Coworking has long provided an alternative to the 9-to-5 grind. The growing focus on wellness in the workspace industry is only strengthening that as operators increasingly incorporate wellness offerings into their spaces and services.
UK Coworking brand Work.Life places well-being front and center. With eight locations and two more in the works, Work.Life was created to help people blend their work with their life to create a lifestyle they love.
I spoke with Work.Life co-founder and GCUC UK presenter Elliot Gold about disengagement in the workplace, the growing emphasis on employee happiness, and the somewhat surprising partnership between Work.Life and Verizon.
Cat Johnson: Let’s start with the big picture perspective. What is the vision for the Work.Life spaces?
Elliot Gold: At Work.Life, we create amazing spaces for business owners and employees to enjoy the time they spend in the office. We started Work.Life largely because we felt everybody should feel happy in their work lives. It sounds a bit trivial, but it’s not trivial at all. The majority of the UK population—60-plus percent according to some surveys—are disengaged with what they’re doing, in some form or another.
I know from experience. I spent years in corporate before I moved over to the other side, and I definitely felt that while I was there. It’s a really interesting area right now and we’re doing whatever we can to be part of that and to impact that.
It doesn’t sound trivial at all to me. That’s the reason I do the work I do. I’ve been writing about coworking for a long time, and am engaged in the coworking community for that exact reason—there’s a better way to live than just sludging through jobs we hate and marking off the days.
A hundred percent. And what’s really interesting is that the idea of happiness in the workplace has really moved a lot in the last 10 to 20 years from being a fluffy subject that no one really talks about—or talks about in an embarrassed way—to something that’s now talked about the whole time. It’s now acknowledged by business leaders that it’s super important to focus on the happiness and well-being of your employees. It’s absolutely critical to business owners, or anyone who cares about their business.
The wellness aspect is definitely trending right now. I think it says a lot about, not just how we want to work, but how we want to live. There’s a lot going on in the world right now and we’re thinking about, and talking about, what we really want from this short life. I love that Work.Life calls that to the forefront and is actively working on supporting people in creating better lifestyles.
If you look at trends in the way we work, things appear, then disappear, then reappear over time. But one of the things that seems to have changed radically for good over the last 10 or 20 years, is the expectation—largely driven by younger generations and demographic shifts—that that’s not good enough anymore. They have a bigger purpose and think work should be meaningful. That’s a really positive thing.
Right. Young people just aren’t having it. They take what’s been built and reject it. They want to be mobile, they want to work part-time, they want to be flexible, and that’s more important to them than having a car, and buying a house, and having a lot of weighted obligations.
That’s all lovely. The negative side of the coin is that we now live in a super-connected world. We’re connected every minute of the day and there’s an expectation that you’ll respond in real-time to everything that hits you.
In the UK over the last 10 years, the number of hours people work hasn’t necessarily increased dramatically, but look at the number of unpaid hours people work. People are spending 400 or 500 hours per year doing unpaid work. All you have to do is take a journey on the Tube, or go to a dinner party. Before anyone has even gone to work, they’re working. Work has basically crept into every corner of our lives now.
In the Work.Life spaces, you’re creating community and enabling collaboration around healthier work-life balance or lifestyles. What are the Work.Life communities like in your spaces, and how do you foster more balanced lifestyles for your members?
The first realization is that this idea is key to a business owner. At Work.Life, we think a lot about what this means, in terms of our members. We think about ways to help business owners create an environment for their teams that creates engagement—whether that’s in the design of our spaces, the services we provide, or all the little perks that go along with it. How can we provide that environment?
There are now eight Work.Life locations, what’s next for you and the team?
We have eight opened and we just signed on our 10th location. The next year is about London expansion—nothing too quickly—then regional around the UK. Right now we’re in London, Reading and we just opened in Manchester.
What can you tell me about the partnership between Work.Life and Verizon?
That’s really interesting for us. A Fortune 50 company partnered with a coworking space that advocates everything is about personal connection and well-being. They’re a big tech company, but the two are not mutually exclusive, they actually work very well together.
One of the ways we see tech having an impact on what we do is a Happiness Package, a new service we’re trialing with some of our members. We work with businesses to review their current offerings for their team, review what their team wants, and how happy their team members are in their jobs. Over time, we see how that improves. As space providers, we get the benefit of that too—we get to hear the types of things our members want to see in our spaces.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming GCUC UK, the first GCUC in Europe.
GCUC UK is my first GCUC ever, so I’m really excited. I’m going to be speaking with Nick Livigne from Verizon about the partnership. We’re going to talk about how the partnership came about and what it’s like working, as a small business, with a Fortune 50 company.
Is there anything you hope to get out of the conference, or walk away with?
You get so narrowed in what you’re doing that it’s actually quite hard to take a step out. Everyone is talking about coworking, so you pick up stuff all over the place, but it’s nice to take some time out to learn what other people are doing and see some of the research in the market. I’m looking forward to that.