of the promise of the 'Net is that business could be done from
anyplace, but too many of the now deceased companies failed to
practice what they were attempting sell. They bought into the
myth of "location, location, location" and thought a
prestigious address was the doorway to success.
expensive real estate was never a prudent investment for a fledgling
business facing numerous start-up costs, even a prosperous economy.
In a recession and early stages of recovery, it looks like outright
financial mismanagement, despite some comparative "bargains"
for short-term businesses leases in downtown office space once
occupied by young upstart companies that never managed to turn
a profit. Expensive real estate is no longer likely to please
VCs and investors who now focusing on cost control, profitability,
and long-term viability.
facility with a skyline view is no more productive than a suburban
office park, but costs much more. It's a drain on precious capital,
and does little for the entrepreneurs and employees that have
a "life outside of work." Would anyone run an employment
ad offering a 90-minute commute as a perk? Maybe some folks
in Silicon Valley or those that commute to Manhattan from Bucks
County, PA would find it an improvement, but for most people,
it just means adding 3 hours to the work day.
president of a PR/marketing communications agency for emerging
technologies, I've urged companies to offer employees a balance
between work and life outside of work, even during the tech gold
rush. I strongly recommended that they at least consider shunning
prime real estate (such as Silicon Alley, San Francisco, downtown
Boston or other trendy urban centers).
the downtown office might attract a few bright, single twenty-somethings
that are willing to give the company a 65-hour week even though
their salary supposedly covers 40 hours. Didn't the dot-com era
prove that 25-year-old vice presidents just weren't meant to be?
Today's investors seem to think so.
the biotechs will "get it." With more and more senior
professionals living further out in the suburbs (for affordable
housing and better schools), does a downtown location really make
sense? It certainly isn't family friendly. In a stronger economy,
even established companies had difficulties attracting qualified
employees, as more people understandably said "no" to
about quality of life for employees, and how it affects a company's
ability to stay competitive? Wouldn't offering a better work/life
balance be a way to attract and retain the best, brightest, and
most experienced talent? How does a downtown location and a 60-90
minute commute (each way) help workers achieve balance? The family
breadwinner is becoming a stranger in his/her own home. Entirely
too many kids are being tucked into bed via cell phone.
Myth and Miss of Mass Transit
Those that argue that taking mass transit is preferable to driving
one's own car have never done it for a sustained period of time.
Let's use Boston as an example. Suburban commuter lots are often
full by 7 AM. The commuter leaves his/her house at 6:30, drives
to the lot to be there by 6:45, pays for parking, and makes the
6:50 train into North or South Station. He/she arrives in town
at 7:50 AM, but unless the office is in the same building as the
station, the commute isn't over yet! Next comes the 10-minute
walk (perhaps in pouring rain) or a transfer to a subway. He/she
arrives in the office at 8:00, roughly 90 minutes after first
leaving the house.
home, not only is the process reversed, but if the last meeting
or phone call of the day runs even 5 minutes late, that can mean
waiting at least another hour for the next train. Forget about
returning quickly in the middle of the afternoon if a child gets
sick at daycare - there may be a two-hour gap between trains.
working a 10+-hour day, spending another 2-3 hours a day commuting
is not a positive contribution to balancing work and family life.
Does that trendy bar next to the office matter when you want to
get home and have dinner with the family?
reverse commute to the suburbs from the city can be done in a
fraction of the time in most cases, so even urban dwellers can
get to the office and back home easily, and perhaps still have
time to "play" downtown after work.
living outside the box are being asked to think outside the box
- shouldn't they be allowed to work outside the box too? Unless
all a company is hiring are single twenty-somethings, a downtown
location was (and still is) merely a centralized inconvenience
for everyone. It's counter productive, costly to long-term viability,
and warrants far more careful evaluation than it received from
the deceased dot-coms.
With 15 years of experience, Jon Boroshok
is a veteran of technology marketing communications. He is the
founder of Biotech Marcom (www.BiotechMarcom.com), an independent
agency specializing in marketing communications and PR for life
science companies. An accomplished strategist and writer, Boroshok's
articles and columns have appeared in The Boston Globe, Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, ZDNet, CMP Publications, eCommerce Times, Mass High
Tech, PRWeek, and more.