Working In A More Connected Space

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There is an irony happening in the modern workplace.

Many claim that they no longer need the office and the business infrastructure of yesteryear to get things done. Connectivity has changed everything. All of us can work from from anywhere. Have smartphone, tablet and laptop (one or any combination of those will work), and we’re good to go. Meetings can be held at the local coffee shop. After all, didn’t Starbucks chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, invent the “third place” to work, with his cafes on (nearly) every corner? Where do you think this content is being created? In my office, at a local cafe, at home, on the beach, a random airport lounge… does it matter? These changes have forced organizations – of all shapes and sizes – to rethink what it means to “work.” Some think this is because millennials are thinking about work in a different way. All of this means companies (large and small) are looking at policies around flexitime, working from home, bring your device to work, no fixed desks for employees and more. In fact, it would be hard to argue that office, office spaces and how we work has quickly become one of the most important conversations about business today, in relation to what success looks like.

The perks. Oh, the perks.

The competition for top talent has also become fierce. Companies now cross-streams offering similar services to that of their business suppliers, and the competition has increased for most industries with players that are entering their markets who have never been there before (if you think this is just hyperbole, check out the article that I wrote earlier this year about the competitive landscape of marketing agencies: Disruption, Disruption Everywhere). When this happens, companies adapt. We’ve all heard about (and are dealing with) the wonderful things that companies like Google, Facebook, etc… offer their employees (free gourmet meals, massages, house cleaning services, free dental work, beer carts and more).

Wait, don’t these two ideologies act in conflict with one another?  

If we can work from anywhere, why are the most progressive brands building these incredible campus-like offices (look at what Apple is about to unleash, and feel free to check out what Facebook’s HQ in Silicon Valley looks like). Why are companies like Breather and WeWork growing with their unique business models around office space? Why are more and more freelancers paying to sit in co-working spaces? If we truly are flexible, able to work from anywhere and beyond, why do the best of the best build these unique and very different spaces for work to happen? Apple’s campus is a giant circle to manifest Steve Jobs‘ long-held philosophy that the best work happens when there are “casual collisions” in the workplace – when people from different departments and levels collide, chat and connect. Most of the newer and more endearing offices are less about their snack selection, and much more about creating spaces where people can work in a more efficient way. Spaces like this encourage people to work longer and harder. It’s not hard to cynical. These environments are very similar to what’s happening in Las Vegas casinos. These spaces block out the outside world, ensure that all necessities are readily available to keep you focused on what matters most to the owners (in Vegas, it’s gambling… at the office, it’s about getting the best work out of you and I).

What does the future hold for the office space?

One of our main competitors at Mirum, is digital agency R/GA. They have long been a juggernaut in the marketing and communications space. Their leadership is smart, well-spoken and the agency has been responsible for creating (and co-creating) some of the most forward-thinking initiatives for brands. As they have grown, like our business, they have outgrown their workspace. If New York City lacks one thing, it is space. Real estate is at a premium. Still, R/GA not only needed a space to accommodate over six hundred people, but iit needed a space that would blend the modern way that people like to work with the realities of a super-competitive landscape. Their new office needed to excite both team members and clients alike. Not only did they build a campus that would do this, but they enlisted famed documentary filmmaker, Gary Hustwit (If you have not see his work on Helvetica, Objectified or Urbanized, you do not know what you’re missing) to not only capture what the company built, but also added perspective about the past, present and future of the office. What could have been a corporate video produced for posterity and naval-gazing, is actually a fascinating documentary about how space can work to stimulate the best work, what offices are, what they mean in this day and age and how our work spaces affect us. 

So, is the future of work in your lap and hands or at these incredible buildings of inspiration? 

Watch the 60-minute documentary right here: Workplace.