Co-working Giant Bets on Outdoor Office Space

September 11, 2020

Should more offices be taking their work outside? After all, the idea of working inside with a large group of people may make many people uneasy, particularly during the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s why co-working giant WeWork is targeting outdoor office space—and believes demand for it will grow.

The company touts that more than 150 of its 843 locations now feature outdoor spaces that can accommodate meals, group meetings, and individual office space.

“Our approach to developing our future of work plan focused on maintaining a safe and comfortable experience for our members and creating flexible solutions for the near and long term,” Ebbie Wisecarver, head of global design at WeWork, told Forbes.com. “In a time when fresh air is more valuable than ever, we’re happy to offer our members access to spaces that provide the chance to work productively from both indoors and outdoors.”

To make the outdoor space safer, WeWork may use vinyl tabletop covers, sanitization stations, and signs to show availability of socially distanced seating. The outdoor spaces feature different seating options, such as backless benches, lounge chairs, and dining chairs at numerous styles of tables, Forbes.com reports.

“Each outdoor space is designed to uniquely respond to the surrounding neighborhood and context, as well as the design of the lounge space,” Wisecarver told Forbes.com. “In general, we look to strike a balance between function, providing a diversity of work spaces to support different work styles, providing plants and greenery which have been linked to better productivity, as well as shade and weather protection as needed for the climate of the location.”

The attraction of outdoor space obviously may become weather dependent as temperatures cool in parts of the country. In cooler climate areas, Wisecarver says they are considering how to adapt current outdoor spaces so that workers can still use them in the colder months as well. She mentioned to Forbes.com the use of commercial portable heaters—however, those still may offer little outside comfort from extreme temperatures or rainy or snowy days.

Bri Rios, co-founder of Chatter Club, works at the WeWork Tabor Center in Denver. Her group has started using the outdoor spaces in the afternoon for meetings. But Rios told Forbes.com so far the outdoor spaces haven’t been overcrowded with workers. Also, she says now that Denver has had its first snow, she predicts the outdoor space will be mostly vacant for the remainder of the year.

Regardless, WeWork says it’s committed to offering outdoor spaces in more of its buildings. Warmer climates--as they start to cool for fall--may be particularly drawn to the open-air spaces.

Source: 
WeWork Bets on Outdoor Spaces for the COVID Era,” Forbes.com (Sept. 10, 2020)