In Wake of Hurricane Harvey, WeWork’s Nathan Lenahan Mobilizes the Troops

After deploying with the National Guard, Texas general manager returns to help with cleanup effort

by Mark Sullivan

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The day Nathan Lenahan was supposed to start in his new job at WeWork, he got a call from his commanding officer at the Texas Army National Guard. Hurricane Harvey had devastated Houston, and they were deploying right away.

Lenahan—who already had a bag packed and ready—hit the road.

“There’s such a strong sense of giving back to the community at WeWork,” says Lenahan. “Everyone immediately knew why this was so important, telling me: ‘Do what you have to do.’”

He spent much of his deployment on a recovery team, rescuing stranded troops and pulling out military vehicles that were stuck in feet of mud. It was grueling work, but as Lenahan puts it, “at least you sleep well at night.”

It would be close to three weeks before he’d return to the office, finally beginning his position as Texas general manager. By that point he was already planning his return to Houston—this time with a team of more than two dozen WeWork staffers around the country.

“It wasn’t hard to find volunteers willing to go to Houston,” says Lenahan. “In fact, we had so many that we had to turn some of them away. They felt so empowered to do the right thing. It was incredible.”

WeWork Hurricane Harvey team

Lenahan would help lead a team that would “muck and gut” homes damaged by floodwaters. That included ripping out floors that were warped and walls that were covered with mold. They toiled for several days in temperatures that regularly reached over 80 degrees.

“People ask me how it was different from working with the military,” says Lenahan. “Really, it wasn’t that different. Everyone just wanted to do anything they could to help people in need.”

Besides assisting homeowners, the WeWork team also removed about two to three tons of sand and silt from the Houston Police Memorial in Buffalo Bayou Park. In the blazing sun, they lifted out the debris, bucket by bucket.

Lenahan says he’s lived in Texas for 11 years, “longer than any place I’ve ever lived.” It’s where he’s raised a family, and where he started—then sold—his own company. He feels a strong commitment to give back to the community.

Since returning to his job, Lenahan has made veterans’ issues one of his priorities. He’s focusing on WeWork’s commitment to hiring 1,500 veterans over the next five years.

“It might not sound like a big number, but it’s more than a third of our current staff,” says Lenahan.

And he’s on the team helping to roll out WeWork’s Veteran in Residence program. Later this month he’s hosting a launch party for a space in Austin that is providing free office space in specially designed quarters for 10 veterans who are starting their own companies.

He’s also on the lookout for how WeWork can lend its expertise in times of natural disasters. He says he was proud that after an earthquake rocked Mexico City, the company was able to open its offices as mobile headquarters for the Red Cross.

“How cool is it that our team is able to just jump in and help where they need us most?” he asks. “It’s amazing how we can access a situation and figure how we can make the biggest impact.”

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