>Why you should outsource your office to Starbucks

>Office rules have relaxed a lot over the last ten years. Many office workers are now working from home regularly and when we are in the office; we are all comfortable having water-cooler discussions in a coffee-shop and taking our laptop in to work. Even Government recognises the benefit. The days of rigorously putting in a nine to five every day in a shirt and tie are all but gone. Why not go further and – do most or all of our work there; dispensing with the need for our current physical offices? Yes – it’s a little out-there but idly run with it for a while.

Yes, we are talking facilities management (FM) but – perhaps a narrower definition of it with all value-add services being done by partners. Could it actually be done? There is a definite market for professional, ad-hoc and casual working environments e.g. The Hub.

What would the benefits be?

1) Cost savings. FM has become an important industry/profession; responsible for approximately 5% of GDP in the most developed countries. After HR, FM accounts for an organisation’s greatest expenditure with 20% of total organisational expenditure. Significantly reducing this figure would allow smaller organisations to compete and stimulate growth.
2) High street utilization. High streets (or Main streets in the US) have lots of empty shop fronts. They could be re-commissioned (as Starbucks’) bringing much welcome new life and trade opportunities. This would add to our existing spaces – our homes (city/suburban), our work (downtown/business park) and the mall; maintaining a space distinct from these – a common (high street/main street). It’s ultimately about variety, possibilities, culture and escape.
3) Cultural cross-pollination. Organisations generally benefit from finding out about other organisation’s ideas/challenges. Some will consider this a drawback since they fear dilution of organisational “special sauce”. But what is this really? – People, process and IP – assets that aren’t going anywhere. It’s just the physical environment shifting.
4) Flexibility. Working in the same office is dull. Work in whichever Starbucks-office you like.

What would drawbacks be?

1) Noise. In the long-term, once Starbucks is recognised as more than a coffee shop, people will act differently there and noise will become no more of an issue than it currently is in offices. Headsets will help in the short-term.
2) Loss of status and image. If you are Swiss Re and you have spent $1BN on your gherkin building, you care about prestige, internal branding and providing a great environment for your workers. If there is a great environment elsewhere though – for free – is prestige and internal branding worth it? It is for the for big name organisations, the multi-nationals. For everyone else – no.
3) No physical storage. People keep things (coats, umbrellas etc.) at their place of work; they will need to keep them elsewhere. A small amount of lockers could be made available. HR and accounting would need to digitize all physical files. Is this a real issue? It shouldn’t be. For every filing cabinet, there’s a good reason why it should be in the cloud.
4) Team accommodation. If you are working solo or there are just a few of you then you can usually find seats together. There would be a problem accommodating project based teams (3-10) people in this way. This on-demand physical availability of teams is the biggest drawback to office-Starbucks. There would need to be a responsive real-time system that is capable of identifying empty seats together and placing a reservation on them.

Next up there will be an open letter to Starbucks asking them to consider our audacious plan.

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