In a sea of ambiguity and opportunity around workspaces of the future, we’re asking whether we need offices of not. It’s the wrong question and will give us useless and irrelevant answers.
The Current Debate
At mwah. we only use N=1 for one thing! – Client and customer service where every single 1 is absolutely valuable and treated with the utmost respect and regard. But we live with fear and trepidation of using N=1 for research, pulse checks, opinions or ideas about the future. To base your views of the future on your own personal experience, assuming it’s shared by everyone, is a sure-fire way to look really stupid, really fast.
That’s why this whole faux argument about whether we need offices hasn’t really engaged us much, up until now. It’s currently just the battle of two old friends – tech companies and shared work-spaces property companies. Just yesterday they were doing a combined full-court press on us all, encouraging us to be squashed together ‘collaborating’ in co-spaces. Now, they’ve busted up and they’re throwing a few stones, giving N=1 opinions, and posturing about their superior ability to know the future for all of us.
What is a workspace?
A space to do your work. Full Stop.
It can be physical (a destination where you all meet together to work), virtual (where you all meet together to work), part-virtual/part-physical (where you all meet together to work), at home or away from home. But it always needs to be somewhere where you (and your team) can do great work.
Why does it matter?
Some stuff about workspaces really matter.
Try these questions as a checklist of the big seven questions:
The first six are the hygiene factors – essential and expected.
Number seven is getting more towards a workspace you’d want to be in.
What is the higher order stuff that matters
Essentials checked off, let’s go to the higher order factors.
We asked people why they LOVED their workspace – virtual or physical, cool or corporate, home or away-from-home.
Here’s the list of the higher orders to work on:
Does Art and Furniture Matter?
Interestingly, this question came up a lot – Does art and furniture matter? And the answer is ‘depends on the work and the people doing the work’.
You always need something to sit on, and open the laptop on – functioning furniture that gives people a comfortable ergonomic workspace.
You might also need fancy art and furniture if you and the team, and your clients and customers, like prestige around you.
You need cool art and furniture if that’s something the CEO or owner loves and wants to share with the team, or the team really appreciates.
What do humans need?
Fresh air, natural light, space to be with others, space to be alone, and nature*.
If you’re making a great new workspace, look for options where the window can open, or if that’s not possible, and you’re locked into an ‘efficiently powered skyscraper’, make sure there’s a balcony, or you remember to leave the building for coffee/walking/life under the real sky and in real air.
Make sure you have space – at least COVID 4m2 per person, but more is great.
Get a few wooden desks, and pop out to Bunnings for a plant or seven to bring some nature inside.
*If you don’t believe us about this, there’s a group of specialist architects who spend their lives making ‘spaces’ to live, to work and to be.
Some Options From Our Community
Like all start-ups, we work with an ecosystem of other companies and clients. A short chat with a few and we realised there’s not one answer. Here’s how some of them are working:
A high tech super innovative company
They are based in Columbia, Brisbane, Sydney and the USA, and most skateboard to their workspaces. Applying a variety of COVID rules right now, they meet virtually a few times a week. They laugh a lot together and enjoy seeing each other. Last week, they got a group together. Their quote: “We use Discord and Slack and all that stuff, but there’s nothing quite like four people in a room developing something together. In half an hour, you solve a problem that would have taken two weeks”.
A larger org who have pockets of team that bounce off each other
They’re based in Sydney, Asia and the USA. They cannot wait to get back together in each of their offices. They’ve done less deals and less work remotely, although everyone is much fitter. These people are uber disciplined and organised, so virtual meetings were short and efficient. Their quote: “We’ll all miss the gym every day, but we’re doing much better work bouncing possibilities off each other in the office. It’s a relief to be back!”.
A small tech company
They have an office in one of the incubator hubbie type places and they come and go. They’re pretty introverted and siloed in the way they work, so right now they’re all remote, and are considering staying that way. Their quote: “We don’t really need an office as we’re all happy like this and we’re getting good work done”.
We are based in Sydney, Adelaide and Philadelphia in the USA.
We were fine in the lockdown, and got lots done, but boy! did we miss each other. And we missed live collaborating and brainstorming together – tossing around ideas to get the right possibility. Since we’ve been back, in our window-opening old warehouse office with the funky art, an old couch, a kick arse coffee machine, 4 million different types of tea, and a real phone box, we’ve been laughing (a lot!), collaborating (a lot), and still working really hard on our ‘virtual’ world to make the offices in Adelaide and Philadelphia feel like we’re altogether!
Clearly, there’s lots of options for ‘workspaces that work’, rather than a formula of ‘right’.
The real questions:
What is the work you’re doing?
How do you prefer to do it?
What does the workspace that best suits that work and you as a team, look like?
And the answer: Go build/find that workspace that’s exactly right for you!
Hope this is helpful as you fight your way through the preachy faux media debates around property, and work to find the right solution for the future workspace you (and the team) need to get great work done.