Is This the Office of the Future or a $5 Billion Waste of Space?


Workers of a certain age may recall that long ago, people once divided their waking hours into two parts: work and life. At quitting time, Fred Flintstone would slide down the tail of his dinosaur with a “Yabba dabba doo!” That was before technology put the office on vibrate inside everyone’s pocket, and before economic upheaval decoupled work from the security of a full-time job. Today, an estimated one-third of the labor market is made up of “contingent” workersfreelancers, contractors, and the self-employed. When the job is no longer 9-to-5, it’s hard to keep a work-life balance. Now, though, there’s a place where the age-old divide can seem irrelevant, where toil and fun blend together beneath neon signs that say things such as “Embrace the Hustle.” Where there’s always a free keg of beer at the self-serve bar, with a tap that says: WeWork.


At a basic level, WeWork is a company that sublets office space, taking care of many of the time-consuming hassles involved in self-employment. That’s not the factor, though, that has captured the fancy of venture capital investors, who have pushed the five-year-old company’s valuation to a giddy $5 billion. WeWork has cast itself as a new kind of workplace for the post-recession labor force and a generation that has never known a cubicle. It aspires to make your job a place you never want to quit.


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