You don’t need a magic 8-ball to know that the future of the American office is hazy.
After all, some of us miss our cubicles and our coworkers, while some of us would be perfectly happy to hunker down in home offices ad infinitum, even when the pandemic finally decides to recede for real. Lots of us are caught in a work limbo, where we’ll split our time on yet-to-be-determined schedules, while our employers continue to pay rent on underutilized office space.
Into this breach comes Portland startup Radious. Their elevator pitch? It’s Airbnb
(down to the font on their website, frankly), but for offices.
Founder Amina Moreau's bet is that plenty of people who are remaining remote will nevertheless be seeking safe, private spaces to congregate and collaborate with colleagues—as opposed to hotel conference rooms, noisy coffee shops, and semi-private co-working spaces—and that they’d prefer not to commute a long way to get there.
Her startup is in beta now in Portland with a handful of office spaces for rent, sprinkled around the city and the burbs. The goal is to scale up for full neighborhood coverage, Moreau says, and to coordinate with employers, who’d then make the service available for their employees and pick up the tab.
For hosts, a few office-friendly upgrades—an Eames chair here, a wifi booster there—can pay off handsomely, especially with pricing that is set according to how many people will use the space. At one of the beta locations, for example, up to six colleagues can book a decked out backyard with a picnic table in North Portland, with access to an indoor studio with work station, kitchenette, and bathroom for $202—a little more, Moreau says, than the owner would have charged for an overnight stay. (The price goes down along with the number of people using the property; in this particular case, you can also scale up for access to a second indoor workstation in a restored Airstream trailer parked in the yard.)
Other locations that have signed up so far include an air-conditioned converted train car in the Central Industrial Eastside that can hold up to 14 people, and a spiffy ADU near the Adidas headquarters in North Portland with access to a backyard hammock for when you need a break. They’re actively recruiting more potential hosts, and reaching out to property managers, too.
“A lot of Airbnb hosts are disillusioned—the risk, the COVID parties, the wear-and-tear,” Moreau says. “These are professionals, coming to your space for the purpose of work, not recreation.”
Workplace amenities are clearly laid out in listings, from exact wifi speeds for downloads and uploads, whether there are whiteboards and other office supplies on hand, and if you can plug in HDMI and USB cables into on-site monitors. There are even disclosures about potential for neighborhood ambient noise from construction or traffic.
“This idea was born of a difficult situation, and it is providing people with a safe escape,” Moreau says. “They can get to see people again and have their work be more appreciated. We are not cutting down a tree to make this, we are not making any new physical products here. We are taking underutilized things, and using them more efficiently—this is not making the world worse, hopefully, it’s making things better.”