In a New York Times Magazine article, “The Rise of the WeWorking Class,” Gideon Lewis-Kraus extols the virtues of the relatively young company WeWork, arguing that it is the company’s culture that has driven its success. WeWork (as far as I understand it) functions as a commercial subleaser, providing office-share space for –– you guessed it –– entrepreneurs, as well as small startups and (at least some) traditional companies looking to save costs on renting office space.
Most recently, corporations such Liberty Mutual, IBM, and Sprint have even begun to take up shop within WeWork-owned space. As Lewis-Kraus paints a picture of what a work-day in the life is like for those who make one of WeWork’s 425 locations their office home, it’s not hard to see why. Perks such as top-shelf coffee, modern furnishings, and kombucha are part of the appeal but these amenities are not WeWork’s true value-added. That particular distinction belongs to its ability to (literally) bring people together.
WeWork designs its spaces to force more human interaction. Not only are there multiple common spaces and centralized water coolers, but even the hallways are constructed to generate conversation through their sheer narrowness. Together with WeWork’s intentional weekly social activities (Taco Tuesdays, yoga classes, happy hours, etc.), there is a cultivated sense of belonging among a group of individual workers that would otherwise be isolated. Sole practitioner CPAs mingle with novelists and wedding planners in WeWork’s shared space, and as consequence their work takes on new meaning.
Miguel McKelvey, WeWork’s founder, explains to his team, “You’re not building work space. You’re here building a new infrastructure to rebuild social fabric and rebuild up the potential for human connection.” In a world where isolating work continues to drive job dissatisfaction perhaps WeWork provides a solution.
Questions to Consider:
- WeWork can be understood both as the work of entrepreneurship (a disrupter to the modern commercial leasing market) as well as a facilitator of new entrepreneurs. Can it really provide “Values” (as Christensen would understand them) to a company if that is what is supposed to be the most ingrained?
- Duhigg’s article on job dissatisfaction suggests that taking a stable job may lead to misery because the individual doesn’t get an opportunity to learn from many setbacks. Does this fit logically within one’s own idea of what one should look for in the job market? Should we seek hardship that we might garner “meaningful work” along the way?
- Taken together, the two articles suggests that finding meaning in one’s work may be facilitated (perhaps most) by working with people that one enjoys and respects. If this is true, has WeWork just gotten lucky or is there something about a group of individual entrepreneurs working in the same place that inevitably leads to higher rates of social positivity?
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