Slack chief executive Stewart Butterfield knew the world was changing the night of March 11, right around when Tom Hanks announced from Australia that he had contracted Covid-19. The NBA postponed its season, and President Trump suspended travel to the United States. Butterfield’s team had already been working virtually for a week–something that came fairly naturally to the business-communications-tool startup.
Seven months later, Slack still is fully remote. Butterfield has had the same jarring experience so many executives and knowledge-workers have had going into his company’s near-empty headquarters. “It was pretty strange to be in there,” he said, of the nearly vacant 230,000 square-foot office at 500 Howard Street in San Francisco–one of 16 offices the company has in 10 countries. “A little depressing, to be honest.”
The visit got him thinking about the role of an office beyond the pandemic. Sure, it’s a place for meetings. It’s advertising, marketing,