Should you sign up for a WeWork membership?

The troubled coworking provider has completed its restructuring, after it went bankrupt at the end of last year. Could WeWork again?

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young
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Global coworking provider, WeWork has confirmed it has reached the end of its restructuring plan across its UK and Ireland office space portfolio.

The company, which filed for bankruptcy in the US last November, had been undergoing a “strategic reorganisation” to streamline its huge property portfolio. It closed WeWork sites across six UK cities including London, Manchester, and Birmingham.

Peter Greenspan, global head of real estate, WeWork has celebrated the end of the restructure as a “milestone” for the company.

But the company’s crash has lost it points with some members, and likely raised doubts among potential tenants. Should small business owners sign up for WeWork in 2024?

Which WeWork offices have closed?

After a meteoric rise as founding father of the coworking sector, WeWork began knocking at the door of insolvency last August, sunk by a series of financial losses and PR scandals. The bankruptcy announcement, and news of a restructuring, came three months later.

Post-restructure, WeWork UK is not without wounds. The brand has closed approximately ten sites including its flagship office in Manchester, and some central locations in the capital.

London-based operator IWG, which looks after two major commercial offices, Regus and Spaces, rushed to snap up some of the sites following the announcement.

WeWork’s struggles were not unique to the UK. Globally, the brand has shut the doors to around 160 offices, and revised more than 170 office leases in negotiations with landlords.

WeWork says the closures will reduce its rent expenses by an estimated £9.4 billion, in total. It also expects to finalise its restructuring in the US later this month.

Should I sign for a WeWork membership?

It’s natural for business owners to feel wary about signing for a WeWork office in 2024. After all, the restructuring has plunged members at affected sites into chaos during an already challenging year.

Overall, though, membership has remained loyal. WeWork reports its total footfall by occupied desks in the UK and Ireland rose by 25% in the year leading up to April 2024.

Thankfully, the brand also appears to have learned lessons from its overstretched portfolio.

Discussing WeWork’s growth prospects, Ben Samuels, WeWork’s Chief Revenue Officer, was cautiously optimistic. “We are going to do it all very responsibly this time,” he said.

WeWork remains one of the largest coworking providers in the UK. To entice new signups, it could also offer discounts that might make it a smart investment for new starters.

Still, businesses curious about taking out a WeWork membership will want to avoid making a long-term commitment until more details about its financial status are revealed.

The brand’s flexible All Access Membership plan is renewed monthly, and will give brands the best get-out clause should the worst happen. WeWork said that All Access bookings have increased by 34% in London, and 51% in Dublin year-on-year.

WeWork alternatives in the UK

If WeWork runs into money troubles again, members might not be the first to hear about it. Startups spoke to one business owner who was a member of WeWork’s now defunct Spinning Fields site in central Manchester.

He says there was little warning from WeWork ahead of the closure, and recalls seeing a sales rep show new members around the space just one week before the site shut down.

“When we finally found out [WeWork was closing], they offered us a space in another building,” he said. “We have a team of twelve and it could only fit four people.”

The company has since moved into an alternative coworking space in Manchester city centre. It’s a move that other small businesses will likely be considering as they weigh up the ease and convenience of large coworking providers, with the security of new independents.

In an open letter, property tech expert Thomas Procter recently declared that the flexible office space market had “matured beyond WeWork.”

In London alone, he argued, hundreds of cheap office space providers are proliferating. Operators are working closely with building owners, leading to management agreements over leases, satisfying landlords and avoiding one of WeWork’s biggest mistakes.

“The spaces themselves are [also] perfectly adapted to the evolved needs of the modern workforce – increased flexibility and scalability, improved community management and upgraded tech are just a few examples,” Procter added.

“Simply put, the flex sector is not WeWork – and it’s high time we stopped defining it by a non-representative single entity.”

Looking for low-cost coworking space in the capital? Learn more about the best free workspaces in London.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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