By Liam Macleod
In the not-so-distant past, WeWork was hailed as the future of work. It promised flexibility, community, and the elimination of the traditional office’s stuffy cubicles. Fast forward to today, and the WeWork era has come to a screeching halt, giving rise to the remote era. This seismic shift has left us pondering the merits of remote work and reevaluating the role of the office in our lives.
WeWork’s meteoric rise and subsequent fall provide a captivating case study of a company that epitomized the office-sharing trend but ultimately succumbed to a host of financial and managerial challenges. As the bankruptcy looms, the legacy of WeWork raises important questions about the nature of work and the value of physical office spaces.
We’ve all witnessed the empty offices, a somber reminder of the pandemic’s impact. Companies invested heavily in sprawling office spaces, only to see them turn into costly liabilities. In the remote era, businesses are reevaluating the need for large office footprints. They’ve come to recognize that maintaining massive, underutilized spaces is not only a financial burden but also an environmental one, as the energy and resources required to sustain these empty offices have severe ecological and financial consequences.
The solution isn’t necessarily to eliminate offices altogether but rather to downsize and reimagine them. Instead of sprawling offices with 50-100 empty desks, companies should consider reinvesting in smaller workspaces. These spaces can still offer a place for people to escape the work from home habits, foster innovation, and serve as gathering spots for teams to reconnect.
Let’s face it, the traditional office as we know it is dead. The 9-to-5 grind, expensive commutes, cubicles, meetings in stuffy conference rooms – they’ve been rendered obsolete by a profound shift towards hybrid and remote workDr. Gleb Tsipursky – Forbes 2023
Reducing office space size doesn’t mean severing the vital connections that offices facilitate. Instead, it prompts companies to invest in what matters most: human connection. It’s time to redefine ‘culture’, perhaps by offering monthly, quarterly or annual in-person offsite experiences that can bridge the divide between in-office teams and those working from home. These well-planned events go beyond mandatory team-building exercises, fostering authentic relationships and mutual understanding among colleagues. It puts change in the pocket and deepens ties and buy-in to the purpose and mission statements of companies.
The remote era isn’t about isolation. It’s about choosing when and where you work and how you connect with your colleagues. Remote work can empower employees to find a work-life balance that suits them while maintaining productive collaborations. This model offers flexibility and a break from the dulls of the daily commute, allowing employees to focus on the quality of their work rather than the quantity of hours spent in an office.
Moreover, companies have the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by embracing the remote era and shrinking their office spaces. Sustainability is no longer a buzzword but a global imperative and companies do need to show proof that they are making the differences they so often claim. Scaling down office space, coupled with remote work, can significantly contribute to a company’s environmental responsibility.
“Approximately 56% of full-time employees in the U.S. — more than 70 million workers — say their job can be done working remotely from home.” Gallup 2022
The end of the WeWork era marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of work. It’s a time for companies to reevaluate their priorities, balance sheets, and environmental impact. By reducing office space size and investing in unique company retreat experiences, businesses can navigate the ‘Remote’ era successfully. Quarterly in-person offsite experiences, carefully designed and thoughtfully executed, can serve as the bridge between teams, ensuring that remote work doesn’t equate to isolation.
As we bid a farewell to the WeWork hype and embrace the remote era, let us remember that work is not just about places; it’s about people. The office might no longer be the center of our work lives, but it can continue to be a vital hub for connection, creativity, and collaboration in the modern world of work.