Office space is overrated.
Back in 1997, I was an intern getting paid something like $12 an hour working for Novell. If you remember back to that time, Novell was riding the tail end of the Netware wave and was in the process of getting dominated by Microsoft in more ways than one. Heck, Eric Schmidt was even my boss for a while before he got wise to it and left for some start up named Google that no one had ever heard of.
And so Novell was going through a series of layoffs – and not just a few people at once.
I was an intern who happened to sit on a floor of about 30 or so people who were higher-level executives and did things for Novell that all sounded really important. Business planning. Mergers and Acquisitions. Strategy. Someone was in charge of Human Resources.
Oh, and me.
To this day, I don’t know how I ended up with an office on that floor, but I found myself going to lunch every day with quite a few people who were loads smarter than I was and learned a lot.
And then one day, it happened.
The entire floor got laid off.
As in everyone-except-for-me.
I didn’t fully realize this at the time, but it is amazing how many layoffs you can avoid just by being someone who makes $12/hour.
So I came to work for the next few weeks and no one showed up to check on me.
And then I did what any reasonable intern with any self respect would do…
I moved into the corner office where one of the old Vice Presidents of Something used to preside over his kingdom.
Made myself right at home. Put my feet up on his desk. Put my soda in his fridge. Couldn’t call his secretary though, she no longer worked there. Life couldn’t be better.
Sat there for about a year and no one ever knew.
I might have been the only $12/hour intern in America who got to sit in the corner office of an executive suite of a Fortune 500 company at the time.
And looking back on it – I think it may have helped me develop my opinion that office space doesn’t matter.
After leaving Novell, I have worked for companies large and small – and I think I have enough experience under my belt now to say that the actual, physical location and condition of an office are somewhat unimportant, it is the people that show up there and contribute every day that make it happen.
Now maybe it is possible that you can take a high performing group of people from a lower class office space and put them into another space and make them higher performing — but I doubt you can take the bad news bears, put them in a better office and watch magic happen.
When you think about it – an organization is nothing more than a group of people with a common goal (or goals) and work in tandem to achieve that goal. An organization can be a company, a non profit organization, a charity – or heck – even just an idea.
I have been going to Gangplank for two of their spaces (and they are about to move to their third) and just by showing up at these two locations and watching the activity there has pretty much solidified my opinion at this point that:
Office space doesn’t really matter, the people who contribute to the overall objective do.
And it is under that same idea that #RETT is gaining momentum. There is a group of people across the country that are starting to nail down different spaces – any kind of space – where people can gather.
In an open work space.
In a collaborative environment.
And not because I shared them my findings about what really matters when thinking about office space, but because they seemingly have discovered on their own…
Office space is overrated.
But the talent, effort, passion, sharing, open attitude of the humans who show up wherever that office space is located is what matters.