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15 Entrepreneurs Share Their Thoughts on the Future of Traditional Office Spaces

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There was a time not too long ago where going to the office literally meant going to the office – that boring building with gray walls and little inspiration. These days the idea of going to the office is something much different. The office is no longer that boring place you spent so many days in. Your office can be driving in your car, sitting on a park bench, having a quick meeting overlook the ocean during your vacation, or sitting on the couch at home catching up on emails. As technology advances and the ability to communicate with clients and co-workers becomes easier and easier it begs the question: is the traditional office dead?

#1 – Outdated and Dead

Photo Credit: Jonah Bliss

Photo Credit: Jonah Bliss

In our opinion – the traditional office is outdated and dead. We’re a 15-20 person startup, doing about $4 million in sales this year, growing quickly, and not a single one of us uses a traditional office. Instead, our team is spread across the country, and we each work in ways that suit us best. Many of us work from home, and others from cool co-working spaces. When some of us meet in a certain city for high priority items (as we actually are at this moment) we’ll just rent a conference room from a service like WeWork. In fact, part of the team and I are in a WeWork in Brooklyn at this very moment.

Thanks to Jonah Bliss, EVELO

#2 – Not for All Companies

Photo Credit: Sara Morgan

Photo Credit: Sara Morgan

As a former tech Founder and member of the 500 startups, I always worked in co-working spaces with similar startup companies. Now, as the Founder of a PR firm, I work from a home office and am extremely flexible with my team’s work arrangements. We work from coffee shops, our homes and co-working spaces. I made the conscious decision not to invest money in traditional office space because I believe the flexibility of being able to work in a non traditional workspace is attractive to potential hires and fosters both creativity and makes work feel less like… work! While I do not think that traditional office space is a thing of the past for ALL companies I do believe that the standard is shifting. The trend towards entrepreneurism is changing what people look for in a job.. it’s no longer just about a good paycheck and benefits. Loving where you work and the environment you work in is becoming more important so, in turn, companies are looking for ways to make the work environment less traditional. It’s a sign of the times.

Thanks to Sara Morgan, Eleven Eleven PR

#3 – Open Workspaces

Photo Credit: Maura Thomas

Photo Credit: Maura Thomas

Traditional workspaces may not be a thing of the past, but it is evident that many businesses, when designing new offices, opt for open workspaces. Many in favor of the open floor plan cite increased opportunities for workers to collaborate, and, therefore, this plan fosters creativity. However, there is a great deal of research, as well as anecdotal evidence, that shows that open work spaces lower workers’ levels of concentration, and inhibit productivity and creativity. These types of work spaces can also cause higher levels of stress and provide less satisfaction for workers. Many companies who decide to adopt open floor plans do so for economic efficiency, but many factors need to be taken into consideration. In an open workspace, people may feel a sense of helplessness and a loss of control over their environment. Noise is also a factor. In addition, offices with no walls, or only glass walls, may make workers feel they are constantly being scrutinized. Employers opting for open workspaces should take into consideration some workers’ difficulties in adapting to this environment, and offer some options to help them adjust.

Thanks to Maura Thomas, RegainYourTime

#4 – A Waste of Resources

Photo Credit: Michele M. Paiva

Photo Credit: Michele M. Paiva

I work with many entrepreneurs and businesses; I find that office space for most smaller organizations are a thing of the past. If an organization is a widget company, that needs a widget warehouse, then maybe some office staffing makes sense. However, for most organizations this is not needed. It is a waste of time, resources and creates lower immune system responses even, in employees. Most employees do much better in their own space, are more productive, feel better and feel more respected thus, feel more a part of the team than a number. Successful offices require meetings and perhaps online programs like base camp where projects can be monitored by the entire team, where no one is left out.

Thanks to Michele M. Paiva

#5 – Accommodating Each Group

Photo Credit: Diane Danielson

Photo Credit: Diane Danielson

The fact that people still have fax #s on their business cards, means that there are folks still doing business like it’s 2004. These are the same people who probably have a desktop computer and need private offices for their most senior employees (and/or their most introverted). And that’s ok. Everyone has different work styles and they don’t all break down along generational lines. Trying to push everyone into co-working or modern space designed around workflow rather than the individual would not only be detrimental in some cases, but also logistically impossible based on current commercial real estate inventories. However, just like we need to accommodate the traditionalists, companies seeking younger talent will want to design work environments for a collaborative workforce and locate in smart buildings that provide flexibility and do less harm to the environment.

Thanks to Diane Danielson, Sperry Van Ness International Corp.

