Start-ups lead the way in creative office solutions. But more and more permanent offices are being replaced by gig-economy and flight from commutes. Read about some of the benefits and challenges here.
by Danny Forest in Crunchbase on January 11, 2019
Is your current office distracting you from doing your actual work? Have you found yourself doing higher quality work when you’re not at the office?
You are not alone.
A recent study by SpaceIQ reported that top innovators are spending at least 12% less time in the office than their less productive counterparts Therefore, the question has been raised:
Is office space even necessary?
In the same report, SpaceIQ reports that a significant majority of work is “heads down” — 64 percent — while just 30 percent is spent on collaboration.
If the vast majority of the actual work is done with no collaboration, could it be that we’re better off working remotely to be more productive?
According to a 2018 research by Udemy for Business, the answer might be yes. The biggest sources of workplace distraction are other coworkers and office noise — two problems that don’t exist when working remotely. Not only that, but open office space, increasingly en vogue, has been shown to increase worker stress and reduce collaboration unless coupled with adequate quiet office spaces.
That doesn’t even begin to address another big problem with physical offices: the commute.
When I was in Bangalore, India for three months, my evening commute entailed a brutal 45 minutes in hot, wet, humid conditions. it would take me six minutes to get to work in the morning. In the evening? At least 45 minutes! Needless to say, I wasn’t in my best state of mind. But it’s true of any big city.
People waste hours commuting. After executing our morning routines, we’re primed and ready for work. Instead, we spend hours stuck in traffic or crammed in subway cars. By the time we arrive, our momentum is long gone! In addition to increasing stress, commuting makes us more prone to getting sick from germs. Is that what employers really want?
How to make sure remote workers stay accountable
But remote work certainly has its share of problems. The biggest one, in my mind and that of expert, is this: how do you stay accountable when you don’t have people around you, particularly without office space?
Their answers vary. I reached out to Taylor Jacobson, founder of Focusmate, and Margo Aaron, the founder of the Arena Virtual Coworking, to hear what their thoughts were on the subject.
“A lot of us continue going to offices because we’re afraid to lose the accountability and human connection they provide”, said Jacobson. “But increasingly we have the ability to create digital workspaces that not only replicate but actually improve on these experiences.”
“The freedom and flexibility of setting your own hours, wearing what you want, and not being concerned with appearing productive but actually being productive is a game changer for the future of work,” said Aaron. She adds, “Virtual working is democratizing opportunities and creating the future of work.”
Are we ready eradicate offices entirely? What would it take?
We’ve already seen a transition happening, from traditional offices to shared to coworking and remote work.
It seems plausible that we can indeed reclaim the 64 percent of “heads down” productivity by working remotely. But, how do we address the need for team collaboration?
According to Aaron, solutions like the Arena work great for solopreneurs, while Focusmate uses one-on-one accountability to boost deep, focused productivity. But what about full-sized companies with highly collaborative, matrixed teams?
That is more ambiguous.
Companies like Breather offer one answer, providing companies of all sizes with access to state-of-the-art office space and meeting rooms on-demand. A few years back, it might have been a questionable business. However, now that many companies are moving to a remote office, they do need a place to regroup in person.
Jacobson adds: “It’s inevitable that we move away from using physical offices “just because”. Instead, teams should be more purposeful about when and how they gather in person while using digital tools to empower day-to-day productivity remotely.”
In the near future, it’s likely the trend towards office-lessness will continue. Maybe we’ll even have true virtual offices thanks to advances in Virtual Reality (VR) technology.
But if that’s really the trend, how is WeWork’s growth so meteoric? In my interview with Jeff Revoy, co-founder and COO of SpaceIQ, he said that physical offices are never going to go away. Rather, the workplace will undergo massive changes to account for our increasingly dynamic lifestyle. Revoy works with established companies like WeWork and Slack. He has seen first hand how a smarter office can be a company’s greatest assets. Moreover, the workplace remains second only to salary when it comes to choosing a company to work for . With smarter offices, Revoy doesn’t see the trend going away any time soon.
What will the workplace look like in ten years?
From the opinions I gathered from the experts mentioned in this article, there’s a clear indication that a face-to-face component adds value — maybe in the form of rented meeting rooms, like Breather, if only to reconnect with teammates.
“I personally don’t have the answer to the question. Experts’ opinion differs, yet all seem to agree on a degree of digitization of the workspace. One thing’s for sure, with the rise of VR, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, and the emergence of more robust, accessible, and faster internet connection, the office is a space ripe for disruption. Given that, who can really tell what the workspace is going to look like ten years from now?”