Keeping London at the forefront of global business
working with and for the whole UK
The role of shared office space in getting London back to work
11 June 2020
Businesses across London, and the rest of the UK, are adjusting to the new normalities of living and working in a Covid-19 world, and our members are working through the implications of the macro-economic situation for both their balance sheet and the working needs of their employees. With government guidance advising employers to implement measures of social distancing, to increase cleanliness in office spaces, and to adjust employee working policies, at WeWork – by providing space, services and community to members worldwide – we are once again in a unique position to reshape the future of work.
Social and working landscapes have been significantly altered by the pandemic, and it is clear that a company’s real estate strategy has never been more important, with the majority of businesses looking at their office footprint in a new light. As one of the largest commercial tenants in London, we want to lead in providing flexibility for businesses in the capital– to benefit with the opportunity for more distributed teams, and more employees seeking shorter commutes, to a flexible physical workspace that can still provide community and human interaction, which remain important for long-term employee satisfaction.
With a global footprint across 38 countries and 149 cities – including 60 locations in London – we can listen to our members and employee communities from around the world in order to understand their workplace needs, and adapt our spaces to anticipate these expectations. We have been able to harness our global footprint even further to take extensive learnings from our colleagues in China, where we have over 100 buildings. Having started reimagining the workplace and implementing new policies from when the country began reopening in March, our WeWork China team have shared their approach to ensure WeWork spaces are safe for everyone; this includes staggered arrival times to reduce congestion, limiting lifts to two people at a time, spacing desks to adhere to social distancing and one-way flows in the hallways, to reduce contact among employees.
With this in mind, and by listening to members’ feedback in London and globally, as well as working with industry partners across health and safety, cleaning, construction and design, we have developed a global operational ‘Future of the Workplace’ plan to enhance our workspaces to meet new standards on social distancing and cleanliness, which is further adapted to meet UK government requirements.
Firstly, we are prioritising members’ space by implementing staggered seating and buffer zones that de-densify communal areas and lounges, and we’re reconfiguring meeting rooms that align with governmental guidelines on social distancing. Secondly, with an increased need for hygiene both at home and in public spaces, we have heightened cleaning measures by sanitising common areas more frequently, providing complimentary sanitisation products in communal areas, introducing face coverings and gloves for our Community teams, and updating our pantry offerings with single-use cutlery and gloves. And finally, we have introduced new behavioural signage to help direct our members around our spaces and how to use them safely.
WeWork’s partnerships with industry leaders also enables teams in different countries to work with local experts to look at new ways to enhance our spaces; since 2012 WeWork has collaborated closely with Arup, a leading global engineering consulting firm, to design industry-leading workspaces. Recently, we collaborated with Arup to identify how we can improve indoor air quality in our spaces using our air distribution systems; the findings are informing short and long-term updates to our spaces’ design and heating and ventilation processes.
We believe that flexible real estate will be fundamental to even more businesses who may be seeking shorter commitments and ready-to-go space over longer term conventional leases. Our members expect their office space to drive creativity, productivity and collaboration for employees because employee experience will now be more important than ever. As the second largest city globally for WeWork locations behind New York, London remains a key city for WeWork. And, while distancing might be part of our new normal, collaboration and connection remain more important than ever, and having a safe place to do that is essential.
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