Photo credit: Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images
While the past year has been a historically bad year for New York City offices, WeWork is surviving – or at least hanging on – even as many people continue to work from home. Apparently, some people are so fed up with their apartments that they try their luck at one of WeWork’s 78 locations in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
Earlier this year, the company closed four of its Manhattan locations and reduced its fees by 10% across the United States (with a more pronounced 15-20% reduction in New York and some other cities, including Boston, Denver, Columbus, Austin and Washington). Then in August, WeWork launched On Demand, a new program that allows people to pay as they go in any of its locations – $ 29 / day for an open workspace or $ 10 / hour for them. conference rooms – instead of signing up for a monthly subscription. The new program is now the most popular in New York.
Things look a little different in a WeWork these days – there’s no cafe on each floor anymore, and draft beer has been replaced with kombucha. Reduced equipment is also used by a smaller number of customers. But those who continue to work on WeWorks have appreciated the calm and are confident that the mandatory use of the mask and strict cleaning protocols are enforced. We spoke to five New Yorkers who continue to use WeWork about what coworking spaces looked like during the pandemic.
When the pandemic started, I was like, “Hell no, I’m not going to WeWork right now.” But later, when things started to calm down a bit, around the summer, I did it again maybe two or three times a week. At first I was nervous because neither of us really knew much about the pandemic and what was going to happen. But WeWork sent all these messages about how they clean and sanitize everything thrice, and I see they have a lot of employees cleaning stuff, and then they have sanitizers all over the place. Before COVID, each floor would have coffee, but now it’s only on one floor. They used to have creamers and different things in the fridge, but now it’s just those packaged creamers. And, of course, no vendor brings food like chocolate or lunch like they used to.
As an entrepreneur with multiple companies I was missing traveling internationally, collaborating, meeting people, making connections and all the fun things that happened before the pandemic I was going a little bit crazy just by working in my own home. Even though it’s not like you’re talking to everyone in a WeWork right now (because there are fewer people and everyone is wearing a mask), at least I can leave my house and maybe meet one or two people, even at the reception. , just a little to get out of my routine.
I usually go Monday to Friday. I have a hot desk subscription, which costs around $ 320 per month. I live in Astoria, so I cycle three or four miles to one of the WeWork sites. It’s a nice little exercise in the morning. I’m just too distracted when I’m at home and miss being in a small space all day. It has helped me to be more productive. I stopped going last year for a couple of months and then went back in the summer. When I first returned there were significantly fewer people in the office. On the floor where I usually sit, there would be maybe four or five other people in the common area with me at a time. But as the year went by, more and more people started to come back.
Space has definitely changed a lot. There are fewer people, so there is a lot less socializing. Before the pandemic, someone could walk by and leave a box of donuts on the kitchen table for people to take – things like this don’t happen now.
I have a global-access subscription since 2019. I pay $ 600 / month for my team of two. I mainly use meeting rooms to receive clients or to create content. I took a break at the start of the pandemic, but started coming back in October. When I first came back it wasn’t very crowded and they had implemented all the security protocols, so I said, “Perfect.” A space that you once shared with eight people, now you share it with three. And there are still not many people there… I would say that’s about 15 percent of what it was. On any given day, there are four or five people on one floor.
Right now I’m in WeWork on 29th Street and Seventh Avenue. If I have meetings with clients, I try to make their life easier. If one of them says “I’m in Queens,” I say, “What if we meet at WeWork at Queens Borough Plaza?” If anyone is from the Bronx, I suggest meeting in Harlem, depending on the closest location. If the person is from Long Island, I suggest meeting near the train station on 34th Street. I try to be flexible. Today I have a 2 o’clock meeting, which is why I’m at 29th Street.
I mainly work at one of the Midtown WeWork locations, at least four times a week. I have a fashion brand, so Midtown is more convenient for me. The one in Bryant Park is where I go the most, but I’ve also used places in Central Park and Soho.
What I like most about WeWork is the fact that you can access a lot of buildings, and it also has all the facilities that a large business would have. For example, the one in Bryant Park has an excellent recording studio, where we were able to record videos and podcast episodes. So, it really offers all the facilities that a big budget business would have in their head office.
Lately, I have been able to enjoy more of the facility I use because there are fewer people and there is more access to it all. So if I want to use one of the booths and make a phone call, you can do that without having to pre-book things. So it allowed me to create more social content, because now I don’t have to worry about having someone in the background anymore. Now I don’t have to wait for everyone to step aside to get this shot, which gave me a bit of freedom to play around buildings and get creative. And it was fun. And if you have a client and you’re sitting there it’s great because there’s no one else around, it’s like you have the whole room to yourself. I enjoy it as long as I can.
I live on the Upper East Side and our WeWork is on 51st Street and Lexington. So it’s a 20-minute walk from my home. My team and I worked in our closed-door offices at WeWork until about March 15, when things started to deteriorate. I actually contracted COVID at the end of March, so I worked remotely until April. On top of that, I come to work every day. My team comes once or twice a week, but when the pandemic felt like it was getting worse around Thanksgiving, they started working from home full time again. They now come once a week and it will sort of be that way until at least all of their loved ones are vaccinated or themselves.
My floor was empty, and now I think two or three offices have moved in. Obviously there are people, but it’s very, very vacant; it wouldn’t shock me if the vacancy rate right now was around 90%. But it feels like people are coming back.
I like coming here because it allows me to do my job. I miss my team, but I don’t miss other people here. I got used to making my salad or something in the common area and not seeing anyone. While I can tell you what I miss: they took away beer when the pandemic started and replaced it with kombucha, I’m not quite sure what it is, but I’m not sure what it is. am not a big fan of it. I miss the beer for sure. I mean we’re a small five-person startup, some of the best times we’ve had, strategically, has been around pizza with a pitcher of beer and a whiteboard. We can still do that, but we have to go buy the beer.