WeWork jams more folks into its space than others

[LONDON] Here's a superlative that didn't get much attention in WeWork's 220-page prospectus for its planned initial public offering (IPO): It jams more people into its spaces than just about any other commercial landlord.

In London, WeWork provides about half of the eight-to-10 square metres (sq m) per person recommended by the British Council for Offices industry association. The company's recently opened space in the Waterloo district, the largest co-working facility in the world, has a 6,414-person capacity, according to a document WeWork emailed to brokers. That equates to less than 4.1 sq m a person, according to Bloomberg News' calculations. That's roughly the size of two standard doors laying side by side.

The company's latest big lease in London's Canary Wharf district can house 6,009 WeWorkers, the company's documents show. The space was previously occupied by about 900 employees of the the European Medicines Agency, which moved to Amsterdam due to Brexit.

According to its IPO prospectus, WeWork's 40 million square foot pipeline of locations had capacity for 724,000 work stations, or about 5.1 sq m each. In contrast, IWG plc's Regus shared office brand has about 12 sq m per work station, according to its 2018 annual report.

WeWork offers generous common areas bedecked with everything from skate ramps to basketball hoops. Upstairs, companies renting private desks will typically work in glass-partitioned offices. Those spaces don't feel as cramped as they might, thanks to WeWork's use of desks typically smaller than those provided by its competitors. The company provides separate telephone booths in many of its locations while fixed phone lines are an optional extra, helping it stretch space even further.

"When members join WeWork, in addition to their private office they have access to our diverse array of common areas, including shared seating and workspace areas, conference rooms, pantries, and more," a WeWork spokesman said.

While WeWork hasn't exactly advertised the fact to customers, it's increasingly using its efficiency to reassure potential investors. The cost per employee in a WeWork building is about US$7,304 a year, compared to US$17,158 in a standard lease building, according to the IPO prospectus.