The idea of co-working often calls to mind workspaces designed for freelancers, independent entrepreneurs, small start-ups and companies. But in, reality, the future of flex space is being defined by tenants with 500+ employees. At Frame Awards 2020, WeWork creative director Scott Rominger – who oversees all projects in Europe, the Middle East and Africa – explained how the company is redesigning the corporate workplace and why major brands now trust the provider to appoint and manage their offices.

‘Over the last 10 years we've been working extremely hard to innovate what a workplace is,’ explained Rominger, ‘focusing on culture and global access as the two main priorities.’ Those part of an enterprise business – ranging from hot-desk employees to full independent headquarters – amount to 43 per cent of WeWork’s member base, totalling at 37,000 individuals globally. The company has 847 locations – also counting ones coming soon – in over 170 cities, with an internal network that can connect members from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles. It offers dedicated floors ideal for these large teams who need a tailored workplace, as well as private offices that can be used as swing spaces or satellite offices.

Large enterprise companies are seeing the advantage of providing their employees with an engaging, productive workspace

‘Large enterprise companies are seeing the advantage of providing their employees with an engaging, productive workspace,’ said Rominger. ‘Flexibility and growth are huge for the enterprise client – because the contracts are shorter term, they're not tied to a specific building. They can move within WeWorks or expand their offices within an existing network. If they want to scale up for a project, they can rent extra space for six months or a year. And it helps them attract talent: 78 per cent of enterprise members said it helped them attract and retain talent just by being in a WeWork.’ There are clear benefits in terms of productivity and engagement for those employees. ‘80 per cent of members say productivity has increased since joining WeWork. It allows them to step out of their normal office routine and go get a coffee or go do a wellness class during the day without having to leave the building.’

Performance and operations are the two biggest drivers behind most of the things we do

WeWork has a team of in-house interior designers, architects, engineers, artists, lighting and graphic designers that work together to optimize spaces for large companies, which have included the likes of HSBC, Amazon and Google. They guide these enterprises looking for a new home in the right direction – ‘from all the knowledge we've gleaned over the last 10 years doing these office spaces, we've categorized all the zones in a typical space into six categories.’ WeWork consults these companies, asks about their growth plans, evaluating how they both like to and best work. From there, the opportunities to configure and customize these zones multiply: everything from the space’s layout to the technical facilities to the furniture are considered in relation to the client’s unique needs. And insight comes with each new project: ‘A huge request from enterprise members has been for conference room suites – private, isolated zones that can be rented out all day.’ ‘Performance and operations are the two biggest drivers behind most of the things we do. Aesthetics come layered on top.’

‘Another reason why a lot of members come to us is the amenities that they can get, almost for free. It's part of their member fee, but they’re something that you wouldn't get in a normal office space.’ That includes cafés, massage rooms, juice bars, yoga studios, pantry space, lounges and more, like areas, for example, to play a game of midday pool. ‘Wellness – mental and physical – has been a huge thing in the office environment world. We've had a huge push – we always put a wellness space in the buildings.’

Activate is the keyword here – make a space that people want to stay in

The provider sees spaces of necessity and amenity as one entity. ‘Instead of considering each of these elements separately, we consider them as a train through the building – how is the member experiencing these from one to the next? In a normal office building, you walk in, you go to your desk – maybe you go to the pantry to put your lunch in the fridge – and that's pretty much it. But in a WeWork, it's about creating impact from the second you walk in.’ The team creates cohesive pathways from the entry to the lounge to the meeting room – and the spaces in between – to allow room for connection, whether it be with people from one’s own company or those who work in adjoining offices. ‘Activate is the keyword here – make a space that people want to stay in.’

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