As the co-founders of Well&Work in Paco de Arcos, Julie and Ben previously worked in London in the property development and events industries. With the arrival of their first child, the pair decided to dodge the hustle and bustle of big city life and start a business that allowed for a better work-life balance. After choosing a space that inspired them, Julie and Ben have grown the community at Well&Work and forged a work environment that is ideal for their own well-being and for the productivity of their members. Learn more about Well&Work’s story in our latest interview.
How did you first discover coworking?
[Ben] We had both been members of many coworking spaces in London and also Paris. I was a member of Second Home and WeWork. Julie had an office at The Office Group. We both also spent a lot of time working at Soho House, as we lived nearby in Shoreditch.
How long have you been the managers at Well&Work?
We started Well&Work in March 2020, a coworking concept by the beach, where individuals can Work Near Home (WNH) and teams can unleash productivity in serviced offices and a member’s lounge.
How would you describe the community at your coworking space?
Every tour we conduct with prospective members, we are amazed by how much visitors want to know who else works here and what they do for a living.
We have heard too many horror stories about coworking spaces that just put furniture into a corporate office, or places where nobody speaks to each other and you work anonymously. We wanted to change that by fostering a community of people who believe that productivity is not just about working hard, but also about wellbeing, family and lifestyle.
Our smartphone app allows members to network, message each other, and sign-up for group wellbeing sessions – all included in their membership. We also have a wall of old school polaroid photos of the members to add to the tangibility of meeting and colliding with each other.
Our current members are a diverse bunch including Australians, Brazilians, Portuguese, Irish, and English nationalities – working in sectors like publishing, telecoms, law, and tech.
It is this rich mix of talent and knowledge exchange that makes Well&Work a special place to work. As I am writing this piece, a member has just asked me to refer him to somebody that can edit videos. Yesterday, someone wanted a tax lawyer. We actually love helping the community and encouraging them to work together or at least have a glass of wine during ‘Friday treats.’ We also offer packages for Team Retreats and Team Sprints to offer our spaces and wellbeing sessions to non-members.
What would you say are the key characteristics of the coworking scene in Portugal?
When we decided to start a company here, we hired a little smart car and visited over 25 coworking locations – some in Cascais and Oeiras but mostly in Lisbon.
There was definitely a sense that digital nomads were being looked after, but we felt that some of the other more traditional Portuguese companies found it harder to adapt to the spaces and the offering.
We discovered a wide-range of coworking operators each with their own identities and propositions. Ok, don’t knock us for this, but many Lisbon coworking spaces are too exclusive, not affordable, and don’t offer an experience.
We think that coworking spaces should act like neighborhood hubs, being highly accessible and affordable.
And let’s talk about price. Charging over €300+ for a fixed desk or €1,500+ for a four-person office is completely out of touch in today’s market. We have made our prices as affordable and flexible as possible.
What initiatives have you integrated to your space for greater sustainability?
Our two main differentiators are wellbeing and sustainability. We have carefully thought about what will make our members feel good – so that they can work better.
An easy win was to ban plastic coffee pods and single-use plastics. They are bad and toxic and don’t really taste very good either. We have a bean-to-cup coffee machine that our members love.
We also wanted fresh air so we invested into plants and walls made of real moss. We also have an HVAC system which filters air into our space.
In terms of our design, most of our furniture has been made from local reclaimed wood and is second hand.
Why did you decide to include a focus on wellness for members?
What makes you productive? A run before work? A gym session during your lunch break? Or just a strong coffee blend and your favorite tunes on your headphones? This is something we ask our members so that we can curate a series of activities, for mind and body, to make them feel good.
Our members get four wellbeing sessions included in their monthly membership. This month we have Stand Up Paddle, Yoga, Surf, and HIIT training. All activities are done outside with carefully chosen instructors.
We have shower facilities so that members can get active then head to the office to work quickly and comfortably.
We are now adding film nights, vinyl music listening sessions, meditation, and ‘Well Away Days’ to our list of events.
How did the consequences of COVID-19 impact your business?
Anyone saying that COVID-19 has not impacted their business is clearly trying to hide something! Every office operator has been forced to half their capacities.
Our launch party was the day before the national lockdown – great timing! But we have managed to turn the challenges of the last six months into a positive opportunity for the business. We reopened in June 2020 and we now have about 40 members and most of our offices are occupied. We’re so fortunate we got our target audience right who love our proposition about wellbeing.
Because of the changing nature of work, we had to tilt our business plan and offer a wider range of memberships. For example, we offer a two-day-a-week membership for €90 a month and also offer membership and meeting room bundles, which act like credits that can be used at any time within a six-month period.
What changes have you made to make things safer and more efficient for members post-Covid?
Like many other businesses, we’ve had to reduce our capacity to about 50% in the coworking areas and open spaces. We’ve also looked to increase the number of offices available as those are the ones very much on demand at the minute.
All our members use hand sanitizer (and masks) on arrival, and we’ve invested heavily in a bespoke system and app to allow contactless check-ins.
Our space is entirely cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis and touch points disinfected throughout the day. We have improved the space’s air quality with our HVAC air system which increases our fresh air intake and restricts the re-circulation of air within our space.
We have added two Zoom rooms to help with all those virtual meetings. We also have bike storage available for members to use and we encourage cycling whenever possible. Our full guidelines are available on our website.
How would you like people to remember Well&Work?
A boutique place where you feel good and work better…
…and you’ll cry when you have to leave. (This actually happened when a member left to go back to his office in a business park!)