Emerging Office Trend—No Offices!

Twenty years ago this month, Harvard Business Review wrote about the very latest in workplace trends for office space. At the time, innovative companies were adopting the Alternative Workplace Strategy of hoteling—the emerging office trend of dynamically scheduling the use of workspaces—as a means to saving money and working more efficiently. Under this approach, employees (particularly sales people and remote workers) were encouraged to limit their time in the office and share office work stations when they needed to come into the office.

The Harvard Business Review article highlighted my work as the initiator and implementer of this very approach at AT&T. In our situation, we needed money to invest in our employees, and headquarters said we needed to find it ourselves. We found it in hoteling.

Fast forward to today. With a commitment to sustainable growth and workforce flexibility, a new group of innovative companies is raising the bar again by utilizing enabling new technologies. I am honored to play a role at one of those companies, whose goal is even more aggressive: eliminate office space completely!

As a member of the Board of Directors of eXp World Holdings, I have had a front-row seat to the spectacle and brainchild of CEO and founder, Glenn Sanford. Significantly, his vision for an agent-focused real estate company included the seemingly radical idea of an organization without offices.

The company describes their virtual world this way:

“eXp World is the eXp Realty online interactive campus. Agents from across 49 states and 3 provinces in Canada as well as staff working around the globe create digital avatars that at first blush might remind you of popular video games like Minecraft or Fortnight. But in the fast-moving world of real estate, they aren’t playing games. Rather, agents visit virtual offices on a “campus” complex for support on everything from transactions in progress to IT support. Staff welcomes agents into these “offices” or may simply initiate a casual chat on a “bench” overlooking the “water.” 

Agents can embody the eXp core value of fun by dressing their look-alike avatars as they wish or even taking a speed boat out on the lake for a spin. Most of all, agents appreciate the flexibility of a virtual office space. As all of this communication is happening online, the participants are actually working from their home office or on the road. By providing this 24/7 access to tools, training, and socialization for real estate brokers, agents, and staff, eXp Realty carries no expensive leases and can reinvest in additional agent support and technology.”

This game-changing company has caught the attention of many media. What has been described as a “virtual reality real estate company” became very real this month when eXp joined the NASDAQ exchange—and flirted with its first billion-dollar valuation.

How might your company redirect the expense associated with bricks and mortar to better serve your clients, invest in your employees, and create sustainable growth for your firm?