WeWork: Covid-19 is an opportunity to be 'more creative than ever'

The company plans to be the solution to the shift in workplace attitudes.

WeWork: Covid-19 has meant lower occupancy levels
WeWork: Covid-19 has meant lower occupancy levels

After a disastrous 2019 when plans for an initial public offering were shelved and controversial chief executive Adam Neumann departed, WeWork may have been handed a lifeline by the changes to businesses' office requirements brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Amanda Zafiris, head of regional marketing, EMEA, at the flexible workspace company, the crisis has presented an "opportunity to be more creative than ever before".

"The world has been exposed to new, hybrid ways of working, a shift that WeWork is perfectly suited for; our model is designed with all aspects of flexibility in mind," Zafiris told Campaign.

"This has put us in a unique position to support businesses through this workplace transformation."

In an update to its accounts from 2019, the company said it was "facing a period of uncertainty and expects there will be a material impact on global demand for our space-as-a-service offering in the short term, which may adversely affect the 2020 results".

To mitigate the financial impact of Covid-19, there was a delay in the opening of some new locations, a reduction in spend on marketing and professional fees.

However, WeWork has recently added to its UK locations, which now total 70, with openings in London's Soho and Covent Garden. Another will follow in Shoreditch this spring.

Along with its obvious challenges, 2020 also highlighted the role of the workplace and its ability to provide good work-life separation, something that WeWork intends to capitalise on, Zafiris said.

She added: "Business leaders now have the opportunity to completely re-evaluate how their teams work and determine the workplace strategy that actually works for their business."

That is the case "whether they're looking to provide greater options for employees wishing to reduce commute times and combine office with home working, or turning to hub-and-spoke and other de-densification models", she said.

Last year, several agencies, including Elvis and Pablo, opted to give up their main office space in response to the positive experience of remote working.

Even with a reduction in marketing spend, 2020 also brought the launch of WeWork's first global brand campaign, "That's how tomorrow works", by VaynerMedia, USA.

This came after former Publicis Groupe chief executive Maurice Lévy joined WeWork as interim chief marketing officer in late 2019 as part of turaround efforts. Lévy left the company three months later and was replaced by Roger Solé, former CMO of mobile network Sprint.

"As companies around the world looked to navigate the uncertainty, the campaign centred around three content pillars aimed at showing how WeWork is placed to lead them through this moment and beyond," Zafiris said.

The messages of the campaign, she expained, were: that WeWork is built for flexibility; its offer of enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures; and its availability of spaces designed to foster collaboration, productivity and inspiration.

WeWork also embraced virtual building tours accessible through its website and leveraged its own channels to share informative, educational content on the future of work.

In 2021 Zafiris said the brand plans to use CRM to be more data-driven and targeted in its approach, with a focus on being present where businesses are looking for workplace options through SEO and paid search.