Season 2, Episode 2: Do We Even Need the Office Anymore?

Swim in the direction in which the tide is going. Don’t swim against it. That’s how you drown.

Season 2, Episode 2: Do We Even Need the Office Anymore?

Many businesses are asking, and in some cases demanding, their workers to return to the office. But is that necessary in today’s day and age? If you are a business owner, you need to look at what your employees want, what is good for business, and the benefits of a remote workplace.

Show Notes

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Show Transcript

[00:00:00.430] – David Maples

Do we even need the office anymore? Elon Musk, Google, and other tech companies think so, but a majority of people who work at these companies think no. How your business can navigate, survive and thrive in the new hiring environment in this episode of The Buck Stops Here.


[00:00:24.870] – David Maples

Welcome to season two, episode two of The Buck Stops Here. I’m your host, David Maples, and I’m glad to have you all here. So in this episode, we’re talking about do we even need the office anymore. And I want to start this with an idea, a story, if you will, if you’ll indulge me, about the future.


[00:00:43.110] – David Maples

None of us know what the future really looks like, but I’m going to paint a picture for you. Scene; the year is 2032, downtown, New York City, Fifth Avenue. In the distance, you start to see the hover floats moving down Fifth Avenue. This is the second annual TikTok Day Parade, formerly the Macy’s Day Parade, in New York City.


[00:01:09.510] – David Maples

Throngs of people lean outside of what were formerly commercial office towers in downtown New York City. Because now, affordable housing is a reality because tens of millions of square feet of office space had been converted into low-cost housing in New York City. And now everybody can truly live and work downtown because they work in the same place that they live. Now, that may sound like a fantasy, but that is coming to a metro location near you soon. Stay tuned. And what it means is that though the tech companies and executives, in mass, have said, well, we got to get people back in the office, you have to look at what’s going on there.


[00:01:58.630] – David Maples

And this episode may sound like I’m talking to those of you out there, who might be listening, who work at one of these companies. It’s not. I’m talking to those of you who own buildings or who own those infrastructures. I was listening at a talk that Mark Cuban gave a couple of years ago, and he said it was in the early days of the Great Pandemic. And he said no one knows who the next billionaires are going to be today.


[00:02:31.090] – David Maples

No one knows. But they are being made and built today. And 20 years from now, it will be obvious who the next Google, the next Facebook, the next Airbnb, the Uber, whatever it is. Those things will all be obvious in hindsight because it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback to know who won. It’s really hard to predict that while you’re projecting yourself out in the future.


[00:02:56.470] – David Maples

What we do know is, in the current business environment, that hiring in America is one of the hardest things to do. By the way, in your business, that’s always a challenging thing for you. Hiring is one of the most difficult pieces of your operation. Always is.


[00:03:10.100] – David Maples

How do you get, retain, how do you pay for the right talent, et cetera? But we do know for a fact now, as some of the data starts to become clear in America, that a majority of Americans would like, at a minimum, a hybridized working environment. Hybridized. Now, there are obviously pieces of your plan and structure where you can say, well, I mean, you run an automobile manufacturing operation.


[00:03:37.990] – David Maples

Elon Musk has been very public about his opinions on this. People have to be back in the office, and maybe you don’t need those. And yes, that does work if you’re one of those five places in America that can pay whatever they want, and they’re pushing off billions of dollars in profits, et cetera. But that’s not always what you can do. There are places you’re going to have to have people.


[00:03:56.700] – David Maples

The food service industry currently has to have people in the kitchens making things. But automation is also making headways in there, and that’s what you’re going to find more of. You are going to have less bodies there doing those jobs. But a lot of jobs in America, because of technology and other things, they can work remotely, work from home. I’m just preaching to the choir here, so to speak.


[00:04:17.530] – David Maples

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. You’re like David, these things are obvious. They are obvious. But there are advantages in this you may not know. If you do own and control commercial real estate and you own those buildings, I think you might want to look at converting some of them.


