WeWork, the troubled office rental company, has confirmed it will lay off 2,400 employees globally, as it seeks to drastically cut costs and stabilize its business.
A company spokeswoman said in a statement: “As part of our renewed focus on the core WeWork business, and as we have previously shared with employees, the company is making necessary layoffs to create a more efficient organization,”
An all-staff meeting is set for Friday, and WeWork staff who have yet to hear about their positions said they were nervously awaiting more bad news. “No one knows what the hell is going on,” said one worker, who spoke anonymously for fear of losing severance pay.
In online chats on WeWork’s Slack channel, obtained by the Guardian, worried staff shared memes about the upcoming meeting.
The job cuts are the latest sign of how far WeWork‘s prospects have deteriorated: the company was the US’s most valuable private company in January, valued at $47bn, and had announced an initial public offering (IPO) share sale. Now it is facing a cash crunch and fighting for survival.
It shelved its plans for the IPO on 30 September as investors became wary of its growing losses, its business model and its corporate governance. WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann resigned as chief executive officer the previous week.
Neumann cashed out $700m of WeWork shares before the IPO, and is in line for a $1.7bn severance package.
The departments affected by the layoffs include its architecture department, which has helped curate WeWork’s distinctive shared office spaces known for their modern design, according to one person familiar with the matter.
The layoffs began weeks ago in regions around the world and continued this week in the United States, WeWork said.
At least one employee was notified they were laid off by a manager who told them to expect an email on Thursday afternoon. The second floor of WeWork’s headquarters in New York has been cordoned off for human resources procedures, the ex-employee said.
The company itself had 12,500 employees on 30 June, and there are others who work for affiliates. Many had expected to make windfall profits when the company floated.
The long-anticipated layoffs are the biggest move yet by Japanese technology investment company SoftBank, which is providing a $9.5bn lifeline and will soon own about 80% of its shares, to make sure WeWork refocuses on its core business and on trying to make money.
Under Neumann, WeWork had become bloated, was diversifying into all kinds of areas – including setting up a school and running apartment buildings – and was expanding at a breakneck speed without any clear route to profitability.
WeWork is still facing a litany of issues, the latest being an investigation by the New York state attorney general.
The company’s losses are continuing to mount and it is burning through cash quickly as it has committed to a big expansion in the number of sites and has already signed expensive long-term leases to move into many buildings.
As part of the restructuring, it is closing or selling peripheral businesses that it set up, including its $40,000-a-year private elementary school at the end of the current school year.
A WeWork employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that some employees at its residential living business, WeLive, had been told Thursday would be their last day.
Some WeWork employees have banded together into the WeWorkers Coalition, which is calling for severance pay and compensation for lost equity for laid off employees. That has grown to 275 members since being formed only a couple of weeks ago, one of the WeWork employees involved told Reuters on Wednesday.
This employee described the long wait for the layoffs announcement, which has been widely discussed in the media for weeks, to be “draining” for staff morale.