Thinking about joining a coworking space? I spent a day at WeWork to help you decide
At my Manhattan office, there was a friendly and collaborative environment – plus free beer and pizza!
If you work from home, freelance or run a small business, you've probably toyed with the idea of renting a coworking space: an office space open to other work-from-homers. At least, I have – I work from home, and while I love the freedom, I miss some of the amenities you get at an office, like a dedicated workspace, a constant supply of coffee and people around to talk to.
To see what it was like, I spent a day at WeWork, the world's leading shared workspace provider, which was started by Adam Neumann, a young entrepreneur from Israel. WeWork has dozens of locations around the world – including in the U.S., Europe and Israel. I visited New York's Park South location, which consists of three floors in midtown Manhattan.
This fairly large work spot centered around a few communal spaces – which included tables, games, couches and fridges. Some had snacks available for purchase, printing areas and arcade machines for all-important relaxing. But most of the floorspace was taken up by private offices rented by small companies.
As a lone member on the lowest membership rung, I only had access to the common area features, meaning I didn't have a desk. Instead, I hung out by couches and tables all day, which gave me the opportunity to get to know other coworkers.
"You get to meet people from different industries and with different interests," says Ben Center, who works at Cofounder’s Lab, a company that has been using WeWork for months.
Oh, and there was coffee. Free, delicious coffee. I mean, not really free, since I paid to be there, but still. Coffee I didn't have to make myself. I don't know coffee brands very well, but I could tell this wasn't cheap stuff. Half and half, soy milk, almond milk, local honey, sugar ... all things available to make that beverage more candy than stimulant. And I do love candy ...
Plus, free beer on tap. For real.
I was initially unsure how I'd have my morning Skype meeting with my faraway coworkers. After all, what if people around me were too loud? Or, on the flipside, what if I disturbed everyone? But WeWork actually has half a dozen private phone booths on each floor, and I took advantage of one. My booth was basically a little closet with a padded bench, a table and a phone. Pleasantly private.
I'd brought a lunch, but I didn't need to: WeWork had a lunch-and-learn that day. A company selling a new mobile carrier came in to talk about their product. And with them came pizza. Glorious, glorious pizza. I remember how, in college, organizations would get five times the normal turnout just by bringing pizza. I guess things never really change.
This lunch was, apparently, a pretty normal occurrence. Center told me he sometimes doesn't bring lunch because he knows there'll be free lunch at the office. He's a fan of WeWork events.
“They do a good job of bridging between personal and professional,” he said.
This was not the end of the delicious office freebies for the day. That afternoon, a company that helps people save money on student loans brought in tasty hot chocolate from a nearby bakery. This was no ordinary hot chocolate, no watery mix. It was like somebody melted a Godiva chocolate bar, creating a thick substance more like pudding than liquid. I snuck seconds.
People were pretty friendly, although they mostly stuck to their private offices, which makes sense. That's probably why WeWork goes out of the way to organize so many pizza and hot chocolate events; they're definitely trying to bring people together.
"At its core, it's about community," said Center. "You’re constantly surrounded by other like-minded people."
And of course, I'm sure you meet and collaborate with more people when you're there longer. According to Center, one company at the office needed a promo video, and another business at the office shot it for them at a low rate.
They aren't the only ones to reap unexpected rewards from joining a coworking space. Matthew Moisan, who runs Moisan Legal PC, has been renting a WeWork office for 18 months. His clients tend to be of the young startup variety, which means working at WeWork has helped him get to know his clients' culture.
"Clients like that we're part of a community we represent," said Moisan.
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