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In Boston, Life Sciences Is Undergoing A Flexible Workspace Revolution

WeWork has kept locations open with new safety guidelines throughout the year.

As the pandemic rages on, life sciences companies across the country are working tirelessly to develop vaccines, treatments and tests for COVID-19. But to nurture their most promising discoveries, these firms need to quickly scale up their lab and office space. And in crowded life sciences markets like Boston and Cambridge, finding space for what could be a temporary project is not an easy task.

“A biotech firm could get a product they are working on approved and suddenly they need 25K SF of space,” WeWork Portfolio Director Eric Benvenuti said. “With 1.5M SF of space across our 16 locations in Boston, we can have users up and running on entire floors in less than two weeks."

To help biotech and pharmaceutical researchers find the right amount of space for the right amount of time, WeWork has embraced the life sciences market, offering flexible office space solutions to help companies quickly scale up and down as they search for life-saving therapies.

WeWork is currently focused on the life sciences market in Boston, the nation’s premier life sciences hub. The region is expected to add 12,000 more life sciences jobs by 2024, bringing the total to close to 100,000. As more companies move in, space will become scarcer and flexible space and lease terms will be crucial to help firms stay in the city. 

WeWork at One Lincoln

Biotech firms are constantly developing new ideas, but they often don’t have enough space to bring them to fruition. Companies can always purchase an office to accommodate new projects, but if they don’t pan out, they’re left paying for large, expensive spaces. Conversely, if the project takes off, they may need even more space than they initially thought. 

“We can offer the type of speed-to-market and flexibility that these companies typically won’t find with a traditional leasing agreement,” Benvenuti said. “We’ve structured deals that are for six months, one year or three years with termination options available halfway through. We have different floor plans and designs to match what companies need.”

He added that along with offering flexible deal terms, WeWork’s offices are also highly customizable. Companies can feel free to inject their own culture and style into the space, they don’t have to stick with a pre-arranged design scheme. Currently, 40% of Fortune 100 companies are WeWork members and 54% of members are enterprise businesses, meaning they have 500 or more full-time equivalent employees. 

Benvenuti said that a WeWork space in the Back Bay area is currently home to a Fortune 50 company using it to build out its robotics arm. The company chose this area because, like many of WeWork’s large corporate clients, like Puma, they want to be close to the talent pool. According to CBRE, 2,000 master's and Ph.D. candidates were enrolled in the region's top universities in degree programs as of March.

WeWork at 75 Arlington

Many companies that choose WeWork are building their own offices in the city, but they don’t want to pause their talent search or push their employees out to the suburbs while they wait for construction to wrap. By signing up to use a WeWork space, they can continue to grow and retain their talent base until they are ready to move on to their own corporate headquarters. 

“Most people just think of us as an alternative office provider for tech startups or other corporate companies looking for space,” Benvenuti said. “We can add as much — if not more — value to the life sciences sector playing a key part of their growth strategy and helping them attract and retain talent.” 

Now is an especially important time for life sciences companies to consider embracing a flexible workspace. A recent survey conducted by WeWork and brightspot strategy found that 90% of respondents want to get back into an office at least one day a week.

As with all of its spaces, WeWork has been doing everything it can to ensure that these life sciences facilities have enhanced safety practices for members. The company has adopted several new protocols, including decreasing the capacity of meeting rooms, team rooms, lobbies and elevators to encourage social distancing, frequent cleanings and working to enhance indoor air quality.

Benvenuti added that WeWork is now offering WeWork All Access, a monthly membership program that allows members to access WeWork spaces across the country, instead of just the one they have signed up for.

The goal, he said, is to give WeWork members as much flexibility as possible, whether they are spending a few days working in a different office or growing their company as needed.

“We have historically served as a headcount insurance policy,” Benvenuti said. “We want to make sure you’re not buying space you won’t need 12 months down the line, or that you have the option to spread out to more floors as needed. Nine times out of 10, we’re going to be able to offer you the type of additional space you typically would not be able to find in a traditional office environment.”

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and WeWork. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.