What WeWork Can Teach You About Your Next Office Move
By: Jonathan Keyser
Finding the right workspace for your company requires self-awareness and flexibility.
WeWork saw the office space of the future and brought it to fruition. Outfitting coworking spaces with pingpong tables, fresh fruit and other amenities, WeWork has flipped the traditional office space on its head while becoming a $45 billion brand.
Now marketing itself as “The We Company,” leadership is applying that same methodology to food and retail (Made By We) and even to education (WeGrow). So why is this disruptor such a game-changer? Because it offers two crucial assets for today’s working world: flexibility and collaboration.
And those assets are important in the modern world: After all, we live in a rapidly changing environment, one where young companies require physical and mental bandwidth to communicate, collaborate and evolve without a huge commitment.
Startup founders and leaders should use this same model to find office spaces that grow with them.
Find the right space.
There’s a lot to learn from WeWork about what growing businesses need. Young companies struggle in particular to find office spaces that can mature with them as they grow, from family-sized iterations into larger and more complex beasts.
I’ve helped many companies develop strategic real estate plans, and it’s incredible how much a workplace can affect many aspects of a business. It’s not just a set of walls and windows — it influences the talent that’s attracted, the culture that’s cultivated and even how efficient or opportunistic a company is.
Another challenge with finding a great space stems from the relative lack of transparency in commercial real estate. Traditional firms often steer their clients toward certain properties or negotiate less optimal deal terms. This is all in the name of building a better rapport with the landlords and developers that represent their primary income stream.
Despite numerous challenges, finding the right workplace boils down to leaders setting clear guidelines for their search. Here are three ways to get a company situated in a flexible, personalized workplace:
1. Engage with a tenant-only advocate.
Get out of the network of conflicted brokers. Trust your search to a tenant-only advocate whose allegiance isn’t with the landlord. A tenant-focused broker will not have inherent, built-in conflicts, will show you all potential properties and can act as a partner to guide you through the process from planning to moving in.
Tenant advocates can also bring unconflicted project managers to the table to help manage the arduous process of moving. According to PMI’s 9th Global Project Management Survey, “Pulse of the Profession,” projects are 28 times more profitable when led by a manager. Why? Because they’re more predictable.
Experienced project managers assemble a team, manage architects and contractors and oversee the day-to-day process of tailoring a space to a company’s unique specifications. These project managers can play peacekeeper in the room and mediate any frank discussions about budget and building needs to keep things in perspective and a vision on track.
2. Avoid being rigid.
Flexibility isn’t an exclusive luxury of millennial WeWorkers. You, too, can engineer flexibility into your workplace by planning ahead for your short-, medium- and long-term real estate needs. Deloitte’s 2018 Real Estate Outlookrevealed that nontraditional assets such as flexible leasing arrangements allow companies to adapt to future needs.
Before engaging in a site search, conduct a needs assessment and build a vision for how your company will grow going forward. Consistently evaluate an office’s size and space to determine whether it still meets all your needs. Name brands such as Amazon, Airbnb and Microsoft opt to house departments and regional offices away from their headquarters so they can maintain enough flexibility to grow.
Continuously ask questions of your team that assess how useful your current space is while also determining what you’ll need going forward. Sometimes the answers will stay the same, and sometimes they’ll change drastically. Be flexible enough to incorporate either result into your future office plans.
3. Take stock of your commitments.
Hidden costs can bloat any budget — even expenses associated with a workspace. According to BOMA International’s 2018 Office Experience Exchange Report, 10 percent of an office’s operations budget goes to utilities, telecommunications and grounds maintenance.
To keep these costs from snowballing, strike a balance between over- and under-committing to a workspace. There’s no need to sign up for a long-term agreement if your growth plans are unclear. Flexibility is key, and your tenant-only advocate can help you negotiate flexible terms.
There are plenty of options to house companies for the short term, which takes the stress and fear out of lease commitments. Options such as WeWork, Co+Hootsand Convene provide young companies with flexible leasing terms that allow them to commit to short-term lease agreements that align better with their current resources and prospects.
When negotiating a lease agreement, make sure you have a clear understanding of the terms and the financial ramifications. Verify the landlord’s measurements and specifications, build in flexibility and make sure you plan for the future.
When done right, workplaces help to build relationships, empower employees and partners, enhance collaboration and set the stage for future success. Get inspired by the WeWork model — hire an advocate, plan carefully and build flexibility into your lease agreements.