- It is estimated there were 14,000 co-working spaces globally in 2017. This figure is expected to rise to 30,000 by 2022
- WeWork, which had been valued at $47 billion in January 2019, has announced it will lay off 2,400 employees to cut costs and stabilise the business
- A new breed of wellness-inspired co-working brands have emerged such as the purpose-driven space X+why, remote working enablers Outsite, pop-up specialists Spacious and women-only community space Wing
NEW YORK, United States — The stark lessons of WeWork’s recent woes are still being processed in the US, but around the world, specialised co-working companies are emerging, driven not purely by profit but by purpose, too.
The latest to spring up is startup incubator and accelerator Founders Factory, which launched in New York last month, focused on supporting consumer healthcare businesses.
Targeting healthcare access, personalised care and diagnosis, digestive health, allergies, smoking cessation, mental health and female health, its model enables founders to create, build, and accelerate their startups with support from its team of 30+ full-time operators and strategic partners.
Notably, according to a company statement released on LinkedIn, the first investor on board is Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JJDC, Inc.), the venture capital arm of US drug firm and consumer health business Johnson & Johnson. To date, Founders Factory’s startups in Europe and Africa have raised over $200 million in capital.
Rise and fall
As WeWork has risen to become the Starbucks of co-working brands – opening 850 locations in 123 cities since 2010 – new and innovative co-working companies have been able to carve their own niche in the booming sector.
According to one estimate, there were thought to be 14,000 co-working spaces in 2017 around the world, and that number is expected to jump to 30,000 by 2022.
X+why in London’s Whitechapel is another example of this new breed of co-working companies making a point of prioritising the wellbeing of its members. Alongside memberships that include access to daily yoga, meditation and pilates, x+why host regular events on the theme of purpose in business.
Its membership includes the founder of Sweat & Sound, a wellness business that hosts secret, immersive fitness events in London and New York City, and also the co-founder of London Interdisciplinary School, a new university established for those who want to shape the world, not just fit in it.
Last year in the UAE a co-working space dedicated to sports, fitness and wellness professionals also opened in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Towers. Nook, the brainchild of Ravi Bhusari, the owner of sports provider Duplays, is tailor-made for SMEs working in sports, health, fitness and wellness.
The 10,000 square foot workspace houses an on-site mind and body functional training studio and residents include Dubai Active, ClassPass and sustainable fashion brand Benjamin Siggers.
Building a “well-living” workforce
The explosion in wellness co-working aligns with the boom in wellness real estate, a rapidly growing movement in the property industry that prioritises would-be inhabitants’ wellbeing at every step of design, construction and operation.
The wellness real estate sector is substantial, valued by the GWI in 2017 at $134 billion worldwide, and it is expected to grow by 6% annually through to 2022.
Prime examples are One Hill South, an apartment building in Washington DC that boasts a residents-only Equinox gym with a private personal training studio and full-sized basketball court.
Fitness company Life Time has also unveiled plans to build healthy residences in Las Vegas, Miami, and Dallas, where apartments will be co-located with full-service Life Time athletic clubs.
Co-work to co-live
With wellness real estate and co-working converging, the trend of co-living is also undergoing a wellness reawakening. In January Mason & Fifth, a “conscious, communal-housing model” that pioneers “well-living” is opening studios in London’s Bermondsey.
Also planning to soon launch in London is Outsite, a global network of co-living spaces set up in desirable locations designed specifically for the holistic needs of remote workers.
Since 2016, the company has opened 24 spaces and welcomed 1,000 members to sites including East Williamsburg in New York, Venice Beach in Los Angeles, Tulum in Mexico and Santa Teresa in Costa Rica.
Despite the risk that negative headlines around WeWork could tarnish the co-working model, Outsite founder Emmanuel Guisset believes the trend towards co-working is only going to strengthen.
“Co-working is now mainstream,” he told Welltodo. “We’re starting to see a lot of different niches: luxury co-working like Canopy and Assemblage, pop-up co-working like Spacious and Croissant, and recently women-only co-working with the Wing.
“Like hotel chains, those niches will keep getting bigger and become leaders in their segment,” he said. “As for wellness, it looks like there is a big mega-trend of wellness and mindfulness with people trying to find sense and spirituality beyond their work.”
A driving force behind the innovation in co-working spaces, Guisset believes, is the number of employers and employees embracing remote working.
“Remote work is definitely on the rise,” he said. “Some large companies like Dell, Accenture and Amazon have more and more teams doing it. Unplugging and digital detoxes are also on the rise as programs start to launch with a USP of being offline.
“Outsite’s core user segment is millennials but we see more and more baby boomers jumping on the location-independence train. They have discretionary income and they need community.”
Guisset says he’s also noticed a trend of investment away from the “real estate heavy models” such as WeWork and Selina, and instead towards a “revenue share model” that negates the need for expensive, high-risk leasing of property.
“Ultimately it’s not healthy and sustainable to grow at all costs,” Guisset said. “If you want to grow that fast when there is real estate involved, you have to make a trade-off in profitability, user experience and culture.”
Whatever happens next, this new breed of wellness-inspired co-working companies won’t have to look far for a cautionary tale on why scaling fast isn’t always a good thing.