As the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, employees are challenging themselves to be creative with the spaces they use to do their jobs—either from kitchen tables and newly setup offices at home, or from workspaces nearby.
WeWork has always been a space for employees at companies both small and large to thrive in—a location where they can do their jobs effectively, with a strong community to support their needs. However, in a pandemic world that challenges what it means to work outside the home, people’s needs for office space are changing.
Here’s where Jesse Ganes, a director on the marketplace team at WeWork, comes into the picture. Ganes, who joined WeWork in late 2015, is currently the primary product owner of a newly launched product: All Access. Its purpose? To provide members a passport to any WeWork location in the country where they reside.
The genesis of a product
All Access gives employees the opportunity to do their jobs at any location near them—wherever they may be. (There are more than 843 WeWork buildings in 150 cities and 38 countries.) So, for example, if you don’t want to commute too far from home or you happen to be in another city than the one where you are based, you can enter a space and get to work in a clean, community-first, socially distanced environment.
For Ganes, the opportunity to launch All Access has been a passion project of creativity inspired by a members-first philosophy. “The pandemic has provided WeWork with an interesting opportunity to innovate,” he says. “As a platform that already valued flexibility and member experience when compared with traditional office providers, we’re doubling down on these focus areas and repackaging our physical spaces in a way that decreases friction and resonates with the market.”
One of the main things he had to be mindful of during ideation and launching All Access, he says, came from swiftly launching the product to meet members’ needs as the pandemic evolved and shifted. “The greatest challenges in launching this product was to quickly pivot toward a flexible-first mindset both for me and my colleagues,” says Ganes.
All Access initially got its start when Microsoft had a New York sales division based out of WeWork’s Times Square location. The team found themselves spending a lot of time commuting between meetings all over the city.
So as a solution, WeWork gave Microsoft employees access to all WeWork locations in New York City so they could go to the nearest office in between meetings, presentations, and other workday time opportunities instead of wasting time commuting. It was a success that ultimately boosted productivity and employee satisfaction within Microsoft.
Now an evolved version of that initial, successful experiment is being rolled out to anyone who desires that same level of flexibility for themselves—and to businesses that want that for their employees.
The value of flexibility
“It’s clear that COVID-19 has prompted companies of all sizes to confront their relationship to their physical office footprint. Today, total flexibility—in terms of geography, commitment terms, usage, and cost—is valued above all else,” says Ganes.
There are many benefits from an employer perspective—a vital consideration for businesses of all sizes. “WeWork All Access can serve as a cost-effective workplace replacement or supplemental benefit to boost employee morale and productivity,” he says.
Ganes drew upon his background as an architect when thinking about All Access. Specifically, that meant considering how entrepreneurs working at WeWork locations interact with their office locations, both from a membership perspective and a technical one.
“Being originally trained as an architect, I was taught to consciously consider the relationship of temporality between buildings and their occupants,” Ganes explains. “All Access challenges this by forcing us to consider how the member journey from home to hot desk plugs into each of our building assets.”
All WeWork buildings have been updated in the past few months with an emphasis on health and safety. “WeWork All Access customers benefit from the operational and design improvements we’ve made across our fleet of buildings,” he says. “We provide spaces that make physical distancing intuitive.”
A process that has been personal
The launch of All Access also proved to be personal for Ganes. He worked through the early days of the pandemic while living in New York City, which was the virus’ epicenter in March and April. “During lockdown, I became hyperconscious of the effect of my surroundings on my emotional state,” he says. “I was fortunate to have a decent desk setup at home, but I found that depending on my mood or the weather, I would shift around my apartment. Daily walks were key to maintaining my sanity.”
Once New York City began to reopen and WeWork employees began returning to the workplace, Ganes wanted to challenge himself to leave home and go to WeWork locations to efficiently (and safely) do his work. Now Ganes has been using a version of All Access. Depending on whether he wants to focus or collaborate, he bikes to WeWork’s Chelsea headquarters three times a week and to WeWork Dock 72 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard once or twice a week, and works from home the remainder of the time. It’s been helpful: “This flexibility keeps my workweek varied and provides firsthand experience I can use to inform the product roadmap,” he says.
Overall, launching All Access has been a tremendous learning experience for Ganes, and one that he believes alters the future of work in innovative ways. “In the shifting landscape of COVID-19 and returning to work,” he says, “it requires us to stay humble and challenge the status quo of both the WeWork product and the conventions of corporate real estate.”
He’s read the think pieces on the “death of the office,” he says. “While I strongly believe the office is here to stay, this moment in time represents its reckoning,” Ganes says. “Will it adapt to our new hybrid and dynamic methods of working or will it stay stagnant? I’m extremely optimistic about its future and excited to help determine how tomorrow will work.”
Benjamin Snyder is an editor and writer living in New York City. He’s written for Bloomberg, CNBC, Fortune, The New York Times, and other outlets. Snyder holds a degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.