DJ Dashti, Workville’s CEO & Co-Founder represented the coworking industry at a recent panel with BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York). We asked DJ to share some key insights about the event. Here’s what he had to say.
DJ, what it was like to connect with other NYC Real Estate leaders about how coworking is changing the industry?
First, let me start with breakfast. BOMA did a great job hosting; there was quite a breakfast spread. We met at the 101 Club, which is a really nice private club event space. The buffet was so good, a little of everything, BOMA really knew how to kick things off right with that breakfast!
It was a great mix of people and a select enough group that we could really talk and exchange ideas. I loved it.
That sounds great! What would you say was the biggest theme of the panel?
Overall the biggest theme was forecasting the trajectory of coworking in NYC real estate. Currently, 10% of new leases signed are coworking spaces, and WeWork is the largest NYC office tenant. Building managers and real estate owners are trying to figure out that special formula enticing people to choose coworking. It’s management companies to keep up with commercial lease demands and to partner with the right coworking spaces.
What are the biggest reasons people choose coworking instead of traditional office space?
The thing is, coworking has evolved from a flexible option for freelancers and individual entrepreneurs to a strategic decision for companies. I mean the full spectrum of companies – early-stage, growth-stage, enterprise, satellite offices, and the individuals.
I’m seeing more and more that flexibility is the driving factor for why companies choose coworking. You know, the work life/balance is changing a lot. Many companies have work-from-home Fridays or flexible schedules. So, if they have 100 employees, they may only have 30 – 50 onsite every day. The sales team could be traveling, customer service could be working from home, the marketing team could be visiting the headquarter office, and so on. The traditional office model of exact seats per employee is less important as employee schedules become more flexible.
There’s also the fact that needs quickly change for a company. If you’re in the service industry and hire employees based on project or client size, you may increase employee/seat count for that specific project or client.
Or maybe you want to scale the company at a set rate. So if you have 6 employees, you want to hire 6 more after the next round of fund-raising, and so on. As the scaling keeps happening, office needs keep growing. And these cofounders are strategic, they wait to incur costs of larger office space until the very day more space is needed. Literally, the very day they have hired that bigger team, which is excatly why flexbile leases are so key.
I like how you describe coworking as smartly incurring costs. Sounds like coworking speaks to the heart of the CFO. What about the amenities? Will people pay extra for the amenities offered by coworking spaces?
At the end of the day, amenities only work if you feel comfortable using them. Do I think a nap room and daily happy hours is going to make a team happier and more productive? No, not necessarily. But that’s really up to the company to decide what kind of vibe works for them. You pay for a vibe, for an experience, that drives success.
Space to spread out and work from is definitely an amenity that we’ve seen increases productivity and makes people happy.
Last question; how would you describe Workville versus other coworking spaces?
Haha, I have a love/hate for this question. I love to give credit to everyone in the industry, we are each doing our own thing, so I hate to necessarily compare our space to anyone else. Let me just tell you a few things about why we’re special and why I love my job.
As I said, it’s really about the vibe. Workville is a pretty unique experience because right now we only have one location, and we make sure it feels like a professional, friendly, laid-back, successful workspace. If we were a bar we’d be Cheers, everyone knows your name and everyone is happy when they come in and happy when they leave. I don’t know, we just have this great formula where we operate as a major company with great partners backing us and a great team overall, but we also feel like a boutique. Our members are truly the best-of-the-best. It’s really crazy the things they are working on, and the supportive, community vibe we’ve got going.
Spacewise, you have to come visit us to see it for yourself. We have tons of windowed offices. The terraces are a big deal too. I just love it, I love coming into my workspace every day and seeing everyone.