Has the workplace changed forever?
That question has bubbled up countless times since COVID-19 forced businesses to close their doors, sending millions to home offices where Zoom and Teams calls now connect workers. And it’s a question we explore in the latest episode of 2025: Tomorrow, Today, a new podcast created by GeekWire Studios in partnership with Northern Trust.
We start our Future of Work episode with REI, the venerable 83-year-old outdoor retailer which last summer sold its brand new Bellevue headquarters facility to Facebook for $ 367 million before ever moving in. REI will move to a less centralized headquarters approach that spans multiple locations across the Seattle region.
We also chat with Seattle real estate developer Jordan Selig on why she thinks buildings of the future will mirror the natural environment, and we catch up with entrepreneurs Jim brisimitzis of the 5G Open Innovation Lab and Dan Giuliani of Volt Athletics who describe how they are adapting their teams and work life for the future.
Listen to today’s episode here, and subscribe to 2025: Tomorrow, Today in any podcast app to catch future episodes. Continue reading for highlights.
Ben Steele, executive vice president and chief customer officer at REI, said the retailer’s workforce needs started to change even before COVID-19 hit.
As mobile technologies took root, the co-op realized that a single headquarters location was no longer fulfilling staffers’ work life. People needed both collaborative space, but also a place where they could focus and work on their own.
“A campus gave me one, but not the other. A coffee shop gives me one, but not the other. My basement gives me one, but not the other, ”he said. “If you really do map the job types, work streams, and types of outputs you’re looking for, flexibility becomes just as important as something like collaboration is.”
Flexibility was also on the mind of Selig, whose family has developed dozens of commercial real estate projects in the Seattle area since the late 1950s.
“Everybody wants flexibility. Does everybody want to work from home all the time? Absolutely not. That’s, in fact, inflexibility, ”she said. “And, arguably, if we had wanted to as a society we could have all started working from home 10 or 15 years ago,”
Once the pandemic subsidies, Selig sees a strong movement to return to the office. And she said those offices are increasingly being designed to better reflect the natural environment, making them more attractive and hospitable to workers.
But the pandemic is shifting the way people work, and some companies have already transformed.
One of those is Volt Athletics, the Seattle fitness training startup led by entrepreneur Dan Giuliani. The company ditched its office space last year, and implemented a new 4-day work week in which employees do not have to work on Friday.
Giuliani was finding that he and his staff were simply burned out by Friday, and the productivity gains they’ve seen after dropping to a 4-day work week have been real.
“I think it makes less and less sense to keep everybody on a very strict day-to-day synchronous experience when we’re all separated,” he said. “More flexibility lets people work in a way that works better.”
Subscribe to 2025: Tomorrow, Today in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or any podcast app. This podcast is a partnership of GeekWire and Northern Trust. Produced and edited by Josh Kerns of Cypress Point Strategic Communications.