Open Offices for All

How long will office work in its current form last?

Seth Godin consigns offices to history as relics of the industrial age and I’m inclined to agree – but with an important twist.

I believe that offices do still have an important role to play in providing a place for human interaction at its most basic level. People who work from home often caveat the sense of freedom with a loss of interaction, communication and camaraderie with fellow colleagues. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction but whether this is necessary from 9-5.30 every week day is up for debate?

I would like to propose an alternative mode of working.

First, let me question one basic assumption: why is that every city centre or town is filled with offices each separately occupied by different businesses e.g. a team of lawyers in one office, web developers in another office, accountants in another, PR agents in another, a startup in another and so on?

What if we mixed it up? So we have an office of ‘hot desks’ occupied by a lawyer, tech startup entrepreneur, financial or business advisor, digital agency marketing employee or whoever else is in town that day all sat side-by-side. Just think how much these skilled workers could learn from one another simply by sitting and (indirectly) working together. New business and client relationships could be built. New networks established. Cross-pollination of ideas leading to new services and products etc. 

Sure, business organizations could retain a hub or office where they meet but this could be for one or two days a week. The rest of the working time could be invested in these mixed community offices.

Tech communities are starting to build this approach with the likes of Techhub that has recently opened in the South, Daresbury Innovation Park in the NW and many other tech / science parks but my sense is that these are subject to more rigid criteria of accepting fledging tech businesses only. I believe we need a more fluid approach to doing business. Drop-in offices that become favoured haunts like local coffee shops. No necessity to turn up every day. No long term tie-ins. Open offices for all.

What do you think? Are there some good examples of this that I am missing?