The ways we work have fundamentally changed. People no longer seek just work-life balance. They want the power to choose when, where and how they work. They want the freedom to create their own schedules, to do work they find meaningful, and to be in a space that suits their unique needs. Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all nine to five. In All the Ways You Work, WeWork members share how they’re reimagining their professional lives and thriving in this new world of work.
When the entire city of Lima shut down back in March, Valeria Calderón thought she would go home to her mum’s house in the Northern Peruvian beach town of Trujillo for about two weeks and wait for concerns about COVID-19 to fade away.
We all know how that went.
Two weeks turned into a month, and then into two months. At first Calderón, a digital planner for media advertising agency Carat, felt like she was on a working holiday. It was even fun for a while. She’d wake up at her mum’s house in the morning, pull out her computer and start working from her bed. The highlight was a view of the surfers down on Huanchaco beach. Soon, she found working from bed was one of those things that sounded incredibly decadent in theory, like an unlimited supply of chocolate, but in reality disappoints after you’ve had too much of it. Calderón lost her concentration. She missed her life and her old office at the WeWork back in Lima.
‘I loved the first two months working in my bed – it was amazing. But then there was no line between working and sleeping and eating. I didn’t have a routine. There were no boundaries,’ she says. ‘When you’re available 24/7, you start doing work at weekends and late at night.’
She was happy to be spending time with her family, the kind of time she knows she’ll probably never get to have with them again. But after a while, Calderón and her mum started to get on each other’s nerves over little things. The two women were constantly tripping over each other in the house and bickering about who was going to do what to make their days run more smoothly.
‘It was hard to make my mum understand I needed to be in my own space. So we went back and forth about who was going to cook. We would both have meetings and we couldn’t decide who should [cook],’ Calderón says. ‘I was just so used to living by myself.’
In October, travel restrictions eased and Calderón found out that she could finally fly to the United States to visit her boyfriend, John Lasak, whom she hadn’t seen in nearly a year. She also learned that through her company, she could use the new WeWork All Access programme, which allows her to utilise WeWork offices in 150 cities across the world.
Calderón’s initial plan was to meet her boyfriend in Atlanta. She got tested for COVID-19, masked up and got on a plane. Lasak could hardly contain his excitement at the airport. He ran to meet Calderón as she walked out of the international arrivals area. Once the two of them were reunited, they stayed between Airbnbs and friends’ houses – all small, affordable spaces with no place to work. ‘I was so happy to be back with my boyfriend, but I had a lot of work to do,’ she says. ‘I just couldn’t get it done where we were staying.’
That’s when Calderón remembered her company’s offer of the All Access pass and then found the WeWork 725 Ponce office in Atlanta. She says going back to an office was more than just walking back into a physical space. It gave her a sense of purpose. It was like stepping through the looking glass and back into the real world.
‘The second I walked into that WeWork, I felt the vibe I had missed of being in an office,’ she says. ‘It was a huge sense of relief to have a routine again. I could finally take conference calls without anyone else listening. I work with numbers and formulating strategies. This is why I need a workspace that allows me to focus on specifics but also allows me to be creative.’
Calderón began to appreciate the small things again, things she may not have even noticed pre-pandemic – like the cappuccino machine that offered lactose-free milk and the phone box that allowed her to take calls privately. She spent hours on the gorgeous open rooftop space at the Ponce office. ‘I took a picture of it and sent it to my CEO. It made him so jealous,’ she says. ‘It was 100 per cent easier to get my work done once I had a dedicated space for work. I’ve also loved getting to meet the WeWork community team. They’re always so nice and welcoming.”
Calderón and Lasak eventually became COVID-19 nomads. Lasak is from New York and has a big family there. The two of them knew they wanted to end up in Brooklyn, but his family was concerned about the state of the pandemic and asked them to wait to ensure that they were both healthy. Since their jobs allowed them to work remotely, they chose to head to Miami to enjoy some of the sunshine. They lived in a hotel and spend most of their recreational time outdoors in the Wynwood neighbourhood, where there is another WeWork location (WeWork Wynwood Garage) that Calderón can use with her All Access pass.
‘The feeling is different in every one of the offices, and it has been so much fun to experience those differences. The Wynwood office is a former garage. It is a work of art,’ she says. ‘I’d never seen a space like it. We’ve also tried the Brickell office [WeWork Brickell City Centre], which has another incredible roof terrace.”
She added that even though she was working indoors, she always felt protected from the virus. ‘They’re always cleaning the surfaces. Everyone wears a mask and I douse myself in hand sanitiser. I feel very safe,’ she says.
In addition to having a place to think and do her work, being back in an office, especially in a new city in a new country, has let Calderón expand her social and professional circle. ‘I’ve definitely done a lot of networking,’ she says. ‘Right away, I added, like, four people to LinkedIn and would chat with them during lunchtime. One time, I asked a girl if I could use her laptop charger. After that, we added each other on Instagram and went for drinks in the area.’
With the holiday period approaching, Calderón and Lasak are finally making plans to settle up north, closer to his family. They researched where to live based on proximity to a WeWork, and decided to try to find a home that’s close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where WeWork Dock 72 sits. Calderón can’t wait: ‘I heard it is the coolest one in New York City.’
Jo Piazza is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, digital strategist and podcast host.