New Business Work Space Trend Takes Off in Boston

Co-working is a new way companies are sharing space in Boston

As big companies and start-ups are doing away with expensive real estate and long-term leases, a popular new business trend is taking off in Boston.

Companies are embracing co-working spots for their business needs, and the new work space trend comes with its creative advantages, like being across the hall from a web designer, lawyer, or accountant.

The offices at the WeWork facility on St. James have a chic feel complete with a coffee bar and some board game stress relief.

“I brought my kids to work and met a couple of folks in the common area who said, hey do you know how to play shuffle board?' So we all played shuffleboard,” said Bill Peña of Simply Business.

Despite the hangout vibe, people are hard at work. An endless hallway of glass offices decorated with dry erase marker and Post-it notes are evidence of collaborative meetings. It’s a new way companies are sharing space in Boston. WeWork has six locations in Boston and Cambridge, and is the biggest in the business of rent-by-month co-working spaces.

“Well first, the number that I’ve heard is by 2035, 60-percent of the world’s population is going to live in cities. So if that’s true, we’re all going to have to learn how to share space more efficiently,” said Dave Mclaughlin, WeWork’s general manager for the Northeast.

If that’s the case, WeWork is ahead of the game. They are hosting companies from Boston’s startup world like Simply Business that started here two years ago when an expensive 10-year-lease in Boston was not in the cards for them.

“WeWork to us is more like cloud computing. You check out resources as you need them and it grows with your operational expenses. And it worked out great. It started with two desks in one WeWork location, and we are now 73 desks,” said Peña.

Some of the benefits are that short term leases, furniture, WiFi, and networking events are all included.

WeWork already has 100 of the Fortune 500 companies among its members nationwide.

“You’re able to focus and drive the ball further faster. That’s the whole idea. It’s a platform for creators,” said Mclaughlin.

Some desks in this shared space going for a cool $600 a month, according to WeWork’s website, but it’s not just a smart financial decision. Big companies are moving in for creative benefits, like the 100-year-old Liberty Mutual who has plenty of space but is making the change for their Solaria Labs. They are not so much looking for the financial benefits, rather the creative benefits.

“It’s the fluid nature of the environment—its glass. So even the physical transparency of it and you are engaging much more fluidly. There’s less of a hierarchy,” Adam L’Italien, Liberty Mutual’s director of innovation, said.

They are hoping for a more vibrant ambiance for coming up with fresh, creative ideas like smart home technology and car safety sensors.

“It's more about engaging in the ecosystem around you—learning from others and WeWork really provides that for us,” L’Italien.

WeWork is opening two more buildings as they are pretty much at full capacity in all of their Boston locations.

“You come to a place like WeWork and it’s a place where millennials and creatives and engineers, those really challenging and valuable segments of the work force, they want to be here they are inspired and energized and that’s what space has to do with it,” said McLaughlin.

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