The flex office of the future, today?
By Andy Kurtz
As the American workforce has found a semi-semblance of returning to balance in the past few months, business owners, commercial real estate leaders and every talking head in between have been talking about the future of office spaces.
Will companies downsize? Is telecommuting the new normal? Is work-from-home really that productive? If you spend just a few minutes looking, you will find a near countless number of questions and even more answers that oftentimes will be contradictory.
As a company that has long put value on creating a company culture of inclusion and success, Kopis had been wondering what the future office space would look like for some time. The pandemic, in a nutshell, gave us some real glimpses into what it could look like.
We don’t pretend to know all of the answers (or even some of the questions), but here are some things we are seeing in the Greenville marketplace and beyond that could help other businesses decide what their offices need to look like.
What is the function of your office space? This is really concrete and no pun is intended by that. Look at your office environment and examine what functions well, and what doesn’t. Is your conference room always dark? What about those private meeting rooms? Where do people tend to congregate? Do they congregate? The answers to these questions will guide you as you try to decide to downsize or even expand. Talk to your employees about this as well. They may tell you they enjoy working from home, but ask them where they are meeting with clients? Are some things best done remotely while others are best done in the office? Does it vary by employee and their situation? Ask them what they need. Work-from-home is great, but they may realize that having the IT department in the same building is more important.
Does your location help or hurt? Location has always been a driver of where to work. Companies have long believed that the right address, the right access to amenities, the right sense of cool would always be lures for talent. Now, the real answer is probably “it depends”. The real estate industry shows this by the number of people moving from large cities where they were tied to a corporate headquarters to places such as the Upstate, where they can find a better quality of life, but still have office access via computer. But if you are a Fortune 100 company that all of a sudden had 20 people working remotely in Greenville, it might make sense to them to share office space.
How is your company organized? MIT did several studies on the way that organizational hierarchy affectedwork-from-home employees during the pandemic. A key finding was that a flatter level of management helped employees outside of the office. Autonomy made for better workers, which means look at your levels of leadership before deciding to downsize from 50,000 SF to 25,000 square feet because it could mean trouble.
What is your culture? It’s true now more than ever that culture eats strategy for lunch. A lot of companies struggled with their culture during the pandemic because there was almost zero face-to-face interactions and no-matter how many Brady Bunch style happy hours they held via Teams or zoom, people felt disconnected. Or maybe they didn’t? Your office culture will dictate your space more than anything.
The pandemic has brought up a lot of debate about the best way for employees to return to work. While having employees work from home can, in some cases, increase productivity, it is vital to some workplace cultures that employees work within the office. Answers to these questions will make it easier for managers to address the most common challenges faced by hybrid teams in the coming years.
Andy Kurtz serves as the CEO of Kopis, a Greenville-based technology firm focused on providing high impact software and cloud solutions to businesses and state agencies in the Southeast. With a growing team of more than 40 employees, Kopis is one of the fastest growing software companies in the state of South Carolina.