#6 – A Heavy Cost

Photo Credit: Sean Hopwood

Photo Credit: Sean Hopwood

The Internet has revolutionized the way we work. We now have access to highly qualified global talent, new international markets, considerate cost savings and maximum productivity. We can work from our smartphones or laptops on the train, in Starbucks, and even airport lounges. Traditional office spaces are not only a thing of the past; but the heavy cost and limited talent pool from bricks and mortar business models fly in the face of high growth companies.

Thanks to Sean Hopwood, Day Translations, Inc.

#7 – Remote Benefits

Photo Credit: Angela Bradbury

Photo Credit: Angela Bradbury

A traditional office – a physical location where large numbers of employees would travel to at similar times in order to work together – used to be the only way to ensure employees were doing the work they were meant to, and were able to work with each other effectively. Now technology has made alternatives possible. Our entire front-line workforce is freelance and works remotely, facilitated through technology that gives management oversight on progress of projects, instant messaging that get you a response quicker and less intrusively than walking over to someone’s desk, and videocalling and screensharing software that can enable meetings to be just as effective, and often more efficient, than in-person. Not only is it possible, but offering remote working actually benefits companies, through reducing overheads, enabling faster internationalization, and improving employee productivity and satisfaction. I’d go so far as to say it is also a moral obligation, to ensure those who need to work flexibly (usually primary caregivers) can progress in their careers as ably as those who can commit to a more rigid schedule.

Thanks to Angela Bradbury, Chime Advisors

#8 – Small Teams

Photo Credit: Meagan French

Photo Credit: Meagan French

For teams of 5 or less, traditional offices are definitely a thing of the past. Coworking spaces offer the flexibility to scale and shrink as my business expands or contracts. My team is 100% distributed, and I’ve spent the last six month working from cafes, coworking spaces and homes in San Francisco and Europe. As long as I have a high speed internet connection and a quiet place to work, my clients get the same level of service as if I were in a traditional office. Coworking spaces have the added benefit of nice amenities like conference rooms and meeting spaces, adding a level of polish and professionalism to my in-person meetings I would hardly be able to afford with a traditional office.

Thanks to Meagan French, Lotus Growth

#9 – Variety of Spaces

Photo Credit: Marc Prosser

Photo Credit: Marc Prosser

Put simply, traditional offices are not a thing of the past. There is, however, more variety to the office space. I define traditional office space as having a fixed location and/or having fixed desks. You have to ask yourself, “What are the benefits of operating in a traditional office?” You mainly want to have people be in close proximity to each other so that information sharing is encouraged easily and often, which helps the employees and company to grow. In our particular company, we sit a new hire next to a more experienced employee. That way, they can tap the person on the shoulder at any moment they need assistance. It’s the easiest way to create a back and forth dialogue where you don’t have to worry about interrupting others in the workspace. The other question to ask is, “Are there a lot of jobs where you don’t need to be in the office or just need to be in for a couple of days?” The answer to this is yes, there are plenty of roles that don’t necessarily benefit from being in the office. If you have a lot of veteran employees that work well autonomously, then you may not need an office space. For some people, coming to an office is preferred and they need a higher degree of supervision to perform well. Personally, I like have an office that I come to every day but it’s not for everyone. Overall, there are many options and different types of companies but that doesn’t mean that traditional offices are or will be a thing of the past.

Thanks to Marc Prosser, Fit Small Business

#10 – Rising Cost

Photo Credit: Alex Cohen

Photo Credit: Alex Cohen

The largest lessors of office space nationally over the last 3 years have been shared office space firms like WeWork and Regus. Shared office spaces (commonly calling co-working) combine flexibility (including the ability of their members to easily grow or shrink occupancy without capital investment in space build-out, furniture, wiring, etc.) with free drinks and snacks and often a zeitgeist of collaboration, community and innovation. Co-working firms that sublease their spaces to new and growing businesses typically lease space in older and loftier buildings and employ organic finishes and an overall chic industrial aesthetic that contrasts with the typical slickness and monotony of most traditional corporate office space. These facets have particular appeal to millennial staff who have much less of a corporate mindset than their predecessors and want to work in environments consistent with their lifestyle taste (i.e. that look more like the places in which they want to live and play). Surveys of satisfaction rates with occupiers of co-working spaces are off the charts – typically rating their satisfaction with the work environment at a 4 or 5 in a scale of 1-5. Starting in 2017, shared space under occupancy commitments of less than 12 months, may also qualify as a business expense for tax purposes, rather than as a lease liability on company balance sheets. New GAAP accounting standards for public company reporting to go into effect in 2017 will require typical office leases to be capitalized on balance sheets. Lease commitments of less than 12 months will be excluded from this liability treatment. This is expected to curtail traditional long -term traditional office leases among publics. I’m available to discuss further.

