Comfy CEO Erica Eaton and LiquidSpace Founder & CEO Mark Gilbreath discuss the opportunities of a WorkFrom-Anywhere (WFA) landscape.
“The flexibility and efficiency of Work-from-Anywhere depends on technology creating a seamless and frictionless experience for employees.” — Mark Gilbreath, Founder and CEO, LiquidSpace
It once seemed reasonable for employees to commute five days a week to a densely packed central office location. And, it once seemed completely reasonable for corporate real estate leaders to sign long term leases for every office requirement. Now, both are scarcely conceivable for most employees and business leaders. The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the long arc toward flexibility that has been afoot for more than ten years. Employees now appreciate that, at times, they can be more productive working remotely, while business leaders appreciate the opportunity to optimize real estate investments.
Q: What have we learned from the data about the migration from working from the office to working from home?
A: We’ve learned that work from home (WFH) works, but employees require more than just WFH and in-office options. For example, an employee may require a quiet space to work, but may not be able to travel an hour’s commute to the office headquarters. Similarly, a team may be in need of an equidistant location to collaborate. These scenarios have prompted business leaders to add even more flexibility with a “hub and spoke” model. This setup naturally offers a more distributed workplace by combining the central “hub” office with smaller “spoke” offices strategically positioned in popular residential areas.
For these smaller satellite offices, businesses can opt to use on-demand workplaces. Whether renting space hourly on an individual basis or engaging in a short-term lease for a lengthier term, on-demand spaces have the potential for enormous efficiencies and cost savings. I expect to see this model advancing ahead of and being more effective than the current hybrid trend.
Q: Do you think that distributed workplaces have superseded trend-status? Are they here to stay?
A: This is no trend. COVID or not, the general shift toward flexible workspaces was already in motion. Over the past decade I and many others noticed this new way of work emerging as a result of cloud technologies. Plus, the office was becoming more and more casual—there was a cultural shift already in the works. I think the pandemic just made it all happen faster.
More specifically, distributed workplaces reduce the dependence on expensive and inflexible real estate, offer a wider geographical net to recruit and retain strong talent, and greater choice for employees who may have been previously burdened by things like a long commute. From both the employee and employer perspective, the benefits significantly outweigh the challenges. I do think that distributed workplaces and working from anywhere (WFA) are here to stay.
Q: What are the challenges?
A: Well, from a management perspective, offering a workplace where and when an individual or team needs it sounds complicated, daunting, and to some even over accommodating. I think this is why we’re still seeing impractical groans of “When will this get back to normal?” instead of “What opportunities does this new way of working present?”
It’s simply a lot to map out and control. Think of the subsets of people we have working at home right now. Those that are happy where they are, those that are mostly happy but want the option to visit the office occasionally, and those that want to permanently get back to the office. Leadership needs to accommodate all of those groups, making sure employees that want the option to work in an office setting have the opportunity to do so.
In addition to the management challenges this poses, many also worry about the cultural effects of having employees in many different physical locations. And I agree, it will be difficult, but having all employees return back to a central office is not the answer.
Q: Why should employers accommodate employee preferences and how do you anticipate business leaders will unite their employees?
A: In urban planning, there’s a phenomenon known as “desire paths.” When you go to a public park there’s always a paved pathway that pedestrians are meant to take, but there are often also these desire paths caused by pedestrians instinctively walking the “wrong” way, through the grass for example, creating a dirt path. There are some urban planners whom this frustrates and there are some who see it for what it is: people intuitively creating the most efficient route.
You can think of these new workplaces and flexibility options as employees’ desire paths. And no one necessarily needs to accommodate these desires, but the businesses that do will win the best talent. I can say that with certainty. Employees have made it clear that they want flexibility in the workplace, so the companies that provide options and personalization will in turn have the happiest, and likely most efficient, workforce.
And I think instead of the traditional “home base” as a physical uniting force, you’ll see technology fill that void. There are solutions available now that offer employees a seamless experience, no matter which office they visit.
Q: Can you talk about LiquidSpace’s technology and how you see this partnership with Comfy aiding businesses managing a distributed workplace?
A: I founded LiquidSpace in 2010 after seeing a real opportunity to reimagine the role of the workplace, by giving individuals flexibility and choice, and by tapping into the vast amount of unused and underused real estate. The basic idea was that the workplace should be a needs-based fluid space, not a singular stagnant building. You can see how that’s relevant now. On its own, LiquidSpace’s digital marketplace enables professionals, companies and real estate leaders to find, rent and manage workspaces on flexible terms.
And now, with this partnership, the LiquidSpace marketplace is available to those using Comfy, which is really special. That means that we can offer companies seeking to implement flexible models with a single app to manage both their headquarters and on-demand spaces. This app provides safe and productive work experiences while reducing real estate footprint for employers. It allows employees the flexibility to search and book whatever space they need, no matter their location. And it really is a seamless experience that takes the complexities and hesitancy out of it all for all parties involved—a true win-win.
WORK FROM ANYWHERE TECHNOLOGY
Comfy and LiquidSpace partnered to present a comprehensive solution for managing the “Work from Anywhere” workplace. Employees can use the technology, which integrates both managed office spaces and on-demand spaces into a single app, to seamlessly find, book and use office spaces suited for their unique needs. Learn more about how to get your business WFA ready.