Commercial Real Estate Is Making a Big Bet on Coworking

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A few years ago I had a pretty good scam that got me coworking space at a discounted rate. I paid $ 35 per month for an app that gave me access to various coworking spaces that relied on an honor system for users who logged their hours – sometimes I logged my hours accurately, sometimes not, and sometimes I forgot to connect them altogether. In my defense, I was a struggling freelance writer living paycheck to paycheck in New York City, barely earning rent, and it was hard for me to see him as anything other than victimless crime. The space I “stole” was luxurious, almost certainly filled with VC money, and never more than half full; I didn’t feel guilty for sitting in a chair that otherwise would have been empty, quietly typing on my laptop. Also, paying to work is a scam to begin with – a scam that now, in a post-pandemic world where many are disillusioned with work, is particularly annoying.

Yet with the office class slowly being brought back to the actual office, co-working is also bouncing back from its pandemic crisis – but spaces don’t even try to sell us the idea that sitting in their shiny Wi-Fi rooms anymore. Fi is ambitious. Do you remember WeWork? The wing? the the kibbutz of the capitalists and the girlboss empire? Instead, the many spaces that have new investments or major expansions are just plain boring. Does the post-pandemic worker crave a place to do his work outside his apartment so badly that he will pay a company called Industrious – Industrious – for a little more than an office? Not me! Not this time!

When I was paying to work as a team, I was basically paying to sit in a quiet room, which wasn’t even always quiet – most of the time the kick-off meetings were held at neighboring tables and the technicians were pacing up and down. nearby, speaking loudly into their Phone (s. I went there because it wasn’t my apartment, the library was too far away and the cafes were too crowded. In my previous life, which included a salaried job, j I was paid to walk into an office with my colleagues; coworking, I was paying to walk into a place where I didn’t know anyone, and it was basically sad. In post-pandemic life, the contrast is even more pronounced: we are faced with the decisive bursting of a very American illusion that work is inherently virtuous, rewarding and worthy. Many of those who worked during the pandemic are now exhausted and burnt; others are give up their job to rearrange their priorities and enjoy their lives more. At the same time, the rigid office policies of many employers are relaxed, and long-term remote working is increasingly an option after a year at home tested for effectiveness. This is why many are bet on growth in coworking spaces in 2021, in particular large commercial real estate developers.

There are plenty of spaces to choose from in New York City alone. There is Green office, which promotes respect for the environment and fruit infused water; Regus promises spaces designed for collaboration, like “shared chat rooms” that look a lot like coffee booths. The farm, a heavy and succulent space with a rustic origin story (“In the farmlands of southern Missouri, we discovered a century-old barn and carefully transported this barn room by room to New York”), perhaps more visually interesting, but ultimately still only a place to work. So it’s fitting that two of the most important new coworking players are the ones with the most shocking names in capitalism, notably Industrious and another called Workville. In February, CBRE Group, Inc., the world’s largest real estate services company, has spent more than $ 200 million for a 35% stake in Industrious. And Workville, which just opened a new 60,000 square foot downtown office space, boasts a number of “Best coworking” distinctions; his co-founder called him the Cheers coworking spaces.

As their names suggest, these places are downright useful – they give you a nice place to put your laptop, so you can work in peace. While you can have your choice of locations and aesthetics among coworking spaces, there is no rush for amenities, no attempt to make coworking anything but work. There’s not even free beer anymore. All of this contrasts sharply with the previous coworking boom. WeWork and The Wing were selling a lifestyle, maybe even an identity, in addition to a place to store your laptop. This is how they managed to make coworking an exciting trend that could enrich you personally and professionally. Nowadays, the most exciting offer of Workville seems to be a connection between “lots of natural sunlight” and an outdoor patio. Industrious wants to sell you “raised spaces that inspire productivity,” which includes amenities such as oak desks, telephone booths and fully stocked refrigerators. These places challenge you to imagine utopia as a place where you do a lot of work.

After many of us have been locked in our homes with little more than our corporate jobs, that doesn’t seem like enough. With a plague upon us, many have come to the conclusion that the time we spend working is the least meaningful part of our existence. New York Time, in his infinite wisdom, declared that “YOLOing may be the defining workforce trend of the year” after interviewing both a lawyer who gave up his high-level job to spend more time with his wife and dog , and a buyer at a clothing company who chose to step back from his promising career path and six-figure salary to explore alternative avenues such as “move to the Caribbean and open a tourism business”. And why not? After all, we are all rushing to death – our time on this rock is limited, our bodies are decaying, and the future is uncertain. Are we going to spend the little time we have working hard to enrich a business? After surviving a pandemic? I do not think so.

Perhaps the implosion of shared office hubs as a way of life and the clarifying effect of experiencing a pandemic has led to a needed awakening: at the end of the day, a coworking space is just a place. to find work done, and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is obviously trying to sell you something. But now that the illusion of co-working-as-lifestyle has imploded, just in time for the illusion of work-as-lifestyle has imploded, co-working spaces have never been less appealing. I can’t see myself paying for a place to put my laptop anytime soon.

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