WeWork Aims for Fulfilling Spaces at its Coworking Sites

Author: Casey Gale       


Dazzling common areas — like this one at WeWork’s North Taikoo Li Sanlitun coworking space in Beijing — give professionals there a sense of fulfillment. (Photos courtesy of WeWork)

Attaining peak productivity levels is a hot topic across industries. At business events, organizers want people to leave feeling that attending was a productive use of their time, personally. On a group basis, productivity is often the goal of interactive sessions, like workshops, where people work together to produce ideas and solutions to industry challenges.


Cory Clarke

While productivity is not a bad metric to use when considering the value of an event, it’s not something that Cory Clarke thinks should drive the design of workspaces, because it seems like an old-fashioned goal. “Productivity,” said the vice president of digital, Powered by We Consulting, and vice president of product development for WeWork, reminds him of “an assembly line — it’s about how much stuff you can make.”

Instead of focusing on creating environments built for productivity, WeWork — a company that provides shared workspaces for startups, entrepreneurs, remote workers, and freelancers at locations in more than 100 countries around the world — focuses on meeting a different objective for its clients: fulfillment. Today, Clarke said, “there is such a fight for good talent and retention. It’s not just about how much the person makes, but how fulfilled they are at their job.”

How does WeWork take fulfillment into account when building out their locations? It’s not only about creating a workplace that offers the basics, like decent lighting and desk space. Clarke said it’s about thinking through such questions as: “Are they getting the right connections to people? Do they have the right mix of work- spaces to support their needs, so that they are not just always at a desk?” Those spaces include quiet desks, meeting rooms, places for reading, lounge areas for socializing and eating, and more. “Sometimes they need to collaborate,” Clarke said, and “sometimes they need to be in a meeting or on a phone call.”

Through the use of on-site community managers and sensors that measure activity in certain areas of WeWork properties, the organization keeps close tabs on what spaces are popular among their clients, and what spaces are less so. “We use all that data in terms of the different types of desk configurations [that work] better, the meeting rooms that get used better or used more often,” Clarke said. “If we notice that small ones get booked more than large ones, or ones with video conferencing get booked more than ones without, we can use that to tune our design.”

Moreover, WeWork believes you create fulfilling work environments by encouraging interaction between WeWork clients. Small touches that foster interaction at WeWork properties include deliberately narrow hallways that “force” workers to bump into one another, as well as scaling back on signage. “We have some signage and accessibility and things like that, but we’re not overzealous with our signage,” Clarke said. That’s intentional, so that people are more inclined to ask for directions from other WeWork members.

And while Clarke isn’t a fan of the word, these design elements have, in fact, helped make their clients more productive. “We did a survey recently in London,” he said, where “more than 80 percent of our members said they were more productive by joining our membership or joining that space,” But that productivity isn’t of the assembly-line variety, it’s about creativity. One-third of those surveyed, he said, claimed to have gotten ideas from other businesses and other members in their WeWork space. “We really want to encourage face-to-face interaction…. The ethos that we have is that proximity really matters.”

More of March’s Cover Story


WeWork Sanlitun’s lounge area, like many of WeWork’s common spaces, are designed for creativity, comfort, and productivity.



WeWork Sanlitun’s front desk faces more of the space’s inviting common areas.

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