“Should we meet at your office?” The dreaded question. The one to which I simply reply with a sheepish grin and the vague suggestion that said office is small, relatively inaccessible and far too hip for visitors. Plus, wouldn’t you rather us come to you?
Of course the reality of the situation is that the ‘office’ is more of a conceptual space, manifesting itself physically anywhere from the confines of my bed to the slightly more upright setting of the dining table. It’s been courtside at the Australian Open, castle-side in a coffee shop in Prague and poolside in Sri Lanka too. But try explaining that to a traditional client expecting secretaries, desks and boardroom tables, which seemingly add significant credibility to a professional undertaking.
The idea of opening up a brick-and-mortar office has certainly crossed my mind. After all, it would be nice to see my staff members more often. And to have a central point of operations on those days filled to the brim with inner-city meetings. And, you know, to work upright and avoid the persistent finger cramps borne of seating scenarios wildly unsuited to work.
But is a lack of back spasms and a largely unvisited boardroom really worth the significant expense it incurs? Sure, it’s great to show clients around from time to time and really own a space that speaks to your brand. But how often does this ever really happen?
By and large, clients (like most of us), are far happier to have you over to their offices, as this saves them the hassle of driving, parking and risking possibly inferior coffee. Chances are, if they ever do decide to visit you, it’ll probably be out of obligation. In short, everybody loses, and most of all the person paying that exorbitant rent cheque every month.
Of course much of this amount is paid towards a ‘reputational expense’ of sorts, as when you break the news to clients that you and all your staff members just work from your respective homes and seldom even come into contact with one another, you’re probably going to have them giving that contract a second thought.
You see, for those with more traditional professional leanings, a lack of office can mean one of two things: either you’re dirt cheap or flat broke, neither of which is exactly a scenario that inspires confidence. But here’s how I see it.
Firstly, by eradicating the expense of an office, you free up your resources to pay for more important things, like your employees’ salaries for instance. Secondly, with the world becoming more of a global village by the day, clients are no longer concentrated in a contained area, meaning the likelihood of satisfying the lot of them with a single space is highly unrealistic.
Additionally, if you’ve ever spent hours stuck in traffic, cursing the poor driving skills of your fellow office-bound brethren, you’ll know just how much time you waste simply getting yourself to and from work on a daily basis. Now imagine the time you’d save by simply rolling out of bed and switching on a laptop? Sure it doesn’t sound super professional, but chances are you’re getting a hell of a lot more done than the suited and booted who spend a vast majority of their lives on the road.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, doing away with an office space offers up creative free rein. When your working world is contained within your laptop, you can set up shop anywhere that inspires you, creating daily changes of scenery that enable you to draw on diverse influences that the boardroom-bound are sorely lacking.
So there’s nothing to be ashamed of the next time your client asks where you work. After all, how many people can legitimately call the world their workplace?