This CEO gave up his office lease to work around the world

The plethora of WeWorks in major cities made it possible for Max Nanis and his team to be globe-trotters

Prior to the pandemic, CEO Max Nanis worked from various WeWork locations around the globe, including from Tokyo (pictured above). Photographs courtesy of Max Nanis

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.

Imagine waking up in a new city, typing in your location on an app on your phone, waiting fewer than five seconds, and being given the code to an airy office where there is coffee waiting for you.

“It’s like something out of a spy movie,” Max Nanis says. “And that is exactly what I was after.”

It’s been almost three years since Nanis, the founder and CEO of market research firm General Research, gave up his permanent office space in Los Angeles and allowed his team of five to work remotely anywhere in the world. Because of the pandemic, Nanis has been following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to limit unnecessary travel and hasn’t flown internationally since March 2020, when he landed in Russia.

When we talk, Nanis is in Moscow, working out of WeWork Ulitsa Bol’shaya Yakimanka 26 near Red Square. 

“I call this WeWork the Marble Palace,” he says about the space’s over-the-top opulence, like something out of the hit Hulu television show The Great.

“Given that my tourist visa keeps getting extended, I am in absolutely no rush to head back now. You could say that because of Russia’s proper handling of the situation I intentionally choose to stay here rather than fly back,” he says.

In the pre-COVID-19 days, Nanis visited WeWork locations around the world using the Global Access program, which is now known as All Access. When I ask Nanis how many WeWork locations he has been to in the past few years, he takes a moment before answering. “I think I’ve lost count,” he says. 

By his best count, he and his employees have done at least a month in Germany, Spain, Russia, Mexico, Israel, South Africa, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia—plus U.S. cities including Atlanta, NYC, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

“The work from home movement is new to most people, but we were doing that on a global scale before it became common this year,” Nanis says. “People are learning that they despise the 9-to-5, not because it’s mundane but because of the inevitable pattern they fall into. I know that I have a habit of falling into what is comfortable for me. So I have to make myself break that habit.”

Nanis refers to WeWork Ulitsa Bol’shaya Yakimanka 26 in Moscow as the “Marble Palace.”

He’s broken the habit in a big way. Prior to 2018, General Research was in a warehouse in Los Angeles’ Arts District. The company was cash-flow positive, and Nanis was able to support himself and the company’s projects, and he was traveling more for work.

“There just wasn’t a point to being there anymore,” Nanis explains. “The rent was so high, minimum $6,000 for a vanilla space in downtown L.A. So I did the math and realized the money would be better spent divided up between flights, Airbnbs, and WeWork memberships—a far better value.”

So, in 2018, Nanis sent his team around the world. He packed up his own belongings, put them in storage, and started on his adventure with a month at the two WeWork locations in Johannesburg.

WeWork All Access made sense for Nanis, because he knew he couldn’t be productive if he was constantly toggling between cafés and hotel rooms.

“There is so much value to being in an office, and I don’t want the anxiety of having to buy a coffee every two hours and dealing with bad WiFi,” he says. “That’s not the adventure.”

Nanis used to choose where to stay in a city based on the WeWork he liked best in a given location. He had a system: First he’d book a hotel for the first week in a new city. “And then I’d go to all the WeWork locations in a city. Once I figured out the best one, I’d get an Airbnb that was walkable to it,” he explains. “The beauty of WeWork isn’t whether there will be a location, but figuring out the one that is most convenient and suited to you.”

A view from WeWork Jongno Tower in Seoul.

Having been on the road nonstop for the past few years, Nanis may be one of the best sources of knowledge about the idiosyncrasies of the various offices across the world. He’s like the Bill Bryson of WeWorks. He informs me that the South Korean locations have the best bathrooms (he noted that South Koreans brush their teeth in those lovely bathrooms several times a day), and that Barcelona has the best-calibrated espresso machines. 

“Shabbat means that when working on Fridays in Tel Aviv you get the place to yourself,” Nanis says. “Not only does Johannesburg have the best security, but the South African wine on tap is far better than kombucha, and Bangkok’s community managers have the best iced coffee recipes to help deal with the heat.”

He was surprised to meet a lot of students in the Tokyo location. “Because the city is so dense and the apartments are small, people are literally renting hot desks for teenagers to do homework,” Nanis says.

In Jakarta, a majority Muslim city, there are rules that require long pants. So Nanis found a pair of tear-away pants that converts to shorts to both adhere to the dress code and survive the hot climate.

“Every location has state-of-the-art climate control and air filtration systems, so I can’t ask for a better situation,” he says. “The Moscow locations also have extremely professional cleaners who are amazing—every time I turn around, I see a surface getting wiped with disinfectant.”

Because of COVID-19, Nanis has been hunkering down in Moscow, currently as an On Demand member. Once vaccinations are more widespread and travel restrictions lift, All Access is a service that travelers at heart, like Nanis, can look forward to using. Nanis is adamant that he’s just getting started on his global adventure—he’s merely on the appetizer of a five-course meal.

“I don’t have settling down on the horizon. I just want to learn about and explore as many different cultures as possible,” Nanis says. “I want to go to interesting places and stay there for a few months and create some good stories, so that when I’m old I have some funny stuff to say.”

Jo Piazza is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, digital strategist, and podcast host.

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