Picture a favorite local coffee shop that you love not just for its exceptional brew but also for its community vibe. This particular café near me in Venice Beach, CA operates only from Wednesday to Sunday, 8 am to 1 pm, yet it's always buzzing with energy. Customers, including myself, modify our routines just to be a part of it.
Pre-pandemic, companies were already investing in their social spaces — lunchrooms, coffee places and gyms. his got me thinking: What if companies turn their entire offices into community hubs?
Here are three data-backed reasons why this is not only possible but also the most likely direction for workplaces.
The rise of the 3-day office week
Data from across the Density network shows that Tuesday through Thursday are the most popular in-office days. In fact, while Fridays have generally seen low occupancy rates — even pre-pandemic — Mondays are following suit.
Companies will meet employees where they are by opting for a 3-day-in-office workweek. Concentrating attendance to three days — Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday based on employee preferences — will also increase the vibrancy and serendipitous encounters that are unique to the workplace and a benefit to productivity, creativity, and engagement.
“In the process of moving around the office, you run into people,” says Anita Williams Woolley, an associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. “And these conversations are likely to bring up links to things tangentially related to your work, and suggest a new association and bring about creative insight.”
It’s akin to working out from home or working out at the gym. Sure, there’s a convenience to staying home. But you might miss out on that fun group class that pushes you beyond your limits.
Of course, few companies want to pay high fees for an office that only gets used 3 days a week. That’s why companies will start sharing out their space on low-occupancy days, like Mondays as a way to give back to local communities. Rather than sit nearly empty, offices will become a hub for startups, customers, and non-profits.
For instance, Google is taking a bold step in this direction by opening the Google Visitor Experience at their headquarters. Their Mountain Valley HQ will not only serve as a workspace but also as a public café, events space, and even a pop-up shop for local businesses, effectively turning their office into a multi-purpose community hub.
It will require some logistics to turn the office into an open space for non-employees but it will be an effective way to make real estate more sustainable — and will align with most companies’ ESG goals.
The office footprint isn’t shrinking (it may be getting bigger)
Analysis from Nick Bloom indicates that the hybrid work model is here to stay, but this doesn't mean offices are becoming obsolete or even smaller. Just as a bustling café needs sufficient space to accommodate its patrons, modern offices also require ample room to nurture their community-centric roles.
The idea of downsizing is a myth; instead, offices are being smart about how they use their space.
The three peak days — Tuesday to Thursday — require enough room for all employees, ensuring a seamless, positive workplace experience. It's about creating a 'third place' between home and recreational venues, much like a local café.
The 3-day week even has geographic implications, making it more practical for employees to live in suburbs without facing a grueling daily commute. This phenomenon, known as the Donut Effect, indicates that city centers are becoming more hollow, as businesses and people move to the outskirts.
However, companies are keeping their headquarters centrally located for everyone’s convenience. They are using data to identify when HQ reaches capacity and are opening satellite offices closer to where employees live.
By optimizing their footprint in this manner, companies are extending their 'office network,' much like how popular café chains have multiple locations yet maintain a unique, centralized brand identity.
How the Right Perks Turn Offices into Community Hubs
Remote work nearly killed the traditional office, but much like retail stores adopted in the face of online shopping, so too are offices evolving as a reaction to the disruption.
A view of the Coit Tower from Grammarly’s San Francisco office, a podcast studio in Shopify’s New York office, or a garden on the 50th floor of Atlassian’s Australian office are more than just perks — they are strategic choices designed to foster a sense of community.
As we studied our own return-to-office initiative, we found that good coffee, lunch options, natural light, and scenic views were features employees valued highly, sometimes even above the type of workspace available.
However, what’s clear is that the most coveted perk is the hybrid model itself. This approach empowers employees to choose when they want to collaborate in the office and when to focus on solitary tasks from home.
These perks aren't just gimmicks; they're instrumental in transforming offices into community hubs. Just as you might choose a café for its specialty lattes or live jazz nights, employees are choosing to come to the office based on these unique offerings.
The modern office, much like the local coffee shop, delivers an energetic break from the monotony of remote work.
From coffee shop to corner office
Just as my local coffee shop has become more than just a place to get a cup of coffee, so too are offices evolving into more than mere workspaces. They're transforming into vibrant community hubs where employees don't just come to tick off to-dos but to be part of an exclusive, rewarding experience.
With compelling perks, flexible schedules, and a focus on community engagement, these new-age offices are becoming the bustling cafés of the corporate world. They offer not just a desk and a computer but a blend of productivity, innovation, and well-being. Like that coffee shop that has us rearranging our schedules just to be part of it, the office of the future will be a destination we actively choose, a community we want to belong to.
This evolution isn't just wishful thinking; it's supported by concrete data and tangible shifts in corporate culture. As we move further into this new era of work, it's clear that the office is not dying — it's merely being reborn.
Written by Nellie Hayat