to make money on that,” he said. “We don’t want to lose money on that, but we’re really just letting them leverage our design and construction.”
A lot of the details still need to be hashed out. For now, WeWork is thinking about custom builds and on-site services for companies with 50,000 to 60,000 square feet and at least 1,000 employees. It would also aim to sign these clients to three- to five-year contracts. That’s a much greater commitment than WeWork asks from its typical member, who can rent a desk or office month-to-month.