This Is Why You Should Let Employees Bring Their Friends to Work
The sooner you embrace an open-door office policy, the sooner your employees will actually want to come back to the office.
When the time comes for everyone to safely return to the office, many won’t (or at least they'll be forced to return reluctantly). After two years of learning to work from home in a pandemic, nearly half of all workers surveyed would rather take a pay cut than be forced to go back into the office. That’s huge. That’s basically workers saying, “I would rather pay you than commute everyday.”
Plus, according to the same survey, workers are actually working more. Personally, I’ve found several ways to increase productivity at home.
Meanwhile, there’s a glut of underutilized modern office build outs. I’m in Boston, and I’m thinking about offices downtown like Fidelity Investments. A few years back, Fidelity hired WeWork to modernize their office, and having visited friends there several times, it feels like an advanced WeWork complete with an impressive dining hall and all sorts of open coworking spaces. Pass by the Fidelity office today, which is located at the heart of the city adjacent to Boston’s popular South Station, and guess what? It’s a ghost town.
(Fun fact: I’m not sure many know this, but office design is an interesting channel of WeWork’s revenue. This is ironic when you consider WeWork’s office design efforts around a city like Boston could end up creating some fierce competition with WeWork’s office rental model, should companies embrace the model I’m proposing here. Food for thought.)
Executives are starting to embrace the fact that the hybrid work model is here to stay. The foundation of any good working relationship is built on trust. It’s one of the biggest things I encourage anyone to prioritize when looking for a new job. While it’s great to see management coming around on an idea workers have been begging for, I want to go a step further: When the time comes to open your offices again, let your employees invite their friends.
Grows Your Brand, Builds Your Culture
I know what you’re thinking, “Why in the world would I give free space to non-employees?!” Well, to start, it’ll grow your brand. Name recognition is huge in any business. With a revolving door of professionals coming in and out of the space, you’re seeding your brand’s name to an ever-growing number of people in a variety of fields.
Do you want to be seen as the stuffy business stuck in the past? Or do you want to be seen as a company that understands the needs of people today and trends of the future?
An open office policy has the potential to be an amazing culture setter.
Another reason I’m a proponent of the open, hybrid office idea is because I’m a firm believer that community makes culture. A friend of mine was working for an agency that moved into a new office park for creative agencies. The office was equipped with a ping pong table, beer kegs, two projection screens, mobile-app controlled speakers — the works. It was a nice space. For a short time, the company would host some lunch and learn events, but they quickly fizzled out since the topics were always corporate-focused. It became a place no one wanted to be.
I asked my friend if we could use the space to host some after-work-hours events for a loose group we both belonged to wherein writers, designers and coders would occasionally meet up for happy hour to do light work and chat. My friend loved the idea and presented it to his boss. We offered to be there and lock up safely for any events. We had a list of nonprofits we would invite in once a month to learn about their work and raise some funds among the community. Still, the boss said no.
I couldn't believe a company was paying so much for such a great space to sit around empty when so many people would have loved to use it for a few hours a week. And think of the goodwill it would have brought to that brand! That company went out of business a few years later; they were bought out by one of the other agencies in the business park that just so happens to feature a giant community room in the center of their larger office that employees can use for a variety of after-hours activities. Go figure.
Brings in New Clients and Talent
If you’re in any sort of client-facing field, having an open, hybrid office will likely help with new customers and talent recruitment. I’ve worked in marketing for almost two decades and almost all of my clients and coworkers have come from referrals.
By showcasing trust in your employees and your commitment to the community, you will almost certainly stand out. Freelancers who need a greater level of support will recommend your firm. You’ll make new connections to people and business you might otherwise have never known. As I’ve written before, people aren’t computers. We need that human connection, now more than ever. Open up your office and let your employees use the space as their own. It will foster a better business and a stronger community.
Creates Potential New Revenue Channel
Let’s be real. There’s an obvious and clear monetization opportunity here. For the reasons mentioned above, it seems appropriate to always offer some free coworking options to the community. However, there will be folks who will want to make your office their home, which could include the desire for a dedicated desk and access to conference rooms. Companies can easily borrow from the WeWork pricing model and create practical pricing tiers that make sense for their office based on the open and private spaces they have.
Go Forth and Advocate
If you’re a business owner, bring this up with your partners or board of directors. If you’re an employee, bring this up to your manager or your company’s leadership team. If you’re a community member and you have friends with great (but mostly empty) office spaces, suggest this option.
This sort of open-door policy hinges on C-suite execs and HR directors realizing it’s a no-brainer, so my parting recap is aimed in their direction:
An open-door office policy is a great way to increase the likelihood your employees will actually want to come into the office.
Your culture will improve because employees will appreciate the opportunity to meet up with non-coworker peers.
The local business community will develop an affinity with your brand.
Your employees may invite customers, or better yet, prospective customers and talented potential future employees.
Perhaps you’ll even unlock a new revenue channel.
Seems like all upside. What do you have to lose?
This article originally appeared on BuiltIn.com.