I spend the day working at The Assemblage. I take calls from the absurdly spacious phone booth. I work on an article about the California wildfires, then I break for my Ayurvedic lunch, which is Caribbean-inspired, with black bean soup and coconut rice and enormous shrimp. Later, I take a “boost” of “Brain,” because I am supposedly working, and then I break for a 45-minute sound bath in the gong room. It is the most relaxed I’ve been in months.
The Assemblage is overwhelmingly nice. Everything is nice. The plants are nice. The ayurvedic shrimp are nice. The chairs are nice. The phone booths are nice. The light is warm. The people are beautiful, in clothes that are beautiful and hats you wear for fashion reasons and not because it is cold. The water comes in still or sparkling.
Once I imagined work/life balance was about boundaries, not taking a sound bath in your office.
In theory, you could never actually leave. The coworking monolith WeWork, with its kegs and foosball tables, has expanded into so many aspects of human existence, with living spaces (WeLive), gyms (Rise by We), and schools (WeGrow)—a whole Wecoverse!—that it changed its name to “The We Company” to encompass all the many ways they We.
The Assemblage is a percentage of a fraction of the size of We. But it, too, is a highly curated ecosystem. It also offers “co-living,” in the form of 79 “hotel-style apartments” at the John Street outpost, which can be booked for days or weeks or months. This spring, it will be opening an Assemblage restaurant to supplement the current food offerings. At The Assemblage, you don’t have to leave your office to do yoga or meditate: Why would you? It’s all here. In the evenings, it offers a full slate of events programming: talks on blockchain, cryptocurrency, adaptogens, crowd-funding. All memberships include access to retreats at The Sanctuary—an upstate oasis of wellness—and access to the Assemblage’s online platform. Even when you’re not there, you never really have to leave.
“We have a really diverse community,” Woodley tells me, “but I think what connects them all, really, is that they just want a space that promotes a better work/life balance.”
A better work/life balance costs between $495 a month for coworking space and $3,900 (plus) for a small-company-sized private office. (If you already have an office, but want community, there’s a $200/month “Assembly” level membership, offering “an oasis for mind, body and spirit” after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.) I am acutely aware that, were I not writing about it, I could not afford to be here. “I don’t deserve this!” I keep thinking, and then I realize, no, of course not, no one does. Nice things aren’t about deserving them. They’re about affording them. This is perversely comforting. I wonder if I should get a hat.
Once I imagined work/life balance was about boundaries: not checking work email on weekends, keeping your phone out of the bedroom, taking your vacation days, turning off your computer by 10 p.m. Work/life balance is not taking a sound bath in your office.
If I can’t stop checking my phone, I can at least do it in a biophilic space with ayurvedic shrimp and regularly scheduled cacao ceremonies
But The Assemblage doesn’t see it that way. Everything is connected. You can’t separate wellness from the work day; wellness is all the time. You come here to do your job but also to eat your locally sourced meals. You take your calls, and then—without leaving the building—you do your yoga and your breath work and your guided meditation. Work isn’t a job; it’s just one aspect of a lifestyle.