WeWork - Challenging the traditional workspace

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I had always envisioned office spaces to be like the law offices my father worked in; quiet, private rooms that smelt of the photocopier and old books. Though I have seen all kinds of workspaces during my career, as I entered WeWork in the ultra-modern 535 building in Causeway Bay, I realised I was a long way from those quiet law offices.


WeWork, a collaborative workspace accommodating a gamut of workers from freelancers and start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations, was co-founded in the U.S. in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey. It has grown to ‘provide over 150,000 members around the world with space, community, and services through both physical and virtual offerings’. It’s a business model that has proved very successful and is still growing. WeWork has 170 locations in 56 cities, with new offices having opened in Beijing this year plus Singapore and Japan launches on the horizon too.

Other co-working offices in Hong Kong:
>> Kafnu Hong Kong
>> Wave Coworking

The WeWork office I visited covered eight floors and is the larger of two in Hong Kong. The second office located in Wan Chai covers seven floors and offers the same facilities and services as its sister and was launched shortly after the 535 location in the fourth quarter of last year. I was greeted with warm smiles at the reception and with a look around, I quickly picked up a relaxed but industrious vibe, laced with soft indie music playing in the background.

On this ‘community floor’, people tapped away at laptops in a corner of the room on long shared tables. Others milled around a wooden ping pong table that had a panoramic backdrop of Hong Kong through floor-to-ceiling windows. To my left were a string of glass-walled conference rooms where meetings were taking place. As I came full circle, more people were sitting in what looked like green diner booths, again armed with laptops and industrious conversation. I felt like I was standing at the intersection of a coffee shop, a graduate lounge, a hotel lobby and a trendy office.



My guide ran me through the key principals of WeWork; space, community and services. WeWork spaces are designed locally and in this case designer, Nelson Chan, who is also behind the interiors of Foxglove and Mrs. Pound, went with a Hong Kong transport theme. Like a magic-eye picture it suddenly became apparent: the diner booths had lights above them that looked like the front of trams, some chairs were inspired by the Star Ferry, while wallpaper with ‘tram ticket’ print stretched across a wall.

Service-wise, WeWork partners with companies that offer business-critical services, from productivity tools to legal and marketing among others, which could be especially beneficial for independent workers and smaller businesses.

Community though, seems to be at the heart of this setup. Their mission they say is ‘to create a world where people make a life, not just a living’. My guide tells me they do that by giving workers all the tools they need to succeed, from stationery and complimentary refreshments to wellness programmes and connecting people through events run by WeWork and promoting events run by members themselves.


Private floors accommodate members from a plethora of industries including design, finance, NGO’s and architecture firms. All the walls are glass so there is privacy but still allows natural light throughout. Each floor has a pantry, communal area and displays of artwork from local artists.

We finish with a ‘digital’ tour of the WeWork app which is key to unlocking access to the larger WeWork network and facilities. On the app, you can book conference rooms and/or workstations in WeWork locations all over the globe using credits. You can use the community boards to find other professionals in the network and stay on top of what events are going on among other services. Some members, my guide tells me, don’t even have a physical membership but join predominantly to connect with the community, and at 150,000 strong, I understand why.

More on WeWork: 
>> Miguel McKelvey - Another co-working concept behind WeWork