There’s a lot being discussed on the future of the modern office space. We talked to Brian Zuercher, CEO of Hopewell, to get their perspective on what we might expect if/when companies open back up their offices.
What’re the biggest issues companies are facing as it pertains to office space today?
The office has historically been a vehicle for culture, but for over a year, it hasn’t. Companies need to pinpoint what their office is intended to be used for primarily in the future. Most companies haven’t thought of it this deliberately, but once this is defined, a million other questions are spawned. One company we work with has a ~5,000 person office historically working in a cubicle farm with no remote workers. That same company had record profits in 2020. Was there any magic potion that existed in that office, since it didn’t play any part in 2020’s success? What purpose did it serve, other than just real estate overhead? Companies need to answer why workers should come back to the office when it’s safe to do so, and we’ve been helping them with this.
What do companies need to (re)focus on moving forward to offer safe working environments and inspire creativity and productivity with their office spaces?
Today office space is trying to be everything to everyone, but likely doesn’t do any one thing for its employees well. The first step is to not think about “work” as one category, instead breaking it out into the “modes” of work people actually do. We equate this to the many ways you can achieve fitness. The same room might not work for running, yoga and weightlifting without major customizations. Work is similar in that there’s different types of work, along with various preferences to tackle each. For example, there’s heads down production work as well as group collaboration. How can the office specifically and purposefully align to these types of work? We will all learn to have tradeoffs too i.e., knowledge workers having a dedicated workstation versus sacrificing individual space to support optimum group productivity. When there’s clear alignment on the purpose of the office space, the return on investment is super clear.
Look into your crystal ball: what do workspaces look like in five years?
It’s typical to see a disproportionate amount of space dedicated to the individual and for hanging out versus deliberate collaboration space. We’ve built our spaces at Hopewell to embrace the latter, with collaborative areas where coming together has real purpose. Workspaces may start to model student unions. They may start to serve as experiential centers that embody the company’s values and provide tools for their people to succeed. Companies will migrate from large buildings and massive headquarters to small, customized, regional locations that can operate as such. This could result in companies having a larger footprint.
If by chance, your organization needs help redesigning its work experience, remote policies or office environments to prepare for a potential return to in-person work, reach out to our friends at Hopewell, who recently expanded its physical locations to Louisville in March.