Tomohiro Ohsumi via Getty Images / WIRED
WeWork has undertaken a second round of mass redundancies in the UK this week as it plots to restructure the business in July, WIRED can reveal.
Over 50 per cent of WeWork’s community managers and community leads were made redundant earlier this week, according to sources within the business, and were told that their last day will be June 30. The cuts this week are thought to have affected 82 people in the community team, the largest in the company, while WeWork insiders point to further redundancies in the design, IT, sales, events, talent acquisition and New Member Development teams. Around 30 staff across those teams in the UK have already disclosed that they are leaving the company on LinkedIn.
Two sources within WeWork London estimate that around 200 UK roles could be affected by this restructure, which is also expected to impact staff across the company’s global operations. WeWork declined to comment on the total number of employees affected as the restructuring process is still ongoing.
An internal WeWork presentation seen by WIRED shows that the company plans to give portfolio directors responsibility for more buildings and “area directors”. WeWork plans to centralise the billing and sales functions and spread community managers across different buildings rather than allowing them to work in one. In the company’s City offices, the plans show that eight community managers would be in charge of 16 buildings, with 22,311 desks, while one community manager would be in charge of WeWork’s 14 HQ buildings, which are serviced private offices leased out to other companies, with 4,436 desks.
The presentation shows that WeWork plans to launch its member experience and hospitality plan in July, which involves ditching its individual building management structure and creating a centralised “shared services” team in July to handle billing and invoicing, while people working in sales, pipeline management and renewals will be part of the “sales and account management” team.
A WeWork spokesperson says the company is “realigning certain functions and teams” as part of a five-year plan to achieve long-term, profitable growth. The spokesperson adds that as part of this the company is “restructuring” its Community team to “better align with our focus on member experience”.
The entire UK community team at WeWork was furloughed on full pay when the coronavirus pandemic began. Some teams were told to avoid telling members that they were furloughed and instead to put their “out of office” messages on, a source within the community team says. Staff that were made redundant were told they can apply to ten centralised internal roles, but that they will compete with the New Member Development team which currently processes billings and sales, one source affected by the cuts says. They were also told that more jobs would be available later this summer, the same source claims.
“The idea is that they will save as much as possible. But we have had so many complaints from members already. The volume of what they have to do is far too much,” the source says. “I love the people I work with but I think the way the London strategy has been handled is inefficient. It’s up to the teams to keep everything afloat while senior management has lost its mind.”
As WeWork buildings stand empty, the remainder of the community team say they have still not received a date to return to work. Management told staff that if 50 members use their keycards in one building, one team member will be sent back to work, a source says.
Two insiders claim that WeWork chief executive Sandeep Mathrani “does not see the point” of community teams, who interact with members at WeWork buildings and organise networking events, and he believes they should only focus on being receptionists.
“A lot of the magic has worn off,” says one community team member. “A lot of people who joined did so because they believed in the values of the business. Now it’s heavily enterprise-focused. It does seem like there are more people thinking about just leaving.”
This fresh round of redundancies came after Mathrani warned staff earlier this year that further cuts were necessary as the company sought to restructure its business. Last year, WeWork made 2,400 people, 19 per cent of its total workforce, redundant.
Meanwhile WeWork’s managing director of EMEA Martin Ott has become the sixth high-profile management member to leave the business alongside Mandeep Bajwa, senior director of people partners (HR) – who was only promoted to the role six months ago. They follow WeWork co-founder and chief culture officer Miguel McKelvey, who quit earlier this month and is expected to exit the company by the end of June; London-based managing director of global strategy Ole Ruch; US head of real estate Aaron Ellison; Turochas Fuad, the managing director of WeWork South-East Asia and Korea; and Greg Rogers, head of visualisation at the company.
While there is no confirmed headcount for WeWork’s employee numbers in the UK, the latest accounts show that the business’s UK subsidiary, WeWork International, employs 440 people. But many more work across its lease agreements, taking its overall headcount above 1,000, according to a report by The Telegraph from last year.
WeWork has been cutting costs since its failed IPO last year, which it was counting on to fulfil lease obligations and other expenses. In the weeks after it tried to list in September, the company’s valuation dropped from $47 billion to under $10bn. The group ended 2019 with $4.4bn of cash and commitments, having burnt through $1.4bn in the fourth quarter. In November, WeWork reviewed around 100 leases globally as it worked to stem its losses, according to a report by The Information. The pandemic has made the outlook far worse. Some tenants have refused to pay rent or requested the termination of rolling month-to-month contracts.
WeWork is also embroiled in a legal dispute against its chief investor SoftBank after it backed out of a $3bn deal to rescue the business. The rescue package had already put $1.5bn of emergency capital into the business and staved off insolvency.
Although members will see a cut in customer service availability from the community team, WeWork is not expected to make cuts in other member perks, such as baristas. As one insider puts it: “If they cut coffee, there would be a riot.”
WIRED is reporting on the impact of coronavirus on technology businesses. If you have information you’d like to share anonymously, please contact email@example.com or @TashaBernal on Twitter.
Natasha Bernal is WIRED’s business editor. She tweets from @TashaBernal
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