I recently met some representatives from SERVCORP, a company that rents office space to individuals and organizations that are looking for an office presence but do not want to commit to their own costly lease. Having a strong personal interest in workplace trends, I decided to check them out. SERVCORP is an Australian company that recently broke into the U.S. market by setting up shop in a few cities, including two suites in high profile, class A buildings in downtown Chicago. Recently I had the chance to tour one of their suites and I have to say their operation is very well put together. They offer rentals of both Executive Office and Virtual Office space. Their tagline “Everything But The Office” seems to sum up a growing trend in where the future of physical office space is headed. I found this succinct promo video for the company which highlights the idea of having a “big business infrastructure, without the associated costs”.
Two of the more prominent workplace trends these days are the continued growth of a mobile workforce (less people in offices) as well as companies reducing their overall real estate portfolios (less space being rented). This recent Wall Street Journal article is just one of dozens of recent articles reporting the reduction in office footprints in this country.
That being said, what will eventually become of all the corporate real estate out there? Will the soaring skyscrapers, the greatest of corporate status symbols, be reduced to nothing but ghost towns? In ten years will my corporate headquarters simply be my smartphone? Perhaps. But my next question would be: what then becomes our physical corporate status symbol? The office is not just where you sit and do work, it is one of a company’s greatest brands. More than just a status symbol, the physical office space also serves as marketing tool, a recruiting tool and provides your staff a sense of community.
Companies like SERVCORP seem to be hitting that middle ground; recognizing that companies may not want to invest in their own real estate, but that individuals still want to maintain a sense of “status”. Because honestly, a coffee shop providing free Wi-Fi just won’t cut it for your important client meeting.
Another interesting note: SERVCORP does not brand their spaces (i.e. you won’t see their name or logo anywhere in the space). So when you bring in a client for a meeting, they’ll appreciate the high quality space and amenities and not mere product placement. However, while presumably more costly, an interesting next step would be the ability to have more of a branded physical presence for your company within one of their Executive Suites. But that could end up looking like a strip mall of offices. Not sure if that’s the best next step.
So, who else out there has experience with companies like this? I’m curious to hear more thoughts on this trend. What aspecsts provide the most value? What do we think is the future of this way of working?