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Migrating Former WeWork Sites

What have we learnt from migrating the technology at former WeWork sites?

WeWork, the elephant in the room when meeting with landlords and other flex operators.

The titanic of flexible workspaces has hit its iceberg and it’s sinking fast.

It’s not just the quantity of sites closing that’s an issue, it’s the speed at which tenants are being pushed out AND landlords are being left with empty spaces. A prime example of this was their Blackfriars workspace where members were given just 30 days’ notice of its closure. And that’s no isolated example: a string of such stories has followed in 2024.

Though an obviously tricky time for those directly affected by the WeWork closures, it has been encouraging to see that the company’s struggles have not reflected on the reputation of the flex model. Landlords don’t seem to have been spooked and are continuing to invest in creating flex spaces within their buildings. There’s a common understanding today that flex is a sound bet when it comes to office space – it best caters to organisations’ demands for shorter-term leases, premium services, and flexibility in being able to scale their space to match the size and hybrid working patterns of their staff.

But that’s not to say that the so-called WeCrashed story doesn’t create headaches. Specifically, landlords need help migrating spaces from the departing WeWork to a new operator – and, of course, operators similarly need assistance when taking on a WeWork space.

Migrating flex spaces to a new operator

A 30-day turnaround doesn’t give landlords a lot of time to prepare for an operator’s departure. Even when a new, replacement operator, is agreed there comes the hefty challenge of ensuring the flex space is ready to re-open for both existing and new members.

Critical to this is tech – all the necessary digital infrastructure and tech solutions must be in a place for a flex space to function effectively. This isn’t a small task with (and just to name a few) the following to set up:

-       Access and security

-       Wi-Fi

-       Booking systems for meeting rooms

-       Guest registration

-       AV

-       Apps and online portals for members

Having migrated several sites over the past year, NCG has learnt first-hand how to handle the process as smoothly as possible. These are my three top tips for migrating a flex space:

1.     Minimise down-time

Time is money. Every day that a space is empty, the landlord – or new operator that has taken on the space – will be losing out on revenues.

Creating a clear roadmap that can be executed as efficiently as possible is an essential step in the migration process. Experience is a key here as any set back can lose revenue, and with inexperienced, siloed teams working without a clear roadmap, a small mishap can push back the entire process.  

2.     Making best use of legacy tech

Like furniture, décor, and a rogue bottle of milk in the fridge, often a lot of tech is left behind when an operator leaves a space. When pushed for time, it can be tempting for landlords, operators and even some migration service providers to gut the place, creating a blank canvas to start again. This is rarely the best (or most cost effective) approach though.

From a cost and sustainability perspective, it’s savvy to conduct a thorough review of the existing tech and digital infrastructure in the space, and then assess which of it remains fit for purpose.

3.     Don’t cut corners

Steps one and two focus on making migration as quick and painless as possible, but that should never come at the expense of the end product.

Flex spaces live or die by the quality of experience that they offer to members. A shabby fit-out, sub-par tech, or poor user experience will quickly raise questions marks as to whether a member will renew their contract.

Being thorough in migrating the space between operators is essential – it does not need to be revolutionary, but it does need to allow the space to launch with a bang.

We’ve already worked on a number of these projects over the past year, and it is undoubtedly important for service providers like us to share our expertise as the industry navigates these changes together. Though WeWork continuing to dominate press in the flex sector, we’re certain there will be many more promising headlines to come with new and thriving flex providers.

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