The conversation about remote vs. in-office work reached an inflection point this week. For the past year as companies have started to plan for a post-COVID world, so much of the conversation has centered around whether in-office or remote work is better. It has seemed like a binary choice, but there is a promising middle ground.
This week, two of the biggest names in VC, Ben Horowitz and Fred Wilson agreed that remote work and workplace flexibility is the path forward for their organizations and even their portfolio companies. While they acknowledge problems with remote work, Horowitz believes that companies can overcome them by “mitigating the cultural issues associated with remote work.” Fred Wilson’s take is that while remote work has had a positive impact for many people, “team morale and the broader cultural needs of companies have suffered and we need to recognize that and address it.”
We are no longer talking about whether companies should stay remote or if they should require office days. We’re now moving beyond that conversation into a whole new era of workplace innovation: how to empower remote employees with in-person, collaborative, cultural opportunities so that they can do their best work and love working for their companies. It’s a big problem that needs to be solved and a massive opportunity for those that can solve it.
USV and a16z are both creating unique office spaces for their employees and portfolio companies to work and connect. Fred Wilson describes Union Square Ventures’ new space as “WeWork meets SoHo House meets VC Firm.” It’s a place where USV employees can work and where portfolio companies and other tech industry people can meet and collaborate.
That’s just one example specific to VC, and it shows a change in how people are thinking about office space. But many companies don’t have the funding, time and resources that USV and a16z have to lock down office leases in big cities and build them out to their exact specifications. In fact, many growth stage companies today have not budgeted for big office leases in the near future. I have always believed that in-person collaboration was never going away, but that signing a lease just to cater to periodic in-person work was not a viable option for growth stage companies today. Instead, they need on-demand space of all kinds that suits different styles of work, types of events, and gathering sizes.
From there, it’s how companies use these spaces to foster connection, collaboration, and innovation that will build the cultural foundation and in-person magic people need to do great work. It’s a whole new world of office culture that will certainly be a challenge for companies to figure out. But none of this can happen without simple access to the space needed to get together and build connections. For big VC firms that may mean building the office of their dreams. For others it may require a day pass to a beautiful conference room with a view.