Cape Town Time:


Cape Town’s Co-work Spaces Inspire Innovation and Creativity

2 December 2020

Cape Town is the startup capital of Africa. The city offers entrepreneurs a variety of comfortable and safe shared workspaces to network and collaborate. One such space is the WeWork offices in the city centre. We caught up with Karla Van Zyl, Community Manager at WeWork 80 Strand Street, to find out how this co-working space has repositioned for the Covid era.

wework Karla

It’s been a year since the WeWork office opened in Cape Town. Tell us what the Cape Town experience and consumer trends have been like and how this compares internationally?

What a year! It has been such a pleasure to watch our diverse community here in Cape Town grow, and watch our members, from all backgrounds and industries, connect and collaborate. Our members at 80 Strand Street range from entrepreneurs and start-ups to large enterprises (that make up 54% of our global membership portfolio) who recognise the benefits of being part of our community – including unique networking opportunities and access to a space that inspires productivity and fosters collaboration. We also see a lot of international members who come to our spaces in South Africa in the summer months, and take advantage of the surrounding wine regions.

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the global economy and, above all, has changed the way people work and collaborate. How is WeWork repositioning for the Covid era?

It’s true! The pandemic has really changed how we live and work. I think the days of HQs filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of employees are gone. I know from speaking to my colleagues and our members in South Africa that, while working from home had its short term perks – including no commute time and spending more time with family –, we are all craving the office to reconnect and collaborate with our teams. With this in mind, we have enhanced our spaces to allow for physical distancing – including new buffer zones and staggered seating – to ensure our buildings are safe, and above all, our members feel safe when they come into a WeWork.

Tell us about the Covid-19 health and safety protocols implemented at your Cape Town office? Can people feel safe returning to co-working environments?

Absolutely – the health and safety of our community is a top priority. Across the business, teams have worked with industry experts to devise a global ‘Future of the Workplace’ operational plan, which has been implemented on a local level here in South Africa, to ensure our members feel happy and comfortable when coming into our spaces. This plan includes prioritising personal space, increasing cleanliness and implementing behavioural signage to help guide our members on how best to use our enhanced spaces. As Community Manager, it is my responsibility to not only ensure that our members are following the guidelines correctly but that as a team at 80 Strand Street, we are meeting their needs, and supporting them as best as possible during this era of uncertainty.

What is your opinion on the future of work and co-working spaces?

I know from speaking with my friends and our members that it’s never been about one way of working over another – people want the choice of where, how and when they work! My colleagues and I love coming into our beautiful office everyday but I know, for others, on some days working from home will be more convenient and on other days, working from the office to reconnect with colleagues, collaborate or opt for a change of scenery, will be preferred. We all require different working environments for different tasks, so providing employees with more flexibility seems to be the way forward.

In South Africa, WeWork has offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Do you have plans to expand or open offices in other African cities?

South Africa holds such a special place in my heart. Our three locations – The Link in Johannesburg, 155 West Street in Sandton and 80 Strand Street in Cape Town – embody the country’s diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs and enterprise companies, and it’s a real pleasure to watch this community grow and thrive. Right now, my main priority is giving our members at 80 Strand Street the best possible experience. I hope there will continue to be opportunities for us to grow here in the future, and continue to expand WeWork’s strong African community.

What do you and your co-workers enjoy most about living and working in Cape Town?

Where to start! Cape Town really is a city that offers it all. From stunning stretches of coastline and world-famous wine regions including Stellenbosch – which is just a stone’s throw away – to the iconic Table Mountain, and the city’s diverse culture and rich history, there is a lot to love. Like many of my colleagues, I grew up here with my family, and to me, it will always be the most beautiful place in the world. I am also a real foodie, and love the variety of world-class food here in the city, not to mention the warm weather all-year round.