[00:04:35.300] – David Maples

Because here’s the thing, we may dictate, as business owners, what we want in our company. I want everybody to be here. I want everybody to have skin in the game. I want everybody to show up on Monday morning, and how can I ask my line workers to be here if my engineers won’t be here?


[00:04:55.850] – David Maples

Let me ask you a question; do the engineers need to be there? Do you really think the engineers think that they’re in the same boat with the line workers who aren’t highly educated, as highly educated as they are?


[00:05:14.710] – David Maples

Maybe you do think that. Have you asked them what they think? People right now, hiring is a problem. And there’s a lot of companies who’ve been- the underbellies of a lot of these companies got grossly exposed in the pandemic. If you are a bad company, you might have been able to abuse your employees during the pandemic because they had nowhere else to go.


[00:05:39.490] – David Maples

But your days of operating as a dinosaur are numbered. There is a comet headed for where you’re located right now. And if you wish to survive, you need to change your method of operating business, or you deserve to become extinct, which I think that’s what a lot of us would like you to do. If you’re not those people, this is not supposed to be adversarial, but if you’re not those people, you need to look at the market. 65% of them want to work remotely.


[00:06:06.940] – David Maples

And the benefits to your employees can be legion. Premise; you need to hire childcare for your children because you are a two-family operating household, which a lot of households in America are. The days of the single person working and making money for their entire household are gone. The 1950s and 1960s are largely in the rearview mirror. And at this point in time, you need to ask yourself, how do I hire people?


[00:07:08.150] – David Maples

How do we retain them? Well, it turns out if I don’t have to pay for childcare, that’s a $20,000 bonus a year. If I don’t have to commute an hour each way to work in my diesel-burning truck, which costs me $25 to $50 a day. If it’s $50 a day and I have to commute to work, that costs me, working 200 days a year in the office, just doing kind of side of the napkin calculation, that’s $10,000 in gasoline you’re going to pay, not to mention wear and tear on your vehicle, and not to mention it to the extra insurance you have to carry because you have to commute each day.


[00:07:09.430] – David Maples

Understandably, there are jobs that can’t work this way, but what does this look like? I was doing some consulting work just a few weeks ago for an engineering firm that has a large fabrication shop. Their fabrication and building the devices that they sell in the marketplace must be designed by engineers. Must be designed by engineers.


[00:07:30.230] – David Maples

They need electrical, mechanical engineers. They do some high-end, really amazing stuff. Their office, their building, and their fabrication shop doesn’t need the engineers to be in office, but they need those people to come in, right? And you might need some people, some managers to come into corporate. But they said, you know what their problem is?


[00:07:47.120] – David Maples

The problem isn’t hiring people. They’re a good company, good work ethic, do a lot of things together as a team, but they don’t need the engineers there. And it turns out they can hire the guys to work in the shop pretty easily. There’s a lot more people who can do the jobs that don’t require, you know, a physical engineering exam to do the work. There’s a lot more people who can do that work.


[00:08:08.300] – David Maples

But it turns out that hiring engineers for them is very, very difficult. And they are competing with other engineering firms in the marketplace who have more money than them and can pay, in some cases, double what they can pay. But those engineering firms are kind of monoliths dedicated to an ancient and dying race.


[00:08:30.010] – David Maples

They’re dedicated to this idea, “This is how we’ve always done business. We’re a good engineering firm, and we hire- Everybody who comes into work at our office. That’s what we do it. Our office.” And, yeah, that’s cool, man. Sounds great. But they were asking me, they said, how can we compete?


[00:08:43.790] – David Maples

I can’t possibly pay these guys double what I pay. I can maybe increase wages 20% of what we pay, right? I’d like to do that stuff, and I said, don’t hire ’em here. What do you mean? Don’t hire them here.


[00:08:58.170] – David Maples

Don’t hire ’em here. There’s a lot of engineers who live somewhere out in the middle of Wyoming and are highly educated and could work for you remotely. Do they need to be here in the office? Well, no. What do they need?


