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How did WordPress go so wrong in their office, that all the employees abandoned it?

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I’ve been deeply pondering this article for the last few months since the day I read it. WordPress, with over 500 employees, got 15,000 square feet of space in San Francisco to support its workforce. In their efforts to compete for hiring with Google and Facebook, they also told employees showing up was optional.  Employees could get a $250/month stipend to go to a co-work space.  Guess what happened?  No one showed up at the office and they’re letting their expensive office go. Poof!

What does this tell us about the future of work? Do offices matter? Do we want to be home?  The value proposition of WeWork and co-working at its core is certainly about removing loneliness, so it appears WordPress employees choose to work with strangers locally over commuting.

Ok… So we don’t want to be home alone, but we don’t show up for work.  We choose to work at WeWork or the local cafe over the co-working space our company provided.  How did WordPress fail?  Would a series of smaller micro-offices around the Bay Area have better served the company?  Would those have felt more lonely than WeWork?

As a former CEO, I never really loved when people worked from home. We tried it, but we definitely lost momentum.  My partner, who works at a giant software company, gets on her company-provided bus every morning at 6am and commutes 2 hours each way. Working from home for her is not an option and she’d probably feel very dismissed if she didn’t show up.  I don’t think the future of offices is no office. Offices need to evolve.

I believe that face time matters.  In-person matters. Avoiding loneliness matters. WordPress somehow failed in creating an environment worth going to. Maybe companies need a Chief Fun Officer.  I’d love to try to dig in over the coming months and interview ex-employees who lived through this and get their take. What are your thoughts?

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