Blog Post

Officemate Wanted

In search of another organization that thinks differently about space, work, and the sharing economy
July 23, 2021

Our office sat empty for nearly a year until the lease expired.

The evolution of the sharing economy has taught us how much we underuse things.

Why does every house on the block need a lawnmower when we could all share one?

Little Free Libraries decentralized and democratized even the concept of the library. They allow anyone to create a place for sharing books that would otherwise gather dust on their shelves.

The disruption of the pandemic brought a sharper focus to how much we waste commercial space, which sat empty and unused month after month.

SE2 closed our office at the start of the pandemic yet we continued to pay rent on the space until our lease expired in February; that was well over $100,000 down the drain. (Last we checked, our former space remains empty.)

But even before the pandemic, we were using the space only about a third of the time – it was empty before and after regular business hours, on weekends, and on holidays.

Video conferencing taught us how much we can do without office space. It opened horizons, allowing us – for example – to collaborate with the best experts, even if they’re far away.

But we’ve also learned about the limitations of virtual meetings – the lack of spontaneous collaboration, the distractions at home, the exhaustion that comes from staring at a grid of faces on a screen.

As SE2 CEO Susan Morrisey wrote in March, “The past year has been remarkably disruptive – but may end up creating new, unforeseen opportunities for how we work, share, collaborate and create.”

We’ve decided to adopt a hybrid schedule, where employees get to enjoy the flexibility they’ve come to value (including avoiding rush hour!) but where we can still come together for that creative spark.

We’re looking at returning to an office as a team roughly 20 hours a week — the same 20 hours for everyone — so we can recapture the critical mass that drives creativity. We’ll pack in meetings, catch up, laugh, and then go off to get stuff done at our homes, coffee shops, or coworking spaces (our employees have become fans of Shift and Rise).

There’s just one catch: We don’t want to pay full price for office space that we’d now be using even less than before COVID – 20 hours a week would be less than an eighth of the week if nights and weekends are included. It would be like the lawnmower that sits unused most of the time in the garage – but much more expensive.

That’s why we want to talk to similar-sized organizations (we have 15 employees) that also want to use an office about half the workweek. Share the space, share the expense.

Where’s the app for those who want to find partners to share workspaces? In lieu of that, we’re sending out this call.

We started looking for a solution months ago but have found the commercial real estate industry still scrambling to adapt to the new world.

Some may want to be even more creative than we’re suggesting – could a restaurant that just serves dinner be a cool office during the day (with access to great snacks)?

If necessity is the mother of invention, we’re entering a renaissance of innovation.

What do you think?

Should we talk about sharing space?

Do you have space that would work for this?

Are there flaws in our plan we haven’t considered?

Do you have a better idea?

Please email your thoughts to SE2 CEO Susan Morrisey at Susan [at] SE2ChangeforGood [dot] com.