[00:09:09.240] – David Maples

They need CAD. They need some other stuff. How often do you have to bring them together? Well, we don’t have to, but we’d like to get together maybe once a quarter. How would it change your operations if you let those engineers work remotely?


[00:09:21.130] – David Maples

Those engineers are highly talented, highly skilled. And if they fall into the marketplace of people who want to work remotely, and they do, you can pay them. According to a new study, they’ll work for you for less. And it makes sense. Just as a business owner. Think about it. Just do the math. I pay you, let’s just use a round number, $100,000 a year for the job you do. But because you can work, I invest in $2000 to $3,000 of technology that I’d give to you, right?


[00:09:48.060] – David Maples

Oh, what if they don’t return the technology? Who cares? They eat it. It doesn’t matter if they last at your company six months or a year. I mean, who cares?


[00:09:56.690] – David Maples

It’s $3,000 in tech. But you’re going to save that employee in a commute $10,000 in income a year. You’re going to let them have more control over their workspace and their life. They may not have to pay for childcare now. Now, they can go on vacations and do things a different way.


[00:10:15.500] – David Maples

You can actually might be able to hire those people for $10,000 or $20,000 less than you currently pay now and have a bigger operating pool. Or you want to compete with those other engineers in those other markets? Now, an embedded piece in that job is, well, yeah, look, you’re looking at my offer versus theirs. I pay $100,000 a year. They pay $120,000, but they don’t give you the flexibility of working remotely. And you’re also going to save that $20,000 to $30,000 a year in extra costs.


[00:10:42.370] – David Maples

The engineer, I guarantee you they can do the math, and you need to do the math as well. If 64% of people in America want to go work at a company that has a hybridized working environment, why would you force them to work in office if you don’t have to? Now, it could be you don’t have as much control over the people. Yes, that is, but I will say that if you have a problem with controlling your employees, you might need to look fundamentally at how you’re operating your business. Now, I can sit on my high horse and say that.


[00:11:12.780] – David Maples

And obviously, as a business owner, we like to micromanage things. But if you have the right people in your office, that’s not a problem. And by the way, some of your employees will always steal from you. News flash, big embezzlement study, apparently 10% of the employees in your office will actively steal from your company if given the opportunity. Man, that’s a crazy number. 10%, right?


[00:11:39.710] – David Maples

At any company, there’s probably people there. They have to have the mode, the method, and the opportunity, and then there’s 1% who will always do it because that’s what they kind of do. But here’s the thing, that’s a cost of doing business. That’s something you need to recognize.


[00:11:51.620] – David Maples

That’s why you put controls in your company, to minimize the chance of somebody embezzling from you. Okay? If the people are stealing your labor and stealing your time and not doing work, put some things in there so you can track these things better. I guarantee you, with the scaled-down office space you’re currently operating under, you can probably cut your costs by 20% or 30%. And it’s not just the warehouse.


[00:12:13.610] – David Maples

I don’t have to heat and cool the building as much. I don’t have to go there myself as much. I have more control and autonomy of our own life. The world has changed, and I don’t know with any degree of certainty what 2032 is going to look like, but I dare say it’s going to look a lot different today. And those of you business owners out there, not to get lecture-y, who think that you can force your employees to do that.


[00:12:37.830] – David Maples

And the thing is, you can, but that has a limited lifespan. The world has fundamentally shifted and moved on. At The Buck Stops Here, we always talk about no BS. So the no BS segment for you today is swim the direction in which the tide is going. Don’t swim against it. That’s how you drown.


[00:13:03.130] – David Maples

If people are moving this way and shifting their beliefs and personalities and changing what the expectations are in that employer-employee compact or contract, it’s incumbent upon you as a business owner to think about those things and say, how do I want my company to operate? You know, most of us don’t get up every day and put our shoes and pants and our clothes on to go to work, most of us don’t sit out there and say, hey, how can I screw up things for my employees today?


