Offices today have become less about floor space for people and things, and more about accomplishing specific business objectives.
The office used to be the place where all the “stuff” was that you needed to get your job done. It had the fastest internet and best phone systems. All the physical files were kept there and perhaps most importantly, it was where all the people were that you needed to interact with on a daily basis.
Today, thanks to so many advancements in technology we are no longer tethered to the office in the same way. There are a seemingly unlimited number of tools that provide greater flexibility to our work than ever before. Theoretically, many of us can be just as productive working from vacation as we can be at the office! (the keyword there is theoretically.)
So what does this say about the purpose of the office in modern society? Offices are no longer just a means to an end, but can and should accomplish a specific objective for each business. It can be broken down into what I believe are five core purposes that an office should serve:
- Professional Presence
Without reading one word of marketing content, you can look up a company’s address and learn a lot about that organization. Are they in a nice area of town? Are they urban and trendy or suburban and traditional? Does the building they are in speak to their success or lack thereof? Is it a home based business? If I need to meet with them are they close to me geographically?
Again, for some companies, a prestigious or trendy address doesn’t move the needle. However, for many companies, the most essential value that an office provides is that it can be a tool that builds trust with clients, staff, and any other stakeholders.
- Client Meeting Space
For companies that have to meet with clients face to face, a well designed and easy to access office will always prove valuable. Sometimes it can be appropriate to meet at a restaurant, coffee shop or even in someone’s home, but certainly not always. An office provides the opportunity to stack the deck for always important client interactions. First and foremost it is important to be in an area that feels safe and is easily accessible. It can be ensured that they are greeted properly. The meeting space can be set up to eliminate distractions and provide the right amount of privacy. And if there is a presentation or other interactive elements, the tools can be readily available.
- Team Collaboration Space
Each year there are more people working remotely, both in large corporations and smaller companies. However, technology has yet to replace the very tangible benefits of in-person collaboration. Sometimes a team needs a traditional office setup that they can go to on a daily basis providing the opportunity for ongoing collaboration. However, for companies that typically get by with more individual work, they may just need a central place to come to for regular meetings.
For many, today’s office is about people and exists to serves the purpose of a support structure. When you think of the “Office of the President” you think of a system, not floor space. Can a client speak to your office when you are not available? Can they drop off something at your office and be told: “I will be sure he or she gets this”?
Last but not least is productivity. Some of us are blessed to be able to work productively anywhere. Whether that be in a coffee shop, on an airplane, or at home with the TV blaring and the dog barking. For the rest of us, the office can still be that choice place where we feel most in command of our work.