Who Needs An Office Anyway? 5 Keys to Your Ideal Workspace

IMG_0107If you can work from anywhere, why do you even need an office? For that matter, why does any organization need a permanent office location?

While we can all work remotely, singularly isolated if we wish, the vast majority of people choose not to work or live in solitude. To paraphrase an old, sappy song “People still need people”. The fact is that in addition to most of us being communal beings, there’s a synergy gained from working in proximity to your teammates. That’s not to say that widely disbursed teams, connected via common platforms cannot be productive (especially in the world of platform development), but the vast majority of us (i.e. humans) gain energy and inspiration from the physical company of our comrades.

So, the question really isn’t: “do I need an office?”; the question is “what type of workspace is right for me or my team?”  Here are 5 questions ask yourself about your ideal work environment:

  1. When and where am I most creative? Most authors seem to prefer the morning solitude for writing, while newsrooms seem to thrive on the energy created by densely packed journalists sharing data and ideas.
  2. Who are my teammates and where are they working? Is your team in the same city? The same continent? Are you all working on the same type of goals? (Sales, marketing, development, etc.) All organizations benefit from regular interactions in common spaces, but not all organizations need to be together all of the time. In the case of WordPress, some companies can achieve spectacular growth while building a widely disbursed team that rarely convene in the same time & space. Sales organizations tend to thrive through proximity and camaraderie. Management, administration and back office functions typically perform best when centralized and operated in a “professional” (whatever that means to your organization) environment.
  3. What type of culture are we growing? Culture may be the ultimate “secret sauce” for any successfully sustained organization.  Some companies have generated incredibly rapid, parabolic growth only to be consumed by internal turmoil due to a  toxic culture (i.e. Uber, Weinstein Cos. etc.). Other companies have built the culture into incredibly valuable brands (i.e. Virgin, Tesla, Patagonia). As a solopraneur, you are your brand and the sole embodiment of your culture. Establishing and building culture becomes more important when growing your team. Some organizations build an excellent, collaborative culture growing up in a Coworking type environment. However, the larger your team becomes the more difficult it is to create an independent culture in a Coworking environment. Last, but not least, culture is extraordinary difficult to change once established.  Therefore, it is critical to thoughtfully nurture traditions and events that support your desired cultural ideals.
  4. How, when and where do I need to meet with other professionals? If you always work alone and travel to meet your clients at their office, there’s no reason to rent space for the sake of having a conference room. Casual meetings in coffee shops work fine…up to a point. However, meeting spaces are also be invaluable for those times when an uninterrupted face to face event can be a make or break moment.  If you don’t have the need to meet in the same area more than a couple times per month, consider a community membership at a Coworking company. WeWork, Spaces and other Coworking companies offer community memberships for a low monthly fee, allowing you access to their common areas and the ability to schedule meeting space on an as-needed basis (at extra cost).
  5. Who else helps me? Have you ever had a random encounter at a social event that educated or inspired you in a new way? Have you every found new energy or passion for your work after a short conversation with someone else in another profession? These are just a couple of the reasons solopraneurs and early stage startups find a “secret sauce” by locating in Coworking space.  So, work away with your head down and headphones on, but open our eyes and ears when you get up for coffee or bio-break to interact with the people around you.  You’ll be surprised how much inspiration, information and energy you’ll get out of these seemingly random encounters.


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