We may never see the end of the industrial gray/off-gray walls and carpet, the windows that won't open or the constant parking battle that plagues the majority of the working masses.
However, recent trends reveal a genuine attempt to make the office a more pleasant place to visit or spend the better part of the day. Business owners have even been known to equip workspaces with couches, coffee bars and basketball hoops or buy $1,000 ergonomic chairs.
The concept of creating an alternative work environment was firmly entrenched in the mind of Marc Orzen, president of Progressive Computing Corp., a computer consulting and training firm, when he realized his company needed to move from its office space in Mentor. After investigating the cost to rent office space in a traditional corporate building, he decided to look into the alternatives.
Orzen ran the numbers on a few options, then invested in a 6.8 acre Mentor/Willoughby estate that includes a 160-year-old, 7,000-square-foot, six bedroom main house, a 3,000-square-foot carriage house, converted stables, a pool, a baseball diamond and lots of wildlife.
It may sound eccentric and expensive, but Orzen insists it's no more so than renting space in a high traffic industrial park.
"Costwise, we are paying less than three units," he says. "What you would pay for this (type of) square footage is outrageous."
But Orzen wanted the move to be more substantial than just acquiring more space; he wanted a long-term investment.
Although most of the main house has maintained a traditional domestic atmosphere, with a grandfather clock in the foyer, it needed retrofitting. Telephone and cable rewiring was needed to set up phones and a state-of-the-art computer training center, but it only took a week for employees to get in and start working.
Orzen and his staff admit there is a hefty amount of upkeep on the seven-acre ranch, but he argues the cost is comparable with maintenance fees in a corporate building and the decision was contingent on its cost-effectiveness.
Such an unique layout provides myriad opportunities for Progressive. The company holds frequent training sessions in either the main house (the old living room) or the carriage house, which has a full kitchen and a pool table. Customers are encouraged to bring bathing suits and swim during breaks or after the session.
They can have lunch in the full kitchen, at the picnic table by the pool or by one of the fireplaces. Orzen sees the campus extras as a plus for client retention.
"Our focus is to make the experience one that is not to be forgotten," he says.
Progressive's campus lends itself to a number of uses, including hosting large user-group meetings.
"The atmosphere allows clients to feel at home," Orzen says. "And, they love to come back. They look forward to coming, and that helps increase relationships."
But it's not only about the clients. Employees also benefit from the nontraditional environment. On nice days, they've been known to work by the pool, which is fully equipped with electrical and telephone lines.
"At our old office, you would go for lunch outside and be sitting in a parking lot," Orzen says.
As to whether a nontraditional office provides too many distractions to be a productive work environment, Orzen says it's not a problem.
"When you are here at your desk, you're working."
The Progressive campus is more than just a weekday office. The grounds are available to employees and their families after work and on weekends.
"My twin boys had their graduation party here," says Karen Lorenzo, director of operations.
Christmas parties, softball practice and afternoons at the pool all add to the insurance Orzen has to carry as a business owner, but he considers it a trade-off.
"I would rather have a few things and take a chance," he says.
As nontraditional as the Progressive campus is, it's also incredibly practical for a growing company. The seven acres allows it to make long-term plans, and with the extra space, there's no need to relocate any time soon. In fact, as Orzen walks Progressive's campus, he points out a building where he plans on housing a daycare facility and a workout center.
Recent studies show that a better work environment contributes to lower employee turnover and absentee rates. Orzen believes this applies to Progressive.
"Over a fourth of our employees have been here for more than seven years," he says.
And, while that may not be better than the industry standard, Orzen is sure his employees "have better tans, are better swimmers and better volleyball players (than employees at other companies)." How to reach: Progressive Computing, (440) 954-9589
Kim Palmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor at SBN.