What WeWork's CEO Meant To Say...

How A Single Line Muddled Mathrani's Message

Since taking the helm, WeWork’s CEO, Sandeep Mathrani, has been building a steady stream of credibility—until now. All it took was a single line. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal—when talking about the future of work, Mathrani had this to say…

“Those who are uberly engaged with the company want to go to the office two-thirds of the time, at least,”

Followed by:

“Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home.”

It is this second statement that has negatively reverberated around news and social media. The common criticism being the CEO of a company whose business model is office real estate is denigrating employees who work from home or want to in a post-pandemic business environment.

A single example:

That’s a lot of retweets if you are wondering…

It’s a shining example of how one or two lines of communication can sink the entire message and hijack any intent with what the communicator meant to communicate in the first place. Here’s a suggestion for what Mathrani could have said, which would have better reflected on his company, and own executive brand as a CEO:

At WeWork, we’ve been looking at the data, and the data is telling us that above else—employees crave flexibility when it comes to work moving forward. In fact, a recent survey from Linked In placed flexibility above things like work-life balance and even salary.

I’ve also been listening to what many fellow leaders are saying and understand that there is going to be a definitive push to get people back into the office. I think while flexibility is going to be the norm moving forward, we can’t deny that face-to-face interactions can play a powerful role in reinforcing professional relationships. This doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario. We can have both flexibility and office space work together in new ways that become the future of how we work.

We believe we’re positioned perfectly for a best of both worlds scenario. Flexibility to hold a meeting in a personal space with others when you want or need it, flexibility in space, flexibility in dialing up or down how much is needed based on the needs of the people doing the work, the way it makes the most sense for them.

The future of work is flexible

There are a few things I am doing here by design:

• Own Flexibility: This is the trend; the data supports it, the business model stands to benefit from it. The idea should be “WeWork IS the flexible workspace of the future,” and the above approach reinforces this without being heavy-handed.

• Cite Actual Data Sources: In Mathrani’s interview, he vaguely references studies but is not specific or clear, which brings into question his credibility on the topic. Adding a specific source like Linked In helps with both.

• Read The Room: Mathrani cited CEO peers who are “sick of Zoom” but failed to be informed on how the messages from his peers are being received in both news and social media (which is largely negative). By leading with employee sentiment and then positioning the business as a solution, Mathrani would establish the right tone.

Getting a message right while under pressure is tough. All it takes is a single line to derail what could have been a tremendous opportunity. I believe in the design of all things, and communications too should be by design.


David by Design is written by me, David Armano. I’ve worked with some of the most recognizable brands in the world to help them build awareness, trust, advocacy, and loyalty. I approach everything I do by design and think the business world should too.