WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani told CNBC on Tuesday the company is in discussions with private schools in New York City about conducting classes in its office spaces this fall.
“To allow them to get started, they can go into some of our WeWork locations, which sort of fit well as classrooms,” Mathrani said in an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin on “Squawk Box.”
Mathrani said the goal is to help schools reduce the density while still allowing for in-person instruction despite the threat of the coronavirus.
This is another indication of the need for flexibility by companies and organizations in a world altered by the Covid-19 crisis, he added.
“Even schools are going beyond just thinking about it in a structured way,” said Mathrani. “They’re opening their minds of how to bring children back into schools.”
WeWork has over 100 locations in New York City, according to Mathrani, who became CEO in February, five months after the company scrapped a plan to go public last year amid valuation and governance concerns that led to the departure of founder Adam Neumann.
So far, the office-sharing company’s conversations with schools have been with only private schools. “Obviously we will extend that to discussions with public schools if we’re able to have that conversation,” Mathrani said.
Many schools across the U.S. went to remote instruction in March as the coronavirus pandemic intensified, but now the focus has been on how to safely resume in-person classes in the fall. The question carries broader implications for the U.S. economy as it seeks to restart from the impacts of Covid-19 because parents and guardians may find it difficult to return to work if schools aren’t open and children have to stay home.
Mathrani said WeWork will be flexible with its employees, particularly as it relates to child care. He suggested some spouses may rotate who goes into the office on a given day. “There are no more hard rules, if you really want to get people to come back to work and feel committed,” he said.
Returning to WeWorks
Mathrani said WeWork is drawing on its experience in China to project where occupancy levels of its shared office spaces could return to as business restrictions in the U.S. are further eased.
In the U.S. cities that have been opened up for a few weeks, such as Atlanta and Miami, “We’re starting to see about 50% return to work in a short period of time,” he said. “So we do think it may follow the same path [as China], which is about 60 days, you should see it back to 80, 90%.”
WeWork has been doing surveys each month, Mathrani said, and noticed shifts in work-from-home attitudes.
“I think initially, it was new, it worked. I think the month of April, people felt you could work from home,” he said. “I think as time has moved on … more and more we’re finding people want the ability to come back, but they want it to be on their terms. They want it to be flexible.”