During a call this week, another architect was telling us how the company his son’s friend works for announced they would no longer have a physical office. Staff members that had been living in and around New York City would be free to work from anywhere. For this particular fellow, the news meant he could stop living in Brooklyn and start living someplace less expensive.
That tidbit of information wasn’t surprising to hear given that companies like Twitter and Microsoft are moving in a similar direction. Work from home if you can or anywhere that makes you happy. Even architecture firms are realizing 40+ hours in an office every week may not be a necessity. An architect friend in Ohio has been running a virtual office for 10 years and has been known to review drawings while on vacation for a month overseas.
However, the coming reduction in space needed to house employees does bring up one important question – what do we do with all that empty office space?
My first instinct goes right to doing something philanthropic. Can we create affordable housing currently missing in urban areas like New York? Is this a way to address homelessness? Can we provide incubator spaces for non-profits?
My podcast co-host Matthew jumped immediately to hydroponic urban gardens. Given his penchant for gardening, that idea was not too far out of left field. And perhaps a unique way to address hunger, especially in areas that have become food deserts.
And then my mind started wandering astray. What else could we really do with all that space?
The world’s largest Plinko game? Lots of tall buildings around. But getting those giant discs up to the top might be a challenge. Not to mention how long it would probably take for them to bounce down to the bottom.
How about single-user roller discos? Clear out the offices, strap on some roller skates, and take a spin around the office core. Just need a mirror ball, some lights, and a disco playlist from Spotify. And no one would be around to watch whatever disco moves you could manage while on skates.
A really large indoor dog park perhaps? Some place for people still coming to the office to bring their furry friends for the day. Some place with a lot of pooper scoopers. Unless of course you can train them to use the restrooms left behind by the tenants.
James even suggested private bowling alleys. Should I be concerned about a 12-pound ball possibly escaping out a window to the detriment of whatever or whoever is below? Maybe.
And maybe there won’t be as big a drop in demand as architects are thinking. Some companies will still need space for tasks that can’t be addressed from a home office/guest bedroom. Some people also may not fare well working from home.
However, I am going to buy me some skates. Just in case I’m wrong.