IT FELT more like a party than an office opening. A DJ spun live music in the corner, and Israeli-made Jems craft beer flowed like water. The noise level rose as more and more mostly-millenial Jerusalemites came to take a look at the WeWork’s new offices on King George Street, smack in the center of town.
WeWork is part of the new sharing economy.
Instead of renting an office alone, and being responsible for all of the logistics involved including internet, printing and cleaning, WeWork offers offices without the hassle.
“Much of our success has to do with global trends like urbanization and millions of people moving to cities around the world,” Benjy Singer, the general manager of WeWork Israel
, said in an interview. “We need to be more efficient in how to use space. People don’t want to own the building or to lease it, they want to be in one building today and another tomorrow.”
Around the world, WeWork has 268,000 members working in 474 locations in 90 cities from Tokyo to Melbourne to Barcelona.
In Israel, there are a total of nine centers in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheva including the new building in Jerusalem with more than 5000 members. Israel was the second international WeWork location after London, and one of the companies’ founders, Adam Neumann, is Israeli.
The company was founded in New York in 2010, and has expanded quickly. In Israel, the centers are located close to public transport, making a car unnecessary.
Inside the Jerusalem office, everything is brand-new and brightly colored. Along with the Jems beer, there is a state-of-the-art espresso machine, and a large jug of cucumber- water. Comfortable couches look like a nice place to take a nap, although everyone is glued to their laptops.
The options to rent range from a “hot desk”, meaning a non-reserved desk in an open-plan area to a large office that can hold 20 workers. In between there are private offices, ranging from a micro-office (with the emphasis on the word “micro”) that most closely resembles a closet.
Along with the office, you get free Wi-fi, a certain amount of scanning and printing, free beer, and according to the organizers, plenty of community. The idea is that the shared office encourages cross-platform sharing and exchange of ideas. At least so far it seems to be working.
“We had an office in one of our apartments in Beersheva but we wanted to reach out to the new young professionals who are coming to work in the growing engineering departments of international companies in Beersheva,” Beth Newmark, the general partner of Emmaleh Student Housing which provides student housing in Beersheva said.
“We’ve met some wonderful people by doing this. When we needed a graphic designer, we found one in the building.”
Newmark has been at the WeWork office in Beersheva for almost three years and says she has no question that becoming a member was a good decision for her business.
The Beersheva office is mostly millennials, she says, and large companies with 10-20 employees. The Jerusalem office has more workers in non-profit organizations, and skews a little older.
It also offers a solution to the loneliness that freelancers often face.
“I work for a New York-based non-profit and so far I’ve met a bunch of other people who are also working New York hours,” Andrea Hendler said in an interview. “If I were at home I would feel unusually isolated working these hours, but here I don’t feel that way.”
She pays 1,500 shekels a month for a “designated desk,” meaning she always gets the same desk, in an open-plan office. Workers are supposed to adhere to “library rules” meaning you’re not supposed to talk on the phone in the office. Along the walls are a series of sound-proof phone booths for calls.
Members also get access to common spaces with couches and can reserve conference rooms. The one challenge, she says, is that part of her work are video calls that start at 3 pm and can last for several hours.
“I haven’t found the right space for that here,” she said. “I hope I don’t have to get a private office,” which is significantly more expensive.
Rules about what food can be brought in also differ from place to place. The Jerusalem office is not only kosher but vegetarian, with signs explaining the need for more sustainable food sources. Other offices, where most of the members are not observant Jews, would not be kosher.
Each member gets a key and while the support staff is not there on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, any member who wanted to come to WeWork on Shabbat would be able to do so.
Sagi Shahar says he often comes into the Tel Aviv WeWork office on Saturday nights for a few hours when it’s empty.
He says he pays 4000 shekels a month for a desk with two spots.
Part of the idea is that members receive credits, based on how much they pay, that can be used for printing, scanning, or using space in another WeWork. Sagi Shahar has frequently used the Manhattan WeWork as a temporary office while traveling.
“It saves us so much time, and gives us so much value,” he said. “They don’t see you just as people who rent space. There are other places that cost less and have some of the same attributes, but we like WeWork.”
Others say that WeWork helps maximize their productivity, and gets them out of the house. Sara Miriam Liben, who is the only full-time employed staff of Kehilat Tzion in Baka, says she spent ten months working at home before moving to what is euphemistically called a “micro-office” in WeWork.
The office is tiny, with room for little besides a desk and a chair. Liben says she usually leaves her door open to get some air, but says that despite the small space she’s happier at WeWork.
“I’ve been working at home for ten months and I had no life-work balance,” she said. “This was the most affordable office and a really smart decision.”
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