[00:13:32.440] – David Maples

Most of us want our employees to have a great work environment, a great environment to be in. But understand that if a majority of people are out there, don’t swim against the tide. Work with it. Look at hybridized options if you haven’t looked at that yet. I understand you may be heavily invested in office space.


[00:13:52.010] – David Maples

You may own some of those office towers; Google. And I understand that you’ve thought about these things. You’re thinking, we have 10 million square feet of space we have to heat and cool. We need to put people in there.


[00:14:06.050] – David Maples

And I understand that argument. I’m not really sympathetic to it. It is what it is, and there were a lot of people bemoaning their buggy whip business going under in 1905 in New York City. “Oh, these terrible polluting things! They’re noisy, and they’re dangerous. This internal combustion engine is going to be the end of everything good and noble in New York City.”


[00:14:29.460] – David Maples

Well, okay, I understand you’re in the buggy whip business, or you own a lot of commercial real estate. Maybe it’s time you repurpose that. Maybe it’s time you look at turning that into another business venture. Maybe you make low-cost apartments, and your people can live in those, and it’s part of a perk for hiring. The point about this is that there are a lot of opportunities that have been created in just the past few years, and people know about it.


[00:14:55.940] – David Maples

People are tired, and they’re tired of working in abusive, toxic relationships with businesses and things like that in industry. And if they’ve been able to spend more time with their kids and not pay for child care and save money and bring themselves closer to their children, how dare you get in the way of that?


[00:15:18.430] – David Maples

That’s not just swimming against the tide; that’s putting weights onto your feet. So, not supposed to be a cautionary tale. It’s supposed to be a prediction about the future. So, how can you navigate, survive, and thrive in this environment? Take a hard look at your environment and your hiring package.


[00:15:35.270] – David Maples

Which jobs could you move remotely, and which ones need to be there? I have read tons of articles now about like, well, what about the culture? Your culture is going to shift. Just adapt to it. There are buggy whips coming.


[00:15:47.760] – David Maples

It’s going to be different. It’s not going to look the same. And change needs to be your watchword. More things are going to change in the environment of business based on what’s happened in just the past few years and the next ten years than in the previous five decades. And if I’m wrong, I’m off by a decade or two.


[00:16:06.230] – David Maples

Don’t know which way, but it’s fundamentally changing the way we work. Web3, for all its hullabaloo and crypto crashing and everything else, that stuff is not going away. It will still be here. And virtual reality workspaces are coming.


[00:16:23.910] – Dewey Wilkerson

The future is now, old man.


[00:16:26.350] – David Maples

And once you have that for the next generation of these virtual reality headsets and things like that, you’re going to start asking yourselves, is that technology we’re going to adapt to or not?


[00:16:35.090] – David Maples

And the answer is, if you could replace your in-office work environment with something that is almost indiscernible from it, using advanced technology in the next five years, why wouldn’t you? Think about the benefit to the environment. The amount of pollutants that wouldn’t be put in the environment every day if we weren’t cooling and heating hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of office space every single year. Because they’re still heating and cooling their houses when they’re out at your offices. Think about the bonus to the environment.


[00:17:04.190] – David Maples

Think about all these things. And there are opportunities in that. There are opportunities in that if you’re into the heating and cooling business. There’s a ton of these things out there. All of these things are opportunities. And what I’m trying to say for you guys is, do we need the office anymore?


[00:17:22.750] – David Maples

It was built for a time that may no longer exist very shortly. Factories and plants. We are transitioning to somewhat of a knowledge economy. And this is obviously kind of a western and really industrialized problem right now. But I think as the rest of the world picks up and adopts these new technology, you’ll find more of that.


[00:17:42.750] – David Maples

And I think it gives people, if nothing else, it gives your employees a lot more freedom and autonomy to build the kind of lives that they want. And highly trained, highly skilled workers crave autonomy. They crave the ability to control their environment and create the future they want. And I dare say it might make the world a better place. Not just for the environment, for people as a whole.


