WeWork began as a place for the “cool kids” tech and creative entrepreneurs to bat about ideas over the communal foosball table and pints from the free beer kegs, but today big businesses, including HSBC, Microsoft and InBev, the brewing giant, occupy more than 25% of its space.
It is not just about work. WeWork is poised to launch its communal living concept WeLive in London. The company opened the first of its “dorm for adults” concept in a 200-apartment building in Manhattan’s financial district in 2016, and expanded to the concept to Crystal City, a suburb of Washington DC.
WeWork executives, who are ditching the “Work” from the company’s name and increasingly refer to the firm as just “We”, say the WeLive concept is built upon “a fundamental belief that we are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with”.
WeWork also takes care of its members’ fitness and relaxation. The company opened its first gym and spa in New York last year, and expects to rollout the Rise By We concept to other locations.
The company has also bought a stake in Wavegarden, which makes indoor wavepools, sparking speculation that the next WeWork perk might be lunchtime surfing lessons.
There are also parties and events, which are organised by WeWork’s community managers. The company says it works with tenants to put on bespoke activities. WeWork’s members in paddington, west London, were this week offered the opportunity to take part in guided meditation, a “boxbiz” boxing workshop or a candlelight yoga class. If none of that appealed there was also a “jar and fern terrarium workshop” on Thursday lunchtime.
The biggest party of the year is WeWork Summer Camp, which the company says “is just what it sounds like: a chance for grown-ups of all ages to sleep in tents, share meals in a dining hall, and take part in events from archery to zip lining”.
At the first camp, Neumann hosted 300 employees and customers in upstate New York. Last summer the company flew 2,000 staff to the UK for the latest edition of the party held at Eridge park, a country estate in East Sussex which was once a deer hunting ground favoured by Henry VIII. Florence + the Machine headlined the show, which cost WeWork members ￡395 each to attend.
Next on the WeWork agenda is education. This month the company opened a London arm of its coding academy Flatiron School, and pledged ￡1m in scholarships for women and other groups underrepresented in technology jobs.
Neumann’s wife, Rebekah paltrow Neumann, (a cousin of Gwyneth paltrow), reckons the company has got to start teaching much earlier and is opening a $36,000-a-year kindergarten called WeGrow.
Rebekah, WeWork’s chief brand officer and a mother of five with no training in education, says on her website that her “superpower” is “intuition”. “Rebekah is committed to creating a conscious, educational community that fosters growth in children’s minds, bodies, and souls, unleashing endless happiness, global citizenship, and every child’s superpowers,” her profile says.
Adam, who runs or skateboards to the company’s headquarters in Chelsea, Manhattan, said moving into education was a natural extension of the company’s mission to help people Do What You Love. “If you really want to change the world, change kids when they’re two,” he said.