As organizations around the globe have embraced various models of remote or hybrid work, a new question has emerged: What do we do with our office space? Business leaders and facilities teams must decide what their top priority will be for these physical spaces.
This question is also relevant for owners and investors in commercial real estate spaces that have traditionally been used as corporate office space. How do we optimize these spaces in this new world of remote and distributed work?
We'll explore a number of options on this page, as well as highlight examples from organizations and property owners that have already repurposed their physical offices.
If you're a business leader whose team is transitioning to an all-remote model, the first option to examine is whether you can (or want to) close some or all of your office spaces. This sends the clearest signal that you're fully embracing remote work. It's likely to be the most cost-effective approach, and will eliminate the potential for the office to remain a crutch to collaboration.
This may not be a feasible option for some organizations in the short term due to leasing terms and other binding factors. That's why we'll explore other ways to repurpose this space, both for organizations and the owners of the spaces.
For organizations that plan to retain some or all existing office space, there are a number of ways to redesign and use these spaces more effectively to enable better remote-first collaboration, social and team building, and even community connection.
Ask for input from your team
Gathering input from your employees is an important first step in the decision-making process to determine the future use of your office space. This is especially key data if you're embracing a hybrid work model. There's no "one size fits all" for workspaces, remote or colocated. Knowing your team's current needs and preferences for this space can help prioritize what features you invest in and ensure it's a productive space that serves your organization into the future.
Companies that were mostly colocated prior to the COVID-19 pandemic likely priortized desks, hoteling workstations, and meeting spaces with the assumption that most work would happen within the walls of the office. Those spaces are in need of an upgrade in order to truly embrace your new remote-first or hybrid organizational design.
The goal should be to ensure the office is treated as simply another space to work remotely.
Here are some changes to consider to make your space more inclusive of remote team members:
For remote or hybrid teams, time spent together in-person is most valuable when used for social connection and team building.
Most traditional office spaces have some kind of gathering space for employees, but it typically doubles as a cafeteria, break room, gaming area, or large conference room. These spaces often have capacity limits that prevent them from being able to accomodate the entire team for company celebrations and social events. Take your unused cubicle or "work only" space and convert this part of your office footprint to serve the emerging needs of your organization for social spaces of all sizes. Examples of these new spaces include:
These changes will enable your team to shift your collective mindset around the purpose of the office and establish the remote-first practices that allow work to happen from anywhere.
If you're an organization that invests in local entrepreneurs, innovation projects, or service-focused initiatives, you can use your existing office space to support those investments.
This is also a community-focused option for real estate owners who no longer have corporate tenants occupying spaces that were previously outfitted for offices.
Coworking and networking spaces can become hubs for entrepreneurs and startups looking to connect with their community without an expensive investment in office space. Some coworking spaces even specialize in supporting specific audiences. For example, these coworking spaces around the world provide on-site childcare for working parents.
These companies have already taken innovative approaches to how they've reduced or reinvented their office space to support their team's needs for the future. This is not an exhaustive list, and we encourage contributions to it.
Here are other examples that owners of commercial office space could consider in lieu of corporate tenants in their spaces outfitted as offices. This is not an exhaustive list, and we encourage contributions to it.
Reducing or eliminating corporate office space is likely to bring cost savings to your organization. Keep in mind that just because you no longer have to invest in physical real estate does not mean you have no need for a workspace-related budget. The onus is on business leaders to provide the space and equipment their employees need to create healthy and productive remote workspaces. As this continues to become the norm for remote and hybrid workers, top talent will expect this as a requisite part of any total rewards package and employee experience.
You can find more guidance on how to invest in your team's workspace in this guide.
GitLab is one of the world's largest all-remote companies. We are 100% remote, with no company-owned offices anywhere on the planet. We have over 1,500 team members in more than 65 countries. The primary contributor to this article (Darren Murph, GitLab's Head of Remote) has over 15 years of experience working in and reporting on colocated companies, hybrid-remote companies, and all-remote companies of various scale.
Just as it is valid to ask if GitLab's product is any good, we want to be transparent about our expertise in the field of remote work.
GitLab believes that all-remote is the future of work, and remote companies have a shared responsibility to show the way for other organizations who are embracing it. If you or your company has an experience that would benefit the greater world, consider creating a merge request and adding a contribution to this page.
Return to the main all-remote page.