Claudia Woods: "The office is not dead but the old way of working is"

Claudia Woods is CEO of WeWork Latin America, the revolutionary real estate company which provides flexible shared workspaces worldwide and currently has over 30 units throughout Brazil. In this interview, Ms. Woods takes us through how the pandemic has impacted the coworking market, the main advantages of the recent joint venture between WeWork and SoftBank Group in Latin America, the importance of diversity and the company's plans for 2022 and beyond.

Publicado Monday, November 29th 2021
Claudia Woods: "The office is not dead but the old way of working is"

Leaders League. What are your main goals as the new CEO of WeWork Latin America? And what are your main challenges in this new role?

Claudia Woods. Our main goal is to focus on profitability, operations efficiency, growth and to be the leader in flexible workspace, helping companies go back to work.  Every newly appointed CEO faces key challenges, such as setting the right strategy, aligning the organization, leading the top team, and working with the board. We are investing a good amount of energy, research and thinking on the company’s vision, our strengths and purpose, in order to achieve a clear understanding of what enables the business to generate even more value.

Learning from the people and enhancing such a rich and passionate culture, as the one I found in WeWork, is the most important job for a CEO. They can be the core reasons for success because they provide a basis for a company to survive and thrive in difficult times. Although this process can be hard, WeWork makes it easy, the moment you walk into a WeWork building the vibe hits you and everything screams the company's culture!

 

What are the main advantages of the recent joint venture between WeWork and SoftBank in Latin America? Which key changes can we expect at WeWork Latin America following this deal? 

The joint venture combines the strength of WeWork’s offer with SoftBank Latin America’s proven influence in the local market, and solidifies WeWork’s position to meet the growing demand from companies of all sizes seeking best-in-class, flexible space solutions in the region. For WeWork, being part of the SoftBank ecosystem means the opportunity to continue its growth journey, expanding its range of operations. The SoftBank Latin America Fund is a trusted partner with a lot of understanding on how to grow companies in a very solid path. This partnership allows the team to join local expertise with global access.

86% of companies plan to use flexible space as a key part of their real estate strategies in the future

How has the Latin American coworking market been affected and transformed by the pandemic? Which key new trends would you highlight?

COVID-19 has accelerated the change in the way we look at work. Research shows that the office is not dead, but the old way of working, which has been used for 300 years (since the industrial revolution), is. 

As a result of the pandemic, flexibility has been brought to the forefront. Companies are rethinking their strategies regarding workspace and their real estate footprint, seeking more flexible solutions to meet business demands while still ensuring employee safety and well-being.  According to a CBRE report, 86 percent of companies plan to use flexible space as a key part of their real estate strategies in the future. 

Among the key trends identified, we can mention the following:

a) Adoption of the "working from anywhere" and the "hub-and-spoke model" (having a smaller central headquarters with satellite offices) is already a reality.
 

b) The future will be increasingly hybrid. We foresee a decentralized workforce and, above all, employees with the autonomy to define the model in which they can achieve better results, increasing their productivity.
 

c) Workspaces will be more flexible, both in terms of contracts, which can increase or decrease at any time, and in terms of versatility of environments. A meeting room can easily be transformed into workstations and vice versa.
 

d) We can expect new videoconferencing technologies, which will help face-to-face and remote employees feel a level playing field.  
 

e) Schedules will be coordinated to ensure that those who go to the office do not get there and find the building empty, by setting predetermined hours or days for on-site work. 

 

According to a recent study by Bain & Company, only 3% of Brazilian CEOs are women. As a CEO which has led major companies, such as Uber and Banco Original, what do you think is needed for there to be more women at the top in Brazil and Latin America?

While this is a common agenda among diversity initiatives, we need to be careful not to fall into the diversity-for-diversity pattern. As leaders reshape the way they think about diversity, the approach shouldn't just be about setting a goal. It should be about finding new ways to make everyone shine in their own way.

It's time to reframe what successful leadership looks like, recognizing the individual attributes of each, as well as creating an environment where people can present themselves and prove their worth and be rewarded for doing so equally, regardless of gender or background.

My hope is that we will soon see all genders and backgrounds on a level playing field based on a new definition of the leadership attributes and opportunities we offer. Only then will we begin to sustainably reduce the gender gap in leadership roles.

For WeWork, being part of the SoftBank ecosystem means the opportunity to continue its growth journey

What new initiatives can we expect from WeWork Latin America over the next 12 months?

Until we have all the population vaccinated, our goal is to have our buildings as a reference of a safe place for companies that want to go back to work. We also intend to be authorities in flexible workspaces, continuing to offer solutions increasingly customized to the needs of companies and people. 

Companies already understand the future is flexible and WeWork has been offering a service that meets the hybrid demand since its creation, 11 years ago. One of our missions in the next 12 months is to use our expertise and unique data to help companies go back to work, getting the better hybrid model for each one of them.

We are launching new products in line with the new ways of working. The future of work has already arrived, and it will be more hybrid than ever. The digitalization of the real estate market is the materialization of this demand.  With this in mind, we have just launched a new product in Brazil and Mexico that meets this purpose: All Access. 

All Access is a monthly membership that allows our clients to reserve workspaces during business hours around the world, at the most convenient WeWork location. 

 

By: Ana Luisa Ferrari