Hustle and Flow
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Hustle and Flow

The Office Is Dead! Long Live The Office!

The Rise of “Office Optional”, and how entrepreneurs and leaders ought to approach the office place, post-COVID

I LOVE THIS PLACE.

I think it is safe to say that, as we reopen office spaces around the country, the way we view their utility and function will change. These past 8–10 weeks have arguably been the biggest organizational psychology experiment in the history of man. Were it only a week or two, most people could and would probably revert to old habits and views of the office environment. But past 30 days, new habits form, and conventional wisdom begins to be questioned. Even amongst the most seasoned executives, many of whom have found themselves working out of bedrooms and closets, the very idea of “office space” is being challenged.

Talking regularly with my cohort of entrepreneurs and operators, I see a growing trend in how our offices will be reconfigured for usage. Call it the rise of “office optional”. I predict three distinct uses coming out of this trend:

The office is still essential, but…

My team at BuzzShift has found that they have been VERY productive working from home, probably even more productive that pre-COVID. And they do their work in less time, have less of a commute, and save money (they are eating out less, spending less on gas, etc.). In fact, they are almost TOO productive, and our leadership team has had to gently remind some of them to shut it down at 5:30pm, and not work on the weekends. That’s a good problem to have, and we are proud of them for their work ethic.

However, some team members have been honest about not getting their best ideas germinated and developed because the IRL collaboration is not there. In our industry, creative collaboration is THE differentiator in our deliverables, and it goes without saying that creative problem solving is essential across almost all organizations and industries. This collaborative creativity is not impossible through remote work, but it is made infinitely easier (with the proper frameworks) when people are all together in the same room. It’s qualitative, but it is a real thing. So if the office is considered a tool in your business arsenal, and an expensive one at that, then the highest and best use of office functionality is a gathering place for creative collaboration. I predict you will see offices turn into spaces that both inspire a creative group dynamic, as well as encourage individual and small meeting “deep work”. Our current traditional desk space fulfills neither of those needs.

Perks Perks Perks

This sounds a bit contrarian, but I also predict the best and most innovative companies will make their offices a more deliberate part of their employee retention strategy. For businesses that are geographically scoped, the attraction of a corporate office that is a creative alternative to their home office setup is definitely alluring. Employees will weigh out the pros and cons of working from home, but I foresee a not-to-distant future where people who work from home for the majority of time, and love doing it, will still want an alternative space and change of scenery every once in a while. Creating a private club feel for its employees, where they can go and work, know the people around them, but not be in a corner coffee shop — that’s an intriguing setup for any business, and an attractive one for employees. I can also see a large portion of that being outdoor space as well. I know that fresh air, green space and reliable WiFi is an unbeatable combination for a lot of workers.

Pressure Valve

The last facet of this trend is the most practical, and the most overlooked. People who work from home, especially if they have kids or have a partner who is also working remotely, need pressure valves from that routine. While the dream is to “Tim Ferriss” it and work from exotic locales, the reality is that for the vast majority of workers, they can’t or don’t want to make that jump. Maybe they have kids in school and don’t want to roam the world and homeschool. Maybe they have a partner who isn’t interested in that lifestyle. Maybe they like the stability of an honest-to-goodness home. Combined with the fact that the collaborative nature (see point #1) of their jobs may not allow them to do that type of work configuration, employees may want the next best thing in an office space that they can “get away” to during the work week. It sounds weird, but I do believe it will happen.

If you are a business owner or operator with traditional office space, now is the time to rethink and reshape your work environment. We are all in survival mode, but it doesn’t mean that you stop looking ahead to the future. Good leaders were built for times such as these, and vision is even more essential now. In the coming years, look for the best companies to employ the brightest minds in architecture, interior design, landscaping, and organizational psychology to convert their commercial office spaces from bland necessity and contrived delight, to true centers of collaboration and creative inspiration.

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Eddy Badrina

Eddy Badrina

1.8K Followers

CEO of @EdenGreen. Co-founder of @Buzzshift (acquired 2x). Twitter & Instagram: @eddybadrina. Deut. 8:17–18