One of the most nerve-wracking decisions to make right now as a leader is whether to enter into a long-term lease for office space. We simply haven’t lived in a hybrid work model long enough to have the data. And with multiple shutdowns and openings, we haven’t had a “new normal” experience quite yet either. We can make some assumptions, but when it comes to designing space and signing up for ten years – especially when your largest office is in New York city – it’s tough stuff.
But one thing is for sure. If you are an employer offering a flexible model, you are going to have to deliver something unique in a competitive job market: a strong reason to want to come to the office. A draw. Something exciting. Frankly something “better than home.”
The idea of designing an office that is “better than home” did not come from me. It was a Blackstone portfolio company called EQ Office that said it to me in a meeting. So full disclosure: they can take credit for this awesome phrase.
What I love about it is that it really centers you on what you need to deliver now and into the future to attract the best and brightest, who have made it clear that they want flexibility. What could be “better than home”? We took a survey of our employees to find out. Some of the responses we got are fairly obvious; others are more nuanced:
- To bond with colleagues and to celebrate: Nothing quite replaces the office for bonding, celebrating, and getting to know one another
- To learn by physical immersion: Half of learning is what you overhear or experience. For less experienced people, sometimes “sitting at the right hand” of someone is going to deliver more learning than any virtual meeting ever could
- (For some) To get out of the house into a brighter, cleaner, organized, and safe space: Not everyone’s home provides a calm environment that is conducive to work. For some people, the office is better than home. And features like outdoor space, gyms and cantinas are going to be more important.
- To enjoy some perks – Let’s face it. Everyone likes perks. And if they are only available in the office, it’s an incentive.
- To be more productive – The office of today needs to consider how productive people have felt in a home environment. Private spaces to Zoom alongside open huddle areas are essential.
Just as the definition of work has changed, the definition of an office will too. I imagine that the qualities that make something better than home today may not be the same ones that people want tomorrow. But this framework gave me a way to think about how to reinvent the workplace to retain my most important people and attract the next generation of employees.