Natasha Mohan, founder and CEO of WorkSocial, launched her Jersey City-based co-working firm in 2015, offering a range of options such as private offices, day offices and conference rooms with a series of premium amenities. The company has served some of the largest brands in the U.S., including Google, Amazon, Apple, Marshall Goldsmith and Chobani. — Courtesy: Courtesy: WorkSocial
By Tina Traster
Some say the bubble has burst: Co-working was hot as lit coals but now it’s cooling. Others disagree: In a post-pandemic world, the need for flexible, off-site space is in great demand.
Whatever the debate, WorkSocial in Jersey City, founded six years ago, is exponentially growing, perfecting the niche it has carved in providing mostly remote office space, day desks and conference space to corporate clientele in the shadow of New York City.
Natasha Mohan, founder and CEO of WorkSocial, says her company, which is turning more than $1 million annually in revenue, has grown because her concept has evolved organically, that she listened to what the market wanted and created a solution. That the concept is never finished or fixed, but rather an ongoing work in progress.
“Our mission was to create happiness in the workplace,” Mohan said. “You spend half of your life in your workspace. The environment must be created where energy is positive, there is a sense of warmth. We need to make sure people are coming to a space they’re happy with.”
If you’ve seen the streaming Apple TV+ miniseries ‘WeCrashed,’ with its cringy and cartoonish characterizations of Adam and Rebekah Neumann, who founded, ran and ruined WeWork with cult-like aphorisms and insatiable greed, you might doubt the viability of co-working. But the high-profile company restructured its board and merged with BowX Acquisition Corp. in early 2021. Recent reporting shows, for example, that WeWork’s space at San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower has waitlists even though the company reported a $435 million loss in the first three months of 2022.
Many believe demand is skyrocketing as people are opting for flexible co-working spaces, where they can sign short-term leases or parachute into common space on an as-needed basis. And, in a new twist, some co-working companies seeking to pay lower rents have worked out deals with their landlords who take a cut of their revenue.
Unlike WeWork’s meteoric rise and ensuing chaos, WorkSocial has grown slowly, incrementally and cautiously, even continuing to increase its footprint during the pandemic. In early June, the company added 6,000 square feet to its offices on the 12th floor at 111 Town Square Place, a Class A, 14-story waterfront building in Jersey City’s Newport section.
In 2015, the company signed a 10-year lease for 4,400 square feet.
“At the time, we were trying to understand a new market,” Mohan said. “We were asking ourselves, ‘What are people looking for in a workspace in a Class A building?’ ”
Situated in the heart of a thriving financial and tech market, WorkSocial attracted companies like IASS Solutions, BlueVine and Chobani. In 2020, with a solid five years under its belt and a firm handle on an evolving office market, the company built out another 4,000 square feet, doubling its footprint. In 2021, during the pandemic when many offices, including co-working spaces became ghostly, Mohan committed to an additional 6,000 square feet — bringing the total at Town Square Place to 14,000 square feet, most of which is contiguous and located on the 12th floor. The company also leases 3,000 square feet in the same building on the third floor.
WorkSocial’s vibe is minimalist, a SoHo modernist feel with an airy lightness. Nearly 75 percent of the 150 seats are private office spaces. The bulk are open desks. Mohan says feng shui guides design choices, while ergonomics dictates chair and desk offerings. The offices are a calming shade of gray with hints of yellow for inspiration and orange “because it defines happiness.”
“Companies spend a lot of money without understanding elements that are distracting,” Mohan said. “We feel passionate about positive chi in the workplace. You want to walk into an office without obstacles. We carefully choose which way doors face, how someone should be sitting. This really says a lot about what WorkSocial is about.”
WorkSocial doesn’t hew to hipster culture — no ping pong tables, definitely no ping pong tables, Mohan said — adding “the focus here is about helping clients meet their business goals. They are coming here to work and meet their milestones.”
Along with solid business offerings like virtual reception service, secure server access, shipping and mailing, on-site notary and complimentary high-speed WiFi and printing, WorkSocial rolls out free hot breakfast, lunch, beverages and healthy high-protein snacks. The company also has a masseuse on site every two weeks.
WorkSocial is a living, breathing organism, responding to what the market dictates. Over time, the company added “phone booths,” because clients looking for privacy were stepping out into the hallways. Conference rooms have been adapted for smaller groups while the kitchen has been enlarged with an eat-in space.
“We have grown organically,” Mohan said. “We listen to feedback. We stay flexible. We pay attention to personal needs, how people function during the day. Co-working is not a static thing.”
Co-working continues to redefine itself as Manhattan workers seek flexibility in how and where they work. Mohan says companies like WorkSocial have benefitted from the pandemic, which has shaken up the office market. Many startups and incubators are seeking co-working space. Workers don’t necessarily want to go into Manhattan to their offices. And people who’d been working at home, post-pandemic, needed to get out of the house.
By year two, WorkSocial broke even. Starting in 2018, Mohan says revenues doubled yearly, and while they remained flat in 2019 and 2020, the company’s revenue doubled again in 2021.
Increasingly, co-working spaces are sprouting in Jersey City and beyond.
According to Coworking Resources, an online publication, co-working spaces are in demand because companies need flexible real estate options.
“We have seen a proliferation of people jumping into the space and that’s a good thing,” Mohan said. “We’re all looking at what each of us is doing. Jersey City is becoming a hub for co-working. This benefits all of us.”
Tina Traster is a freelance writer and the editor of Rockland County Business Journal. She is also a former business writer for Crain’s New York Business, real estate writer for the New York Post and staffer at the Bergen Record.