In Memoriam of the Traditional Headquarters
Let’s hold a moment of silence for the traditional headquarters space. Born in at the turn of the 20th Century, the headquarters life came to an end after battling to survive in a millennial-driven, technology dominated, flexible workplace environment. Prior to the first technology boom in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, it was rare to find a fortune 500 company that didn’t have an elaborate and sprawling campus that served as the organization’s corporate headquarters. Housed within these walls were generally all of the administration functions of the business including, marketing, human resources, IT and C-Suite executives. Today, however, thanks to the rising use of technology and remote locations, headquarters are irrelevant. In fact, they're dead.
“Headquarters can be wherever you want and need them to be. In the past, the headquarters used to be the place where ideas were bred and new talent wanted to be. Now, companies are discovering that if you want the best talent, go to where they are,” said Larry Mufson, Managing Principal of The Mufson Partnership, A NELSON Company.
What’s driving this change? Costs and Millennials. The financial crisis of 2008 forced many companies to look at one of their largest expenses, real estate. In order to cut costs and keep relatively the same amount of productivity, many companies downsized their headquarters and larger hub offices and increased the utilization of remote and telework locations. For millennials looking to control when and how they work, the rise of on-demand services like Uber and Hourly Nerd provided the flexibility they needed without being tied to a specific location.
Headquarters spaces are now a costly investment that aren’t yielding the returns they once did. They are no longer a final destination, but a journey that propels a company’s culture forward and flows to the rest of the organization and locations.
Companies such as The Tie Bar are embracing the “headless” headquarters movement. Located in Chicago, IL, the online men’s retail shop wanted to bring their online personality and inventory into a physical environment while also providing a space for employees to work. Their final design solution reflected their upscale urban gentlemen’s club persona, provided space for product and samples, and also offered space for their employees to work, meet and socialize.
Multi-national companies such as NELSON have also embraced headless headquarters. We have 25 locations across the U.S., but none of them are the headquarters.
“Our people make our organization outstanding and prominent, not a location. Within each location, we’ve empowered the individuals there to embody and reflect the mission, values and culture overall. Headquarters for us is an attitude and mindset that is reflected at every level of the organization. What good is a major physical location that is overly grand and opulent if the same values and culture aren’t reflected in other locations?” Said John “Ozzie” NELSON, Chairman and CEO of NELSON.
As the way we work continues to evolve and change, so will the office spaces we inhabit. The headquarters was once the crowning achievement of an organization and a testament to its growth and influence. Today, we bury the space and in a way the idea behind it, but welcome in its place a headquarters that's available wherever you need it to be.
Principal, Co-Chair, Legal Workplace Practice
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