Why you might need an office
There’s a reason why business have offices, right?
Now let’s flip the coin and and ask why you still might need an office? What would you need an office for? What are the common reasons for businesses to rent office space? Apart from the default notion that “every business needs an office”…
You want to show off and prove you’re serious
Banks want to prove their credibility by having enormous office spaces in the centers of the cities. Many businesses replicate this behavior and are striving for the most top-tier office space to be able to put up a big sign with their logo on top of a glass building on the Main Street.
This giant sign on a wall of an office is a clear indication that the business is serious.
Actually the whole thing about putting signs on things reminds me of this great scene from the 2009 movie “Up In The Air” with George Clooney who plays Ryan and Anna Kendrick who plays Nathalie when she asks him what would happen if he hit his dream target of 10,000,000 miles:
Natalie: Do they throw you a parade? Ryan: You get lifetime executive status. You get to meet the chief pilot, Maynard Finch. (..) And they put your name on the side of a plane. Natalie: Men get such hardons from putting their names on things. You guys don't grow up. It's like you need to pee on everything.
In tech companies there are additional ways to show you’re cool and you have a great working environment. Like open space offices which in theory inspire creativity - something I’ll be addressing later in this book. Like ping pong and foosball tables which in theory inspire team spirit.
I get it. You want your office to be cool. I feel the same way. My “home office” is cool. I dedicate my office space so much time that I actually re-design it every year. More on that later.
Your customers need to visit you
As our customers are from all over the world, they’re not very likely to visit us. Like at all. Our office is our web site and we spend lots of time on making sure it’s great, up-to-date and with links to all the places you can get our apps from. We edit it constantly, especially our blog with lots of useful and helpful productivity-focused information. We have a dedicated team responsible for our documentation, too. That’s our virtual office and that’s where our customer visit us.
But I understand that many companies do need an office to be able to host their customers. However, even then you need to really know how often these customers will really come to see you. Does it make sense to have a big conference room when you have somebody over about once a month on average? And because they don’t visit you that often, maybe your conference room is actually not spanking clean but turned into a filing cabinet? Again, if you look at an office as a tool to get a job done, there are better ways of having a space to host your customers and dazzle them in the process - and we’ll discuss examples later in this book.
You need to get “real work” done and “real meetings”
This is one of my favorite arguments. Take a look at two photos below - one of them depicts my team discussing something together in the same physical space and the other one shows them in a virtual video conference room. Somehow the picture with the physical space indicates “real work” and the other one not so much. When you meet with someone, do you need their “body”? Their physical presence? Or do you need their “mind”? How come the virtual room is so different than the physical room?
IMAGE of both rooms
Many people keep telling me this: “We need a proper office space for meetings. We have so many cool ideas and they wouldn’t work if we were not in the same space. We are brainstorming a lot!”
Well, you know what? We also have lots of ideas! Too many in fact. We can’t keep up shipping new versions of Nozbe - we already have ideas for our app 2 years in advance! And we do have meetings. And our meetings are great when they happen.
And one more thing:
if you’re spending too many hours brainstorming stuff together, you’re doing it wrong!
There are whole chapters in this book dedicated to meetings, brainstorming, giving feedback and all that. Heck, there’s even an entire section dedicated to getting communication done in a team. And physical space has nothing to do with its efficacy.
Actually, it’s the contrary - being in one office is conducive to doing too many meetings: “we’re all here anyway, so let’s do a meeting!” And “more meetings by default” is not a key to better team collaboration. It’s all about the process, the structure and not wasting people’s time. Keep reading.
Does it matter where you are, or how you work?
Now that we’ve talked a little more about the need of an office or lack thereof, let me give you a glimpse of how it’s been leading an all-remote team for more than a decade now in the next chapter.