Goodbye, office?

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

By Michelle van Schouwen

As 2022 approaches, small business owners are conducting the year-end scan of what’s going right, what could be better. Into this year’s review, we all must incorporate nearly two long years of experience with the COVID pandemic and the ways it has changed the workplace. Amidst the 2021 review comes the realization that for some companies – not all – the office-as-we’ve-known-it is an anachronism. For many less customer-facing industries (or those where customer contact takes place off-site or online) offices have been half empty or more for months on end. This leads to the question, “Do we even need this space?”

Today, whole swatches of industry operate in the virtual realm. According to an Owl Labs report on the 2021 State of Remote Work, 16 percent of all companies worldwide are now fully virtual. Many more have employees from all over the world, who may meet only on Zoom or for an occasional summit. Many (not all) employees love this way of working, with 48 percent of those who work remotely saying they would seek another job if they were required to return to an office (Owl Labs).

Could a wholly or mostly virtual operation be right for your company going forward? Some considerations follow.

-Do you need to see customers, clients, or patients onsite? Produce a physical product?

-Does your team require daily in-person collaboration or supervision? Or could you accomplish this via online meetings?

-Is much of your work done independently by individual staff members, at their computers or on their phones?

-Would clients think less of your company if it were virtual, or would they think you were leading-edge?

-Do they even need to know?

-Would you be able to attract better or more diverse employees by offering virtual work?

-Would virtual work help you retain key employees?

-What equipment or support would you need to provide for employees working remotely?

-How much savings could you net by eliminating the office? Or by having a much smaller one for those who must be onsite?

-Could you rent a facility or use a co-working space for those times when you did want to gather?

-Would you, as the business owner, enjoy operating as a virtual company?

It’s an exciting new scene for small companies, with opportunities to hire excellent employees who live far away and wish to remain there, for collaboration in the virtual space, and for savings on one of the biggest and most binding expenses many small companies face.


Michelle van Schouwen is principal of Q5 Analytics, providing advocacy and communications for climate change mitigation and adaptation. See Q5 For 32 years, Michelle was president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company. In 2017, van Schouwen Associates was acquired by Six-Point Creative Works, Inc. of Springfield, MA. Michelle is available for speaking engagements on topics including her work on climate crisis mitigation and Florida coastal water issues. She speaks to business and student groups about marketing launches

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