[00:18:08.240] – David Maples

Now that’s kind of my future prediction. What I am saying is if you have a hiring problem right now, which 90 plus percent of companies in America do have, you need to lean in to the opportunities in here to help you recruit and hire. Take a hard look at what those managerial kind of positions are. Hybridize it. You still want to bring people together.


[00:18:32.730] – David Maples

Serendipity is a thing, but what tools and things like that can you use to push those things forward? So with that, that brings us to another end of this. I’m going to give you your takeaways for today. Number one, take a look at your company right now and say, no BS. Honestly, which positions could go virtual? Number one; if you have not already done this. Okay?


[00:19:03.490] – David Maples

Go ahead and look at that. You brought people at the office say, why are we doing this? Why are we doing this? We talked about the 4A method in the last episode. We talked about ask the questions. You want to acquire the data on it.


[00:19:18.350] – David Maples

You want to analyze the data, and then you need to take action on it. So that’s your first step. Maybe that’s going to be a theme for the season. Apply that Quad-A process to what you’re doing here. Ask your people how would they feel about doing- Asking them and just say, what would you think about this as an added benefit?


[00:19:33.070] – David Maples

If you brought them back into office all the time, ask yourself why. You know? Maybe look at some different other ways to do this, okay? That’s number one. Look at that and see that.


[00:19:41.870] – David Maples

Number two, acquire the data, see what it looks like and see what the advantages of that for your business could be. Could you make a more compelling package? Now, by the way, I’m not saying to cut the amount you’re paying people, all right? But look at what you’re paying people now. Add this into your package, and that by itself has a value. Figure out the value of it is.


[00:20:03.780] – David Maples

And then mention that in your job interview process. Say, look, because this is a hybrid work environment, we pay a good wage in our market, but we expect you’re also going to save like an extra $8,000 or $10,000 a year in XYZ. Put that into your package. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t pitch it. They’re already thinking about it.


[00:20:19.100] – David Maples

Just let them know you’ve thought about it too, and you know that this is an advantage of the place you’re working at. And number three, if you’re in a business that’s tied to these old ways of doing things, ask yourself why. What are the benefits you can work with? And then apply that Quad-A process to it. Say, okay, we have been in this business, or I’m invested in it. I own 500,000 square feet of warehousing space, but it turns out I can eliminate one-third of that capacity. You can either shut that down or you could lease that space to another up-and-coming company.


[00:20:50.800] – David Maples

Maybe you can find a company that you can partner with who needs space for this warehouse and distribution. There’s a lot of people in this new kind of new version, I’m going to call it Ecommerce 3.0 version of the future, who could definitely use that space for warehousing and distribution. It’s not just Amazon delivering anything. There’s a lot of good companies out there who don’t want to pay a 15% to 25% cut to Amazon to fulfill and ship their stuff. Maybe they need manufacturing space.


[00:21:16.440] – David Maples

And look for people who can partner in those endeavors. Because for a lot of those companies, they might have a great idea, they may have good seed money, but they may not have the space to pay full freight. They may need 10,000 square feet of warehouse space, and you may have, well, shoot, we can just repartition this. There are opportunities.


[00:21:34.610] – David Maples

And as Cuban said, we don’t know who’s the next multi-billionaires or trillionaires will be, but they are being made today. And there are people looking to see what is born out of adversity. There’s an old quote I’m going to leave you with. It’s that necessity is the mother of invention.


[00:21:59.450] – David Maples

There is no greater necessity than when there’s a seismic shift. When inflationary prices happen, when people don’t have money, when things are scarce, people become ingenious, and they invent things, and they are, and they will continue to do so. So don’t be left behind on that. Look at those things and see how you can be an engine of ingenuity. See how you can produce those new things that need to exist in this economy. This brings us to the end of another episode of The Buck Stops Your Business Podcast.


[00:22:30.530] – David Maples

If you liked what you heard here, please give us a thumbs up or provide a review on Spotify or any other place you happen to be listening to this podcast. Please leave the comments on our website,, and let us know what you’d like to see in upcoming episodes. With that, be well, have a great week and go out there and be awesome.


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