A while back I met with our Victoria Melville of PR firm Inferno (now setting up her own firm Melville Communications) who told me about their plans to move offices from their currently White City location. My first question was, ‘Why have offices at all?’ She was a little surprised by such a straightforward question. The ensuing conversation went something like this…
“Why do you need offices. Half the time you are on the road meeting with customers and press and other times you do work from home anyway.”
“Well, I like to go into the office to see other people I work with.”
“Okay, when is the last time you went into the office?”
“About bit over a week ago.”
“And, when you were there, how many people were there for you to see or were they all out with customers, etc.?”
She just smiled in response and acknowledged that the office was mostly empty on the day she went in. So, Inferno, like so many companies, were paying expensive London rates and ongoing running costs for empty office space that occasionally drew people in for a gratuitous car journey to meet with people who weren’t there. Ironically, when Victoria did visit the office, she ended up not spending much time with or even sitting near other colleagues that were there because their desks were scattered and everyone gravitated to their own, fixed desk to do their work.
My argument is not that people shouldn’t come together to see one another face to face. My argument was to put all of the money currently spent on rent, rates, lighting, air conditioning into setting up periodic gatherings that are (a) focused on the coming together piece, and (b) are not mundane experiences in conventional offices, but with all the money saved could be exceptional experiences. Comfortable chairs in an elegant room of a museum rented out for a few hours with some tasty catering brought in. Now that’s a day at the office. That’s a great environment for interacting with colleagues. And that’s a lot cheaper than the commuting and space renting of the current mode.