WeWork Expanding On-Demand Offering Nationwide After Successful NYC Pilot
After a successful New York-based pilot program over the past few months, WeWork is rolling out its On Demand offering in 160 U.S. locations.
WeWork On Demand is a separate offering from monthly memberships of any size, charging $29 per day for access to a coworking location booked either days in advance or at a moment's notice. Conference rooms will also be available in the WeWork On Demand app, starting at $10 per hour and increasing based on room size.
Conceived in response to the uncertainty surrounding where to work during the coronavirus pandemic, the WeWork On Demand app gained users at an average pace of 28% per week over the two-month pilot, including an 84% jump in the final week, according to a WeWork spokesperson. Just over half of the users who signed up booked a second day, and 67% of bookings in New York were from repeat customers.
"[It's] a distraction-free environment people are interested in, whether it's parents looking for a break from the house or companies looking for a conference room for a short period,” WeWork Global Head of Marketplace Prabhdeep Singh told Bisnow.
Usage of WeWork On Demand during the pilot program was heavier Tuesday through Thursday as opposed to Monday and Friday, a spokesperson said, lending credence to the idea that users saw it as a break from whatever demands that home life imposes on a workday.
WeWork On Demand and its next tier, an unlimited option called WeWork All-Access, will be introduced in portions of WeWork common areas across 11 U.S. markets: Atlanta, Austin, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle. Based on the initial performance of the program in those cities, WeWork will likely expand to offer On Demand in some international markets.
“I think [international expansion] is on the horizon regardless, but we’ll be using information on the rollout here to figure out what’s the next place to take this internationally," Singh said. "The goal is to do this as a phased approach and learn as we go.”
On Demand access will be granted based on the reduced capacity restrictions WeWork has been operating under since the initial outbreak and subsequent shutdown, and once the maximum number of reservations is hit, the location is immediately listed as sold out on the app, Singh said.
Because On Demand users will be accessing the same common areas as more traditional WeWork members, some overflow might occur, in which case a location's community manager is authorized to open up vacant private offices to accommodate.
“As we see demand growing, that’s when we can look at changing layouts to create [permanent] overflow space," Singh said. "So if we see a building hot for On Demand, we can look at a floor and change it over to suit those types of users.”
Socially distanced table and couch layouts will remain to prevent crowding, temperature checks are still required of any entrants and masks are mandatory and available upon request, Singh said. At some point in the future, On Demand could be expanded to allow for daily rentals of private office space.
Much like how WeWork's core business became centered on larger companies, or "enterprise members" in company parlance, a large portion of On Demand users are employed by companies with office space elsewhere that would require risking public transit, or that have given back office space and are replacing it at WeWork one day at a time.
“At a high level, the feedback I’ve gotten is a lot of, ‘This has been a lifesaver because we don’t know what to do during this time,’" Singh said. "For a lot of companies who don’t know what the future holds regarding workspace, this has been a great way to just take space when they need it.”
On Demand and All Access are also available to companies with existing enterprise memberships, though the offering is priced differently. The program functions similarly to how employees of enterprise members could "hot desk" at other locations, which Singh specified has always come with an additional cost.
With current work conditions being what they are, using a hub-and-spoke model for office work is gaining popularity among larger companies. While smaller companies may use WeWork On Demand as their primary method of access, Singh believes enterprise members will largely keep their central space. Competitor Industrious recently launched a joint venture with developer Granite Properties to more directly provide space for hub-and-spoke office use.
Even if and when a widely available coronavirus vaccine brings stability back to the U.S. office market, Singh envisions WeWork On Demand as a permanent offering. If the product somehow outpaces all other WeWork offerings in terms of demand, Singh believes that it could still be a profitable path forward for the company.
"We haven’t priced it to a point where we can’t make money on it as a product," Singh said. "We think that clearly what’s going to happen in the future post-vaccine is that there will be more hybrid work models. Remote work has been normalized across the world now, so having On Demand as an entry point into WeWork makes sense."
Adding On Demand is only part of WeWork's ongoing evaluation of its real estate footprint, which has included closing multiple locations and backing out of some leases. That evaluation is on track to be completed by the end of the year, according to a WeWork spokesperson, who did not comment on whether further closure decisions would be announced into 2021.
Even as it remains in recovery mode from the disastrous and ultimately abandoned initial public offering attempt last year, WeWork is still expanding in select target markets. Since Aug. 1, the company has opened two locations each in Boston and Atlanta, according to a spokesperson.