Q & A Interview with Balder Tol, GM of WeWork Australia
Meet Balder Tol, General Manager, Australia
Balder is of Dutch origin and obtained his Masters in Management degree at the University of Sydney prior to landing a job at Airbnb Australia in 2012. As Airbnb Australia’s first employee he was able to establish a strong Airbnb presence in key cities in Oceania, making the Australian market contribute significantly to the company’s global revenue. Balder continued to follow his passion of building communities as the General Manager of Tank Stream Labs, a technology focused co-working space located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, before joining WeWork in 2016.
WeWork provides more than 268,000 members around the world with space, community, and services through both physical and digital offerings. In Australia, WeWork currently has six open locations across Australia. Another four have been announced, including our first Brisbane location which will open at 310 Edward St this year.
Whether you need a desk, office suite, or entire HQ, we create environments that increase productivity, innovation, and collaboration. We’re rethinking workers’ relationship with space. We believe workspace can encourage collaboration, define your mission, improve productivity, help with recruitment and retention.
What’s your role at WeWork:
As General Manager of WeWork in Australia, I’ve continued to follow my passion for building communities. It was the mission of WeWork that really got me excited about human connections and the value-add of fostering community. The average human spends 87 percent of their lives in buildings, and to be part of a movement that improves that standard and humanises work is incredibly exciting.
Being connected to real people, in real life, is a happier life. WeWork is about so much more than office space. An increasingly millennial workforce is demanding more from their work than just a job. They value experiences over material goods, crave a sense of community and fulfilment, and want to be part of something greater than themselves and at WeWork we seek to support and accelerate this positive change
What types of businesses / people work from WeWork?
Our members are companies of all sizes, in all industries. From entrepreneurs, freelancers, and startups, to artists, small businesses, and divisions of large corporations. Interestingly, enterprise members are the company’s fastest growing segment, making up over 20 percent of WeWork’s total membership. In Australia, enterprise companies include Microsoft, Deliveroo and Box.
Each WeWork location brings thousands of people to the surrounding neighbourhood, adding innovative and ambitious creators to the local community and creating an economic ripple effect for the city. Bringing together entrepreneurs, small businesses and global enterprises in each WeWork location creates an innovation cluster, broadening the WeWork network by connecting a number of locations across a city.
What can people expect when working from a WeWork office?
People, culture and community are the lifeblood of the future of work. There has been a macro shift toward a new way of working —people are focused on creating meaningful connections and being part of something greater than themselves. At WeWork, everything is designed to foster community by subtly forcing interaction.
People want human to human connection now more than ever, and coming together in real and meaningful ways -- whether at work, home, at the gym, or when in leisure time -- is here to stay. The best collaborations occur when there’s a dialogue and sense of community between colleagues, business associates, or even strangers that may meet serendipitously and decide to embark on a new venture. We’ve seen this in action in our membership, where 50 percent of members say they’ve done business together and 70 percent have collaborated in some way.
What inspires you most with the shared workspace philosophy?
When WeWork started in 2010, we wanted to build more than beautiful, shared office spaces. We wanted to build a community. A place you join as an individual, 'me', but where you become part of a greater 'we'. WeWork is a company that’s making its best efforts to create a world where people make a life and not just a living,
WeWork brings together people from different industries and walks of life help each other’s businesses thrive by sharing advice, business ideas, and even services. The more people in our community, the more opportunity for connection and collaboration for our members, both in the physical and digital spaces we create.
How do you think WeWork spurs creativity and connection?
WeWork is a community platform, empowering people to come together via design, technology, and programming, blurring the lines between work and life. By connecting people through our spaces, we can support and enhance the way people work.
The creation of a truly collaborative environment for our members is very important. Community is key and everything we do is centred around building collaborative communities. The way we design our spaces, the way we run programs and events in our buildings, the way we designed our digital app - everything is focused around fostering a global community.
Where’s your favourite WeWork office and why:
Our Pyrmont location at 100 Harris Street in Sydney is really special. Once a former woolstore, the exterior of the building retains its original form, with large structural timber beams intact throughout. The interiors celebrate the heritage of the warehouse by exposing the original features while the selection of finishes complement the industrial past of the building.
Looking abroad, WeWork at Weihai Lu, Shanghai, is nestled in a turn of the century brick building; a former opium factory and artist residence. This building is surrounded by an old residential district in the heart of Shanghai and makes for a very impressive space to work!