19 June 2017
Co-working spaces are expected to represent 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025. According to a 2015 PwC report, The Future of Work: A Journey to 2022, only one in five workers want to be located in an office, with most preferring to use collaborative work spaces or to be able to log on remotely. Apart from the chance to bounce off ideas and network, co-working spaces usually offer workshops, talks and services, including secretarial and digital marketing.
Tapping the growing trend in Asia-Pacific, New York-based WeWork launched in Hong Kong in August 2016, opening its first space in Causeway Bay and another in Wan Chai last February. Founded in 2010, the unicorn start-up aims to create a world where people, “work to make a life, not just a living.” It currently has about 80,000 members in more than 100 locations globally.
The Future of Work
Ole Ruch, WeWork Managing Director for the Asia-Pacific region, says co-working spaces have become increasingly popular, thanks to a macro-shift in the way people want to work. “Trends like globalisation, mass urban migration and the digital revolution are changing the ways we work, and we believe that shift will only accelerate in the future. We are focused on bringing more cities and communities into our network because WeWork is a human solution.”
Co-working spaces attract not only entrepreneurs or freelancers; WeWork counts a diverse range of businesses among its members, including marketing companies, healthcare professionals, financial services, artists, lawyers, accountants and recruiting firms. “Really, it’s anyone with any-sized business who wants to work in an inspiring environment alongside with programming to help connect, educate and foster collaboration,” says Mr Ruch.
The firm has also signed up multinational corporations such as Delta, IBM, KMPG, Dropbox, Samsung, HSBC and GE. “For corporates, the power of WeWork is access to a creative space and the chance to connect with the most innovative people in the country. We see more and more enterprises immerse themselves in the innovative environment fostered in both our physical and digital spaces around the world. We help these enterprise members to connect with the most talented and creative people in the industry. We additionally help global companies stay attractive to young talent – millennials who want more of a collaborative atmosphere, for example,” he says.
To serve its corporate members, WeWork launched the Services Store in April, a hub for business services that streamlines the process of finding, managing and purchasing various services that growing businesses need.
Mr Ruch says WeWork is a global company with a local playbook. “That means that any time we enter a new market – whether that’s Hong Kong, Berlin or Buenos Aires – we research the local business customs, cultural nuances and desires of potential members so we can create a WeWork experience that is right for them. We also like to reflect the local culture in our design aesthetic and work with local artists and vendors.”
The two WeWork spaces in Hong Kong pay tribute to the districts surrounding them. “At Causeway Bay, we wanted to infuse old-time elements of Hong Kong into the design, which can be seen in the wallpapers, community areas and art,” says Mr Ruch. Each floor is defined as an individual “neighbourhood,” so it has its own distinctive sense of place with different colours, material palettes and custom-designed furnishings.
Mr Ruch sees great potential for WeWork in Hong Kong “Hong Kong is a truly international centre of commerce and innovation, and it’s a city that’s focused on increasing innovation and is helping entrepreneurs to take chances and start businesses. This dynamic, juxtaposed with Hong Kong’s profile as a hub for well-established financial and real estate enterprises, makes WeWork well-positioned to accelerate the cultural shift towards a new way of working.”