When everyone went remote due to COVID, many planned to head right back into the office when it was all over. A couple months later, we’re seeing major announcements from Shopify to Twitter saying that employees can stay remote because productivity is actually up. Similarly, startups are experiencing a jump in productivity, or at least are continuing to operate as-is, causing them to take a look at those expensive leases and wondering if the cost is really worth it.
Even if you choose to go fully remote starting now, chances are you can’t just break your lease on a whim. And, frankly, you probably don’t want to. There are many different kinds of remote work – it’s not a binary of only-remote or only in-office.
So what should you do with your office space? Here are 5 ways to reimagine your office post-COVID in a way that could promote even further creativity and innovation within employees.
The product innovation hub
Open offices may not work for getting things done, but they can promote creativity. Instead of having rows of open desks, think about how that space could be used to promote creativity, brainstorming, and collaboration.
If you opt to work remotely or add more flexibility, chances are you won’t have every employee in every day. So take up those desks and leave them open. If you don’t have renovation budgets, even open space with a couple couches and a whiteboard will provide a new opportunity for collaboration. Doing this makes the office a point of collaboration and execution-focused work is done wherever employees are most comfortable.
IKEA-fy your customer experience
IKEA is famous for its furnished rooms (and even furnished apartments) on the show floor. You can walk through and really imagine yourself in the space. You can plan as if it’s your actual living room or kitchen – all with IKEA furniture.
Using this inspiration, create spaces in your office that mimic the spaces your customer exists in. If you’re in the SaaS game, chances are your customers work at desks. However, if you serve remote teams, for example, your customers might work in cramped desks at home, on the kitchen table, or from the couch. Think about that environment and immerse yourself in it to better understand your customer.
The social business
One way to deal with additional space is to leave it empty and use it as an events space. You wouldn’t need to decorate or do much (besides having a fridge, faucet, and projector available). You could use this for internal or external events. Internally, you can host hackathons or other creativity-inducing events. From an external perspective, you can welcome nonprofits, customers, and talent into your building.
There is never a shortage of organizations wanting prime real estate for events, and you can provide that to them. It’s a way to give back to the community but it’s also a great way to get talent and potential customers in your office talking to you.
An ecosystem oasis
If you already have the desks and can’t afford to get rid of them, offer them up as a private coworking space for your vendors, service providers, and customers. Many of your vendors might operate in coworking spaces, your customers may be travelling, and other service providers might be trying to serve you from their offices.
Getting all these people into your space gives you a huge benefit. Your vendors and service providers are more loyal and they better understand your business, since they can see it up close. With customers you get the chance to learn more about their problems or get more sincere feedback since they become your ‘colleagues’ for the day.
Your very own startup hub
Instead of trying to sublease your offices out to one company, turn it into a mini-startup hub. This can either be fully subleased out to startups (or perhaps even given for free, if budgets allow) or you can have some of your team working in innovation hub style alongside the startups.
This strategy gives you the chance to bring in startups that are relevant to your space, potential partners, or are solving problems that you need solved (to say nothing of the marketing and branding value associated with the move).
The privilege to share
Space is always at a premium. There will always be people looking for it. The problem is sometimes getting people to pay. If you’re on a long lease that you can’t break (or perhaps don’t want to), try reimagining the space as something else. It’s a privilege to have the space and not need it, so use it as a way to bolster your business, give back to the community, and help others grow their businesses. Even if you only do this to ride out your lease then close the office when it’s over, you’ll have provided a great service to everyone involved.