Office spaces’ changing face

Co-work: The design of ‘the new office’ aims to create a communal space for both work and relaxation. WeWork in New York has arcade games set up in its lounge. (David  Delgado/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Co-work: The design of ‘the new office’ aims to create a communal space for both work and relaxation. WeWork in New York has arcade games set up in its lounge. (David Delgado/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The no-strings-attached flexible office spaces such as that at Perch in Rosebank, Johannesburg, are fast replacing the coffee shop as the hangout of choice for those reliant on only a desk, an internet connection and perhaps some caffeine to get their work done.

Another company offering co-working office space in South Africa is Workshop17, and WeWork is set to open on December 1.

The neon sign on the walls of Perch’s co-working space urges you to “do what you love”. Places such as Perch market themselves as more than just an office set-up, favouring terms such as “hub” and “community”, the space being secondary to the networking opportunities for those who work there.

The design of the space plays a big part in what makes it desirable. It’s usually minimalist, which is meant to foster creativity because there are few distractions, and is snapworthy with its eclectic light fittings, bright colour schemes and playful elements such as bean bags.

Perch has “team booths, lounges and breakaway areas”.
Spanning two floors on Bath Avenue, there are more than 40 “hot” (rotating, shared) desks, 20 dedicated desks, 22 offices and five meeting rooms.

A dedicated desk space, with 24/7 access, goes for R3 200 a month, while a shared hot desk for five hours a day will set you back R2 000 a month. If you want a desk just for a day, you can expect to pay from R250. Alternatively, for R6 800 a month, you’ll get a private office, in which two to six people can work.

Workshop17 has offices in trendy locations such as The Watershed at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, Maboneng in downtown Johannesburg and the Firestation in Jo’burg’s suburb of Rosebank.

“Open offices and co-working are changing the way people meet, innovate and collaborate,” says the Workshop17 website.

Also on Bath Avenue, Workshop17’s Firestation occupies the first and 10th floors of the building above the original fire station that was built in 1935.

The facilities include 170 hot desks, 27 private offices and more than 10 meeting rooms, seminar rooms and training spaces.

There are also lounges, breakaway areas and a café. For R281.75, you can walk in and work at a hot desk for the day, occasional pop-ins during a month cost R1 760 and a full month’s rental is R2 800. A private office goes for R12 000 a month.

WeWork is the Uber of workspace letting. The United States-based company is the market leader in co-working space and has filed for an initial public offering with US regulators. Its Johannesburg base will be the company’s first base in Africa.

Real estate investment trust Redefine Properties has confirmed that WeWork will lease six floors of its 15-storey building, The Link, in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

The offices, a minute’s walk from the Gautrain, will have fun extras in addition to coffee, such as a “wellness room”, fruit water and art-filled lounges.

WeWork’s website says the space can accommodate 2 000 clients, which it calls members. The prices for renting space are still to be released.

Patrick Nelson, head of real estate for WeWork Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “As we continue our growth, we are also committed to sharing the upside with our landlord partners, so we are especially pleased to be partnering with Redefine Properties in a revenue-share agreement that allows both parties to benefit from the revenue WeWork’s presence in the building will generate.”

WeWork video adverts, set to catchy, upbeat music and promoting its international reach, show a series of neat, minimalist and well-lit office spaces.

WeWork is the largest private occupier of office space in New York, where it was launched in 2010, taking up more than 1.6-million square metres. Operating in 425 different locations with 400 000 members worldwide, WeWork told business news channel CNBC that its revenue in 2018 increased to $1.8-billion from $886-million the previous year. During that same period, the company’s net loss more than doubled to $1.9-billion. In May, WeWork chief financial officer Artie Minson told investors they should view losses as “investments”.

In January this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that WeWork chief executive Adam Neumann reportedly made millions of dollars by renting office space in buildings that he partially owns to his company.

In response, WeWork says Neumann has a stake in only four properties, from which it leases space. This is out of the 400-plus co-working spaces the company operates globally, and the company says its board and investors are aware of the situation.

Aaisha Dadi Patel

Aaisha Dadi Patel

Aaisha Dadi Patel cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in 2014, and now works in a freelance capacity. She's written about everything from politics to polar bears, with particular interests in gender and Islam. She holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. Read more from Aaisha Dadi Patel

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