As WeWork exits sites left, right and centre, how can we best migrate flex spaces between operators?

As WeWork exits sites left, right and centre, how can we best migrate flex spaces between operators?

WeWork, once the shining light of the flex industry, has faced its fair share of highly publicised struggles in recent months, which have been watched with bated breath by landlords and fellow flex operators alike.

WeWork’s finances have been pored over in the media, while headlines have been made as the company has swiftly exited sites left, right and centre. There have been cases, such as the closure of its London-based Blackfriars workspace – where members were given a mere 30 days’ notice – that serve as a stark reminder of the uncertainty caused by such hasty departures.

For the landlords of commercial properties that WeWork is leaving, the mission is clear: find alternative flex operators swiftly to keep ensure revenue does not plummet.

For the incoming flex operators replacing WeWork, the mission is equally clear: get the space migrated across as quickly as possible so they can either service existing members that have carried over from WeWork, or else open to new members.

Indeed, amidst this flurry of activity, there is an important point to acknowledge. Namely, that WeWork’s failures should not overshadow the inherent value of the flex space model.

The operator has grappled with a complex set of issues and setbacks that are by no means reflective of the wider industry. WeWork’s ambitious expansion incurred hefty leases for prime global sites. Then, loss-making and struggling with its long-anticipated IPO, the organisation was dealt another blow when barrages of corporate clients withdrew from agreements due to the pandemic-induced surge in remote work. Its situation is unique.

Crucially, there is no shortage of other operators ready to step in when WeWork exits a site. Nor is there a shortage of businesses keen to find a flex space they can call home. The challenge, then, is helping landlords and operators with post-WeWork migrations.

Having managed the process numerous times, here are some of NCG’s top tips. 

Start with the tech

The foundation of any successful flex space is the digital infrastructure that underpins it. For this reason, ensuring that a workspace is ready to welcome members and deliver a seamless user experience requires several key considerations.

This includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • Access control and security

  • Wi-Fi

  • Control over heating and lighting

  • Systems for booking breakout spaces and registering guests

  • Online member portals and apps

As a digital infrastructure specialist, NCG has been at the forefront of numerous WeWork migration projects. From this, three delivery principles have emerged as non-negotiable – speed, resourcefulness, and quality assurance.

Minimal downtime

For every day that passes while the workspace is unoccupied, the landlord or flex operator loses out on all-important revenues. It is for this simple reason that minimising downtime becomes paramount.

Going in blind and hoping for the best will not suffice – a clear and efficient plan of action for reopening the space is critical.

Naturally, there can be teething issues with regard to executing such a plan as many enter entirely unfamiliar territory. However, WeWork has now exited dozens of sites across the globe, and as a result, some businesses in the flex industry, including NCG, have gained a wealth of experience in migrating workspace technology between operators. There is, therefore, more support on offer for managing such projects than ever before.

Repurposing existing infrastructure

Leveraging existing resources is essential; when an operator departs a space, they often leave behind a range of digital infrastructure. Frequently, much of this technology is still in great condition and fit for purpose, perhaps with some adjustments or refurbishments.

Rather than starting from scratch, a new operator’s first step should be to thoroughly examine and assess the suitability of any existing tech and infrastructure. Indeed, they only serve to benefit by conducting an initial review, potentially saving time and significant resources.

Ensuring high quality and consistency

Lastly, quality must never be compromised. While speed and resourcefulness are crucial, cutting corners at the expense of occupant experience can seriously risk undermining the attractiveness and viability of the workspace in the long run.

If occupants are continually combatting an unstable Wi-Fi connection or a sub-par workspace app, member satisfaction and retention rates are likely to suffer.

As the fallout from WeWork’s issues continues to be felt throughout the flex sector, the task of migrating empty workspaces to new operators will undoubtedly remain a focal point for some time.

However, landlords and operators alike can take comfort in the fact that with the support of experienced service providers like NCG, they can be equipped with the tools they need to manage these transitions successfully. Through collaboration and a commitment to exceptional workspace products, the only way is forward for flex.

Tom Proctor is the CEO and founder of NCG, an internet service provider (ISP) and master systems integrator that provides the digital backbone for the built environment, servicing real estate, urban logistics and enterprise customers across the UK and Europe. Prior to founding NCG, Tom spent many years working alongside some of the biggest names in the commercial real estate sector, such as British Land and Aviva Investors, before embarking on his mission to change the way property technology infrastructure is created, implemented and managed.