Apr 9, 2020 - Economy

Coronavirus pandemic pushes WeWork to make more room for workers

A WeWork in San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

WeWork — the driver of America's shift to smaller, shared office spaces — is planning layout changes at its nearly 900 locations for life after the coronavirus pandemic, according to company documents reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: After months of paranoia, social distancing and working from home, the millions who work from WeWorks will be wary of returning to shared kitchens, phone booths and desks. WeWorks have 75 square feet of space per worker, compared to the national average of 214.

What's happening: WeWork is removing some seats and desks at its locations and halving many conference rooms' capacities so workers can observe six-foot social distancing guidelines.

  • It'll add hand-washing or sanitizing stations as well as wipe dispensers to high-touch common areas like kitchens and phone nooks.

But that might not be enough for many nervous workers.

  • Tenants are telling WeWork they don't expect all of their employees to return to work at once when restrictions are lifted.
  • "When the time comes to return to work, we recognize that the manner in which this happens may look different for members across our community, so we are preparing accordingly," a WeWork spokesperson tells Axios.

The bottom line: The easiest way for WeWorks to move to a higher number of square feet per worker is just for fewer workers to come in to the office. Which seems to be exactly what's likely to happen, when the lockdown is lifted.

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