The Cutting Edge of Development: The Appeal of a Large-Scale Redevelopment

WeWork Japan

September 2018

*This article is based on research conducted at an earlier date; some details may differ at the present time.

From Shared Spaces to Community Spaces:WeWork's Office Revolution

WeWork was founded in New York in 2010. Over a period of just eight years, it has expanded its business to 287 locations in 23 countries around the world, with a total membership of over 260,000 (as of August 2018). With a market value of 20 billion dollars (approximately 2.24 trillion yen), it is drawing global attention as one of the U.S.’s leading “unicorn companies.” In February 2018, it opened its first Japanese office in Roppongi (Minato Ward). It is aiming to open another 10 to 12 locations in Japan alone within 2018. We spoke to the general manager of WeWork’s fast-growing Japanese division, Masami Takahashi, about the company’s policies, future plans, and expansion into Japan. (Interview conducted by phone on September 3, 2018.)


Masami Takahashi

General Manager
WeWork Japan

A Company Established to Create Dynamic American-Style Communities

WeWork began operations in February 2010, opening its first office in New York City’s Soho district that same year. In contrast to the popular expression “Thank God it’s Friday,” WeWork’s motto is “Thank God it’s Monday.” In other words, its goal is to make Monday seem like the start of a rewarding week rather than a day when people feel down about going back to work after the weekend. In keeping with its mission of “creating a world where people work to make a life, not just a living,” it strives to provide workplaces where people can truly enjoy what they do and feel excited about it.

Initially, most members (i.e., companies leasing space) were start-ups or freelance operators. WeWork provided an optimal solution for small businesses and supported startups by minimizing the cost of their operations. Recently, however, it is remarkable that a number of large companies are using its services. This is a testament to the fact that these companies are gaining unexpected benefits from interacting with a new generation of workers and gaining exposure to fields with which they had no prior contact.

Over eight years, WeWork has achieved rapid growth. One factor for this is that it tapped into the global movement toward more dynamic communities ahead of others. For many WeWork members, the opportunity to grow their personal networks is part of its appeal.

This is a common area at WeWork Shimbashi. It occupies a location by the windows with ample sunlight. The space’s striking creative design makes users feel like they’re over at a friend’s house having a relaxed conversation. There are other common areas available as well for various purposes. These encourage spontaneous communication among tenants.

On the left side of this area there is a desk known as a “community bar” that serves as a reception desk. It’s staffed by a community manager whose goal is to promote collaboration between members.

Flexible Contracts Facilitate Agile Operations

There are as many ways of using WeWork’s facilities as there are users. With the aim of providing an environment that accommodates diverse working styles, the company’s workspaces are equipped with all functions that users might need. The main plans and associated fees are summarized below.

Plan Name Service Details Main Users Minimum Monthly Fee 
Custom-built office Customized to suit the member’s preferences. WeWork handles everything from designing the ideal space to managing the office. Companies with 50-500 employees seeking fully equipped space and flexible occupancy. Negotiable
Private office A private office is provided according to the number of people on the team, along with desks, chairs, filing cabinets, etc. Able to accommodate moves at short notice. Tenants with 1-100 employees who want to have their own separate space within the community. Negotiable
Dedicated desk A dedicated desk is provided within a shared space, enabling work to be done at the same desk at all times. For tenants who will use the space every day for the purpose of collaboration. 101,000 yen/month
(in the case of Ark Hills South)
Hot desk A workspace is provided in the common area. Members can work there by bringing a laptop and choosing an available space. For users who will use the space for 1 week or more per month. 72,000 yen/month
(in the case of Ark Hills South)

There are other amenities provided to support the smooth operation of members’ business. Those listed below are just a small sampling. These services are of course included in the monthly cost.

・High-speed Internet ・Business printer ・Office supplies ・Phone booth

・Mail and courier service (excluding hot desk plan)

・Global community network ・Events of various kinds (social, educational, etc.)

・24-hour access to building ・Reception desk service ・Daily cleaning service

・Micro-roasted coffee, black tea, and green tea ・Craft beer on tap

Along with the above,WeWork offers two advantages not found at other companies,which combine
digital and real-world support.

Ever since its founding, WeWork has collected meta-data on how members are using its space at many locations in various regions. Examples include data on the usage rate of meeting rooms at different times of day, data on use of various consumables, and data on stay time by area. Gathered using specialized software developed by WeWork itself, this information is analyzed to identify office needs, then used to create better office environments in the future.

Over many years of managing offices, it has also accumulated data such as information on the ideal hallway and corridor width for promoting interaction between members, the optimal pantry location, and suitable desk types and sizes, all of which is reflected in WeWork’s office designs. Data-based office design is therefore one of the company’s strengths.

Hallway in office (WeWork Shimbashi)

At the same time, on a more personal, face-to-face level, it is supporting users with concrete efforts to promote collaboration among business operators. This is the biggest advantage of WeWork. These efforts are carried out by community teams at each location. There is a diverse program of frequently held events and presentations designed to promote collaboration. Besides these major events, WeWork pays careful attention to fostering regular interaction among members in shared spaces or at café counters. Since its founding, the company has striven to make training of community managers—who are always acquiring information about members’ business, attributes, problems, etc.—a priority.

Pantry counter (WeWork Marunouchi Kitaguchi)

 
 
 
 
 
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