Thanks to Alex Cohen, CORE

#11 – Practical Solution

Photo Credit: Jared Carrizales

Photo Credit: Jared Carrizales

I don’t think that the traditional office is completely dead, but in the future it will only be a practical solution for specific types of businesses. The world is very startup and small business-happy right now because of how increasingly digital commerce becomes on a daily basis, so the threshold of starting a new venture is fairly low. Because of this, as a business scales it has to do so carefully and can’t always spend money on a traditionally expensive office. This need led to the uptick in coworking spaces and reinvigorated ahead-of-the-game coffee shops that made themselves a very suitable solution for the small, yet established business. The only loser here are the building owners that also catered to small businesses, as they still charged higher prices than what’s required at coworking spaces of similar size. As a coworking member for four years now at multiple spaces in multiple states, I can say that it has been crucial to the growth of my business. There’s an entire economy and knowledge base in these environments, and for that reason ALONE most traditional office spaces that cater to lower rent thresholds have been changed forever.

Thanks to Jared Carrizales, Heroic Search

#12 – Shared Space

Photo Credit: Vicky Llerena

Photo Credit: Vicky Llerena

For me, the experience was a positive one. I moved from isolation into salvation. Inhabiting my home basement as my office space felt, well, down right lonely. About one year ago, I finally decided to move into a business development incubator that functions similar to that of a co-working space. You do pay for your personal office suite but most of the common areas in the building (kitchen, conference rooms, lounge area, open space, etc) are all shared spaces for the business tenants. The state of feeling connected yet isolated in my own office suite gives me a sense of humanity and sanity. Whenever I need a break, I swing by my neighbors office and chat or bump into one of the business folks in the kitchen area. Most of the time, but not all, this would lead to a business idea or a client referral opportunity. Do I find co-working spaces quite cumbersome? Well, like any college dormitory, it isn’t fun when you have to wait for the roommates to exit the shared bathroom. In my case, yes, sometimes the conference rooms are all booked (bummer!), but for the most part , co-working spaces build a communal environment — which keeps the sanity level afloat for any entrepreneur.

Thanks to Vicky Llerena, Social Vibes Media

#13 – A Different Perspective

Photo Credit: Maxwell Barna

Photo Credit: Maxwell Barna

Earlier this year, we moved from our old 23,000 square foot facility into a brand new 60,000+ square foot facility. When we got to the new building, we spent a huge amount of time and effort deciding what kind of office we were looking to create-and, of course, figuring out where we were going to stick all of our employees. For a while, we contemplated a traditional office setting (cubicles, strict departments, etc.), but eventually opted for an open-ish floor plan that still includes departments, but leaves the organization of said departments up to supervisors and team members. Some members of our team feel more productive with a stand-up desk option, while others opted sit-down stations or even private offices. By leaving the decision making it to each department and individual to decide how they wanted to organize their workspace, we’ve seen an increase in overall company morale and productivity. Conversely, we also rent out a section of our building to a very traditional pharmaceutical company with very traditional cubicle settings, and while their utilization of space is obviously a little more efficient than ours, I’d be willing to bet our team is happier about the office situation. We think the open-space model works for us, and it’s what we intend on sticking with!

Thanks to Maxwell Barna, Rush Order Tees

#14 – Depends on Situation

Photo Credit: Mark Tuchscherer

Photo Credit: Mark Tuchscherer

I do not think the traditional office space is completely dead. It largely depends upon your company’s situation. With the growth of WeWork and similar shared spaces, startups, and small business are starting off in spaces like this; however, as they grow, they find that they require traditional spaces. We decided on a kind of hybrid route with our office setup: We have a traditional office in the suburbs of Chicago, and we are also in the process of joining 1871–which is very similar to WeWork–to give us a downtown location that people can work from. I think this type of setup will be much more common in the future, in order to give employees more options with regard to where they can work.

Thanks to Mark Tuchscherer, Geeks Chicago

 #15 -Tradition Remains for Some

Photo Credit: Bruce Ailion

Photo Credit: Bruce Ailionazz

We are currently a buyer of office properties. Many of the properties we are buying are suburban traditional office space leased to professional service companies. Prices of office properties of this type are discounted because people feel they will be a thing of the past. Our view is there will always be a demand for traditional office space. The view that everyone will be working remotely or that the office with no walls and complete flexibility is completely replacing the private work space overstates the trends. For urban, high tech, start-up firms this may be the preferred situation. There remain many other business that are organized around the traditional office.

Thanks to Bruce Ailion, RE/MAX Greater Atlanta

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