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Workplace solutions for enterprise organisations in a changed world

WeWork is enabling people to work from home near home. This offers a real point of difference for enterprise organisations who are rethinking the ways they attract and retain talent

The pandemic is forcing organisations to adapt to new ways of working. While full-time working from home (WFH) will likely prove a temporary solution, the move towards a more distributed workforce will not.

These changes are prompting a reassessment of attitudes towards real estate, with a need for flexibility at the forefront. CBRE's bi-monthly report for July 2020 revealed a "lost quarter" in real estate transactions as a result of the pandemic, with interest reigniting in the summer. Thanks to Covid-19, organisations and their employees now have different needs and expectations of their workplaces.

In cases where workers are likely to work from home over the longer term, employers see opportunities to offload spare capacity, downsizing to a more effective solution.

In others, particularly those whose business models are not conducive to WFH, more space is required, to allow for social distancing. Overall, an ability to flex up, as well as down, is increasingly important.

At the same time, staff safety remains paramount and the ideal office partner is one which is as committed to employee safety as its clients are.

Since it was founded in 2010, WeWork has become one of the biggest names in workspace and enterprise solutions. WeWork's diverse member base is now made up of more than 48 per cent enterprise clients with 500+ employees. These companies trust it to enhance their workplace strategy.

It has an established presence in Dublin which is continuing to grow. WeWork currently has 6,000 Dublin-based members spread across four buildings, with another scheduled for 2021.

While WeWork originated as a flexible workspace solution for start-ups and SMEs, in recent years the enterprise sector has become an important element of its customer base.

WeWork Dublin

WeWork’s Dublin properties are well located, including workspace buildings at Charlemont Exchange, Iveagh Court, 5 Harcourt Road and 2 Dublin Landings. It is currently offering early bird rates for its newest opening, Central Plaza on Dame Street, set to open next year.

A huge part of WeWork buildings’ appeal is their prime locations in Dublin 1, 2 and 4, within easy walk, run or bike ride of popular residential areas. With many employees WFH, a prime location and an easy commute is crucial for businesses who hope their employees will transition back to the office.

Given the uncertainty ahead, the flexibility that WeWork offers employers as they navigate the new norm will be invaluable.

It’s a flexibility that has already proven itself in countless cases where international technology companies have used WeWork to accommodate small initial ‘landing teams’ in new markets and subsequently scaled up.

That flexibility is now paying dividends as enterprise customers looking for a workspace partner to facilitate their ‘back to work’ strategies as we move into the next stage of managing Covid-19. This includes its ability to provide hot desking solutions to staff.

In addition, WeWork’s HQ buildings, such as The Oval, provide a great solution for companies that want the flexibility of a short term – typically less than five years – but who also want to maintain their unique brand identity and have their own space. WeWork’s HQ buildings are a ‘white label’ proposition, a walk in, turnkey solution accommodating a single member.

The Oval, which is located in leafy Ballsbridge, has the additional advantage of a premium, Dublin 4 address, as well as close proximity to neighbouring companies such as Google, Facebook’s new EMEA campus, aircraft leasing company Avolon, IBM and Survey Monkey, plus the range of other large tech companies that make up Ireland’s thriving tech scene. The building currently has two floors available.

For an even loftier solution look to the penthouse floor at WeWork George’s Quay house, a high profile landmark office building located directly opposite the IFSC. It’s a part of the central business district that has seen increased real estate activity as a result of Dublin’s position as the last English speaking international financial district in the EU, post-Brexit. Business neighbours here include Ulster Bank, Fidelity and Facebook.

The pandemic has prompted many enterprise organisations to rethink the status quo in terms of the office and the nature of work. After all, the world may be doing battle with Covid-19, but from the perspective of employers of choice, the battle for talent hasn’t gone away either. It’s just that the landscape has changed.

Employers are seizing this reset to rethink the balance between their talent, technology and place; formulating new concepts of how to collaborate and get work done, says Ronen Journo, WeWork’s real estate and workplace practitioner.

The office is not dead but will be repurposed to become a richer, social and business community collaboration hub. In addition, the city is not dead but we may see a renaissance of the commuter towns’ economies. The office will become a healthier social condenser, and the more technology becomes ubiquitous, the more we crave proximity to humans and nature.

The future of work is likely to be one where large companies look to optimise their physical footprint by retaining a headquarters but also retaining smaller ancillary workspace solutions.

It is a solution that will be, Journo says, “much more optimised, one that will be about the values, the culture”, of the employer brand, “a place for people to come and meet. It will not be about 10,000 people sitting down and writing papers and doing concentrated individual work.”

The future of work is here, it is human centric, data driven, dedicated to choice, trust, safety, health, wellbeing and experience. Space will be consumed as and when, and where, it is required. It is not a binary future of home or office, but rather a rich ecosystem of places.

Work from home near home

Covid-19 has presented a falsely binary option; working in the office or working from home. In fact, the future is much more likely to see the rise of enabling a way to work from home near home.

That is, while organisations will still have their headquarters, albeit right-sized, and people will still have their home, there will also be “another location, where people can come together,” he says, to facilitate creative and collaborative work, and to enjoy being part of a community.

It will result in a “hub and spoke” model of distributed teams.

Above all else, this new world of work will be “human centric”, he says. Technology such as Zoom and Teams is terrific, but has its limitations. To effectively brainstorm some teams need to come together physically, he says.

Not all people will want to come back to the office, all of the time. But they will have a fresh appreciation of its benefits. “It’s about social and business collaboration, it’s about people coming together,” Journo says, pointing to the innovation that can spark from the “serendipitous meeting”.

“Once we get to the new norm, the world of work will be human-centric. We will be given a choice of how to use our time and where to work, and trusted to produce that work.”