The future of the office is the clubhouse
The office as we know it is dead and full-time remote work is overrated. Welcome to the clubhouse. (Stew's Letter #96)
To all the new subscribers, welcome.
It’s a hazy day in NYC – wildfire smoke from 3,000 miles away has blanketed the city in a thick orange hue. I’m sure this is totally normal and not worth worrying about.
Anyways, last month I wrote about the non-obvious things I’ve learned from launching startups.
You all sent a mountain of thoughtful responses, all of which inspired me to be more open with our current journey building Foster.
So my co-founder Dan and I co-wrote today’s email. It’s a transparent look at how we’re trying to reimagine our physical workspace.
Let’s get to it!
The future of the office is the clubhouse
The office as we know it is dead and full-time remote work is overrated. Welcome to the clubhouse.
As of last month, Foster has an office.
Well, kind of... we have a clubhouse.
The inspiration for our new space came from a simple observation: most offices try to facilitate both deep work and in-person collaboration, but usually end up in a dystopian middle ground where neither really happens.
Open floor plans make deep work nearly impossible, but private offices are rarely that much better. Co-workers who want to chat typically only ask themselves if you are somewhere in the building. If so, they’ll find you – door or no door.
The same forces that make it hard to do deep work at the office also make in-person collaboration fraught. Most conversations at the office are not double opted-in.
If somebody comes up to your desk and starts talking about how stupid the new VP of sales is, you are now talking about the new VP of sales – never mind that you were mere seconds away from making a breakthrough discovery.
And even when everybody opts into a conversation, most meeting spaces are sterile and uninspired. The best place to discuss your plans for world domination may not be a glorified broom closet with a janky TV where a co-worker will kick you out in 30 minutes.
Enter: the clubhouse.
We’re converting a house in Brooklyn to experiment with a new type of workplace, tentatively named “the clubhouse.”
The concept is simple: to do deep work, stay at home or go to a coffee shop. To inject your day with in-person serendipity, come to the clubhouse.
By making those expectations clear, everybody who comes to the clubhouse has default opted into having serendipitous conversations.
These expectations free up our floor plan too. Our space doesn't need to be carved up to fit private offices or dedicated workspaces. Everybody has access to a bare-bones desk, but the space is otherwise optimized for serendipity and inspired interactions.
Upstairs, we have a space for desks:
Everywhere else, we have dedicated meeting spaces and entertaining space:
We’re seeking the yin-and-yang of knowledge work. Sustained deep work happens at home. Highly productive IRL collaboration happens at the clubhouse.
On top of building a productive workspace for our team, we want to build a center of gravity for the people in our industry. This is far easier to do with a space that’s actually comfortable than it would be if we were in a 10th-floor WeWork.
We’ve already started to invite folks we admire to drop by to work, hang out, and host events (shout-out to our first visitor, Dru Riley). We’ve also hosted a few dinners for writers, entrepreneurs, and our customers.
We want to build a physical center of gravity for our people.
This setup was admittedly easy for us to do with a small team, but some teams in Silicon Valley far larger than our own seem to agree that this, roughly speaking, will be the future for many physical workplaces.
We’re betting that the future of the office for many companies will neither be a physical HQ with hundreds of full-time workers nor will it be a fully distributed team all working from home – it will be a hybrid model where a company rents out and furnishes clubhouses in key cities where team members can oscillate between working from home and opting into local, in-person serendipity.
The office as we know it is dead and full-time remote work is overrated.
See you at the clubhouse.
P.p.s. we’re planning to host more dinners with writers and entrepreneurs over the next few months. If you’re in NYC and want to join for one, reply to this email or DM me on Twitter and I’ll add you to the shortlist.
Other Stew’s Letter Things
Rice Mountain update: I had one new trade offer come in this week: tickets to the Midwest e-com Conference. By chance, they happened to have had the red paper clip guy speak a few years back and they offered me a speaking slot as well. It’s a generous offer, but my hunch is that it’d make the next trade pretty tough…
Fire TikTok: I’ve never once asked why beavers built dams, but that was a foolish mistake. The answer is fascinating.
Bonus TikTok: this is just delightful.
See ya in a couple weeks,