Why don’t you make a tube train your office? Or a treehouse? Or take the office off dry land altogether and turn your yacht into your office?
Don’t have a yacht yet? Maybe it’s because you’re stuck in a conventional office…
Sometimes the purpose of this blog is to ask ‘why?’ Sometimes – in the words of Robert Kennedy – it’s to see things as they could be and ask ‘why not?’ To question the accepted business wisdom: something we’ll need to do more and more if we want to be successful.
So do you really need a conventional office? Or would you be better off in the tube train or a treehouse?
Let’s rewind to when you started in business. An office was essential. In fact it was well beyond essential: it was where you saw your boss, saw clients, worked with your colleagues and gathered round the mythical water cooler. But fast forward to 2013 and the Regus Global Economic Indicator of 26,000 business managers from 90 countries revealed that 48% of them are now working remotely for at least half their working week. And the percentage for 2015 will undoubtedly be higher.
Many start-ups are now doing very nicely without an office – as this story in the Guardian illustrates. And the more you think about it, the more getting rid of the office makes sense. I can easily come up with half a dozen reasons:
How much money would you save? Rent, business rates, office equipment, worrying about which chairs to buy…
Collaborative working is becoming easier and easier. I remember reading about 37 Signals a few years ago – before they became Basecamp. I think at the time they had 17 people spread over eight different countries. Increasingly companies want to work with the most talented people they can – and not limit the pool of talent to a 20 mile radius of a particular building.
The evidence is clear – people who work remotely are more productive. Here’s just one article from the Harvard Business Review that confirms it: the internet is awash with them.
Top people are increasingly looking for flexibility and quality of life: of course they want to build a business, or be part of a team that builds a business. But they want to be at Sports Day as well – not stuck in an office or driving round town looking for a parking space.
Get rid of the office and everyone saves time travelling. And lastly, there’s a new generation of people entering the workforce. They’ve been brought up with Skype, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook. They don’t see sitting at a desk going through 200 emails as an indicator of success.
I’m increasingly wondering if the office has simply become symbolic for many of us. ‘I’ve got a business so I must have an office.’ Or is it somewhere to retreat to? Is the office the suit and tie equivalent of the garden shed?
As I said last week, we’re all in the results business, not the hours business. We’re not in the attendance business either. So I don’t see it as a problem if your team work remotely: they still need to produce results and not producing will quickly be apparent – wherever they’re working from.
Ten years ago the idea of being successful without having an office would have been laughable: ten years from now starting a business and immediately digging a hole in the cash flow with rent, rates and desks may seem equally ridiculous. So don’t be frightened to ask, ‘why not?’ – even if the question is ‘why not get rid of the office?’