The meteoric success of coworking spaces is one of the biggest pieces of the “future of work” puzzle to date. As businesses strive to keep the employees happy, healthy and engaged, there are more and more brands springing up communal areas to work, collaborate, and learn in.
In 2010, WeWork founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey saw this growing opportunity and have since built the household name in coworking. With over 400,000 members globally, the New York City-based organization has made a name for itself—literally—by creating stunning spaces around the world where individuals and companies can rent desks and office spaces, whether it be for one day or indefinitely.
Over the last two years though, WeWork has undergone a massive expansion. Now with over 425 locations in 100-plus cities, each coworking outpost follows a “similar, but different” vibe. Toronto was targeted as a spot for rapid growth, with plans to open 20 locations in the city by 2020 after opening their first in late 2017.
“The bottom line is, we don’t see any limit to demand,” Dave McLaughlin, WeWork’s general manager for the Northeast, told Bloomberg in 2018. “We’re definitely setting our sights high for the city and we think it is an amazing ecosystem for business.”
The latest Toronto location is another stunner: Perched in the clouds on the 41st and 42nd floors of the Scotiabank Plaza in the heart of downtown, this space perfectly combines WeWork’s signature coworking ethos with a more enterprise-minded outset, creating a perfect blend that members just couldn’t wait for. In fact, even before opening in December 2018, this location had rented out well over 90 per cent of its capacity.
It isn’t a WeWork if people couldn’t get a bit of work done. This location can support up 800 members, spread throughout 42,500 square feet of offices as well as common spaces accessible to all members. This location is unique in the city in that its members are limited just to companies and not individuals like traditional locations. Member companies at this location include PatSnap and Horizon Media, and one company in particular takes up just over a third of the entire available space with over 280 desks.
Location is everything. Being right in the middle of the downtown core has its perks–the country’s biggest banks are literal neighbors.
“It is important for our locations to be easily accessible and surrounded by the amenities that matter most to our members,” said Chris Bonneville, northeast director of real estate for WeWork. “Scotia Plaza is in the heart of the financial district and we’ve seen incredible demand from mid-market and enterprise members.”
Another striking aspect of this location is what physically separates each worker from one another. A typical WeWork is populated with glass walls, creating a completely see-through concept where one person can almost view the entire floor from their desk. The enterprise nature of this location means the open concept common areas are balanced with a healthy level of real walls–an aspect requested by the multiple companies taking up shop. Because this location is mostly home to larger organizations, they wanted privacy the typical open concept did not provide, and WeWork was happy to oblige.
There are tons of places to work around the two floors, whether it is one of the eight meeting rooms that can fit a multitude of members, or smaller independent phone booths that offer a single person ample privacy. WeWork listened to their community and heard that there were too many “in-between” meeting rooms, as in rooms that can only fit 6-8 people, so they went ahead and built several larger and smaller ones to accommodate every member at this location.
You have to stay well-caffeinated and full in order to get the most work done, and WeWork has this down to an art form. Two communal kitchens (one on each floor) boast coffee from popular local roaster Reunion Island along with respectable supplies of tea, and yes, the signature WeWork fruit water that rotates in and out. WeWork members will attest: They come for the collaboration, but they stay for the fruit water.
The office includes the ‘Honesty Market’, a WeWork branded snack corner that operates on, you guessed it, the honor system. A variety of snacks and drinks, both healthy and crave-worthy, are available for purchase onsite or via the WeWork members app.
The common areas are generally packed for the lunch hour as each of the 11 member companies come together. Meal options are seemingly endless as a food court full of standard lunch fare is located on the concourse level, not to mention Toronto’s underground PATH connects to the building, offering a labyrinth of shops, restaurants and coffee bars. In the dead of winter, members here can wander through the 30-plus kilometers of PATH halls (a Guinness world record!) without facing the harsh Toronto winter.
And yes, there is beer on tap, just to make sure those Friday afternoons go by a little bit quicker. The local mainstay Amsterdam Brewery provides the suds.
Coworking is the name of the game. Even though there are almost a dozen separate companies who call this WeWork home, the goal is for them to run into one another when grabbing a coffee or a snack and share ideas, creating a sense of neighborhood that a traditional office just can’t provide.
This feeling of bonding is built upon by the massive and gorgeous staircase right in the middle of the office, and this is no accident. It is the first thing that grabs your eye as soon as you enter the space. WeWork had to cut a hole through the existing floor, a process that took months of zoning considerations is now considered well worth the effort. The staircase’s wood panelling is meant to inspire a northern cottage feeling, and it brings one more touch of localization to the space.
The art on the walls is light, psychedelic and eye-catching. The colors are bright and vivid, mimicked by the wallpaper near the elevators and common hallways. The art—including the Instagram-worthy neon signage—is all designed by WeWork’s in-house team. If you look hard enough, you can track the evolution of art styles between this location and others in the city, starting with the flagship first outpost.
The space includes two classrooms that can fit about 20 people each. These learning hubs are used for a host of different reasons. One company might book them to teach an internal feature or offer an update, while another one of the member companies might book it and host an open-invite workshop. A few examples of classes and workshops here include “How to expand into the U.S.” and a women’s leadership panel.
Community director Jarred Paperman and community manager Azrah Manji-Savin plan programming in this space roughly two to three times each week. It might not always be strictly “educational,” but when the attending members are all open to collaboration and sharing ideas, the definition of educational can get a bit mixed up.
For example, on the docket this week is a beer tasting from beloved Henderson Brewing Company; a DIY trail mix bar; and an Earth Day clean up, where members volunteer to clean up Toronto’s waterfront.
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