Do you really need an office?

While not as popular as my “greener grass” post, this month’s pondering about the need for an office drew a fair amount of commentary.

We’ve seen headlines like the following in the US:

After Growing to 50 People, We’re Ditching the Office Completely: Here’s Why

The company behind WordPress is closing its gorgeous San Francisco office because its employees never show up

…and great podcast like this one:

Remote: control? The joys and challenges of remote working

Is the tide turning against offices for digital businesses?

Elizabeth Clark doesn’t think so. In fact, she believes having the team in the office is essential in the early stages of a business.

Culture is such a huge factor in accelerating growth and no matter what anyone says it’s hard to build if teams spend the majority of their time remote from each other”  says Paul Frampton Calero

But centralised offices in great locations can be expensive, as Andrew Goodman points out. Plus you need to consider the impact of salary inflation as workers are drawn to key cities. San Francisco has been an example of this and we’re starting to see that effect on a lower scale in London and now Manchester.

Kevin Currie provides the alternative – “Sounds like there is a middle way. A fixed office with all the benefits of a shared culture plus some remote working to improve work/life balance.”

Flexibility is what’s need, according to  Volker Ballueder. Specifically, if you have childcare to consider. Having the option to work from home to accommodate your family commitments should be a consideration for any employer.

The productivity of remote workers vs in-office workers was questioned by Warren Burke, but I’ve struggled to find any strong research on this, other than articles like this one and this one. Feel free to fire some my way if you find it!

Personally, I’m comfortable with distributed teams, as long as enough time is invested in communication, training and regular gatherings. With talent as rare as it is within our industry employers have to be as flexible as possible on location and working practices.

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