The pandemic’s arrival turned spaces like WeWork into ghost towns. Now people are lining up for low-commitment offices, and providers are working to sustain that trend.
The demand for WeWork at the Salesforce Tower is indicative of how start-ups have begun returning to offices around the Bay Area. Instead of going to traditional offices, they are opting for flexible co-working spaces, where they can sign short leases or drop in to common space as necessary. Those co-working spaces are now bursting at the seams.
The long-awaited return to office is coinciding with a start-up environment that is showing signs of faltering, after two years of free-flowing venture capital cash and soaring valuations. Tech stocks have sunk, interest rates have risen and geopolitical unrest has contributed to a general feeling of uncertainty.
In uncertain times — as start-ups undergo tremendous growth, with the knowledge that the funding spigot may yet turn off — short-term leases are more appealing than ever. Start-ups are flocking to spaces like WeWork, the national chain, as well as smaller co-working companies with more elaborate designs like the San Francisco-based Canopy and the New York-based Industrious.
But for many co-working spaces, especially during the pandemic, the short-term-lease models that appeal to start-ups can sometimes present risks.
Other co-working spaces had been moving toward a revenue-sharing model since before the pandemic. That includes independent spaces like the Port Workspaces, with two locations in Oakland, Calif., and Blankspaces, with several locations in Southern California. Chains like Industrious and Common Desk, the latter of which agreed to be acquired by WeWork this year, have also adopted revenue-sharing structures.
自从疫情暴发以前，其它一些共享办公空间已经开始采取利润分成的模式。这些包括Port Workspaces，她在奥克兰和加州有两个地址，还有Blankspaces，她在南加州有几个地址。连锁办公空间如Industrious和Common Desk（后者今年同意被WeWork收购），也采取了利润分成的模式。
WeWork itself, perhaps the most infamous co-working company, took a different approach: Last fall, the company went public, two years after its aborted initial public offering.
Last Thursday, WeWork reported a $435 million loss in the first three months of 2022. The company said 501,000 members signed up in the first quarter, which is over 100,000 more than in the same period last year, but still lower than before the pandemic.
The Bay Area’s initial shelter-in-place order, in March 2020, meant that many WeWork members stopped coming in, the company said. The building stayed open for essential businesses, but attendance dropped and some companies consolidated their WeWork memberships.
But in a tight tech labor market, the return-to-office plan can be a make-or-break factor for prospective employees. And not everyone is excited to get back to a cubicle.
“Some people I’ve spoken to are itching to get back in the office, but I’m getting a lot of responses saying they won’t entertain an offer without a full remote option,” said Abigail Lovegrove, a recruiter for the Collective Search, a recruitment firm, who works out of the Salesforce Tower WeWork.
“虽然我谈到的许多人踯躅于回到办公室，但是我们收到了许多反馈，称他们对不能远程工作的机会感兴趣，”招聘公司Collective Search 的招聘者阿比盖尔·拉乌格罗（Abigail Lovegrove）说。这家公司没有在WeWork的Salesforce Tower中心办公。
After the optimistic return in the fall, daily visitor numbers took a hit in December and January as the typical holiday exodus combined with the surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, WeWork said.
By February, as San Francisco ended its masking requirement for most indoor spaces, members were starting to return.
For some companies, recreating a prepandemic office environment is the goal. Merge, now with around 40 employees in San Francisco and New York locations, expects employees to come into the office four or five days a week. After the official workday wraps up, they serve a communal “family dinner” in WeWork’s common space.
Mr. Feig acknowledged that his company’s insistence on working in person limited the workers it was able to recruit.
In the early stages of hiring, “you’re going to have some candidates where, like, ‘That’s a no for me — I’m not into it,’” he said. “But once you kind of knock off that 20, 30 percent who’s not into it, you get a 70 percent of candidates who are really excited about the opportunity.”
Mr. Feig said he hoped to expand the company to 80 or 100 employees by the end of the year. He intends to keep the company in co-working spaces, at least in part.
Merge’s vice president of marketing, Nick Kephart, said the ideal plan would be a mix. “The current plan,” he said, “would be some mix of: in some cities, where we have enough scale, to start having our own private office space; in some cities, stick with WeWork; and in other cities, we may actually open up new offices.” Merge公司市场营销副总尼克·坷法特（Nick Kephart）称理解计划将涉及一系列策略组合。“目前的计划，”他说，“将是在一些业务已成规模的城市收购自己的办公空间；一些城市继续使用WeWork的办公空间，而在其它一些城市我们可能要开立新的办公室，这是一系列策略组合。”