As more and more states across the U.S. resort to shelter in place orders and close non-essential businesses to halt the spread of COVID-19, WeWork will reportedly remain open. That comes after seven of the coworking company’s Manhattan locations reported cases of the coronavirus last week.
While many firms have shifted to working from home (or closed down, unfortunately), WeWork has, according to the Washington Post, kept their offices around the world open and refused to refund members. That disparity really stands out considering the Wing, Knotel, and other competitors have all closed. And in an ongoing pandemic, studies have shown that shared, open offices aren’t exactly the best place to avoid communicable diseases.
Last week, as the NYPost reported, the coworking company was forced to close and clean floors across six Manhattan offices, including their Financial District location, 42nd Street offices, and SoHo offshoots, among others. They reopened shortly after, but this came two weeks after WeWork’s first case at their 51st Street and Lexington Avenue branch, where an employee self-isolated out of caution and later tested positive for coronavirus.
In a March 18 statement, WeWork chairman Marcelo Claure put out a statement on Twitter explaining the company’s rationale. In it, he wrote that WeWork is a service provider and has “an obligation to keep our buildings open” and compared them to grocery stores or banks. As Forbes noted, this might be a gambit to secure the company the same kind of “essential” branding that has allowed drug stores and infrastructure such as power plants and subway lines to remain open. As Forbes also made clear, this may be in part because of a change of heart on the part of Japanese investing behemoth Softbank, which had earlier pledged to invest another $3 billion into WeWork but today found itself selling off billions in assets. Without that extra cash, WeWork could find itself in a precarious position.
However, with U.S. cases of COVID-19 nearing 40,000, and over 20,000 confirmed in New York State alone, tenants tweeting their displeasure, and a petition noting coronavirus’s possible asymptotic transmission, that practice may soon change. As Claure recently started promoting, the company also offers helpful tips for working from home.
AN will update this article accordingly if the situation changes.