Our jobs take up a lot of our lifetime — over 13 years of it on average, according to Huffington Post. In cubicles, coffee shops, and coworking spaces, we’re spending an increasingly large amount of time working. Retail brands and products, whose traditional brick-and-mortar models have been heavily disrupted by e-commerce, have noticed. This nexus of a mobile multi-space work environment and a need to reconnect customers with products has driven a new array of experiments that blur the lines between places for work and places to shop.

What is an office anyway?
After escaping from the cubicle farm, it’s no surprise that employees and freelancers are opting for working from their homes, cafes, or wherever they can get Wi-Fi. Brands are creating office replacements that welcome in the remote workforce, driving awareness along the way.

The average American spends 95% of their lives indoors and 50% of that at work, statistics which sparked inspiration for L.L. Bean’s recent campaign, “Be an Outsider at Work.” The brand partnered with flexible space operator Industrious to create the first ever mobile outdoor coworking space, complete with free Wi-Fi, power hookups, and active workspace furniture.

When designing The Apollo, a new apartment complex in Washington, D.C., Streetsense (a CBRE joint venture) saw the opportunity to fully maximize the lobby space for not only Apollo residents, but the surrounding community. With the addition of the integrated-yet independent coffee shop in the lobby of the apartment building, The Wydown allows The Apollo to open its doors to the growing freelance and remote workforce and bring attention to the apartment building. Customers can work from the cafe or the stunning apartment lobby, eye apartment amenities, and experience The Apollo lifestyle while at “the office.”

Try at work, buy for home
Brick-and-mortar is finding a new function in the retail real estate ecosystem. E-commerce has shifted the role that stores play in the sales lifecycle, but not eliminated it. Physical locations now focus less on stocking large inventories of products and more on communicating brand values and providing experiences to interact with the product. Online-only brands are capturing consumers where they spend most of their days. Much like the concept of a shoppable hotel, shoppable workplaces garner exposure for online-exclusive brands.

Take direct-to-consumer furniture brand Burrow. Getting customers to sit on their couches proved to be a problem without a showroom or wholesaler. Burrow cleverly teamed up with retailers and coworking spaces to furnish interiors using their couches and chairs, presenting the perfect opportunity for try-before-you-buy showrooms without having to open brick-and-mortar locations.

The We Company (WeWork) has also begun to dabble into retail in the office in what they’re calling “a modern retail space.” WeMRKT, located in WeWork offices, offers apparel, office-essential supplies, food and beverage, and products from select WeWork member companies, creating new ways to increase the network value of the WeWork community. As many of these member companies are direct-to-consumer brands, WeMRKT allows their member companies the opportunity to sell in the retail space without investing in brick-and-mortar. The Wing, a network of work and community spaces designed for women, launched its own retail line, working with women vendor partners and female artists, and donating some of its proceeds to female-focused nonprofits.

A day at the mall
Shopping center owners and flexible space providers are also partnering to create offices in traditional retail locations. For shopping center owners, it helps create a unique tenant mix and brings in additional foot traffic in the form of workers who can utilize the malls’ restaurants and other stores. For flexible space providers, it provides tenants and their employees with a wide array of amenities that might be difficult to find in a traditional suburban office setting, as well as more commute-time flexibility.

Examples of this include Industrious’s partnership with Macerich to open flexible offices across Macerich’s shopping center portfolio, as well as its recently announced lease at Taubman Properties’ The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey. IWG will open the first U.S. location for its upscale coworking brand, No18, in OliverMcMillan’s The Shops Buckhead Atlanta this spring, and has plans to open a number of locations for its Spaces brand in retail centers.

This growing trend is not just limited to the suburbs: Brookfield Properties and Convene also recently announced plans to partner to create a 73,000-sq.-ft., full-service events space at the Brookfield Place shopping center in Manhattan. 3DEN (pronounced “Eden”) recently opened a pay-as-you-use space for working, recharging and unwinding in the Hudson Yards mall. The space includes free coffee, phone booths, charging stations and even showers. Spacious utilizes high-end restaurants in New York and San Francisco for drop-in weekday work spaces, the company also partners with landlords to transform vacant retail spaces into short-term Spacious locations, providing landlords with a new revenue stream without major property improvements, while still keeping open the possibility of securing a long-term tenant.

A version of this post originally appeared on Streetsense’s blog.


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