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Underground, Underwater, and Up High – The Most Unusual Places to Work

Business Offices

Imagine it’s you and more than 500 other people on three acres underground. You work in 12-hour shifts and rarely see daylight. When it’s time to sleep, you move to a damp sub-basement plagued by rats and cockroaches.

Sounds like a fantastic work environment, right?

It wasn’t. However, it worked for Winston Churchill and the UK government during World War II. When Churchill entered the hastily constructed underground command center in central London (the cabinet war rooms), he declared: “This is the room from which I will direct the war.”

Work can take us to unexpected locations. For Churchill, working underground was a necessary precaution during the war. Some of today’s companies show up in odd places. Whether they’re underwater, up high, or in the sky, here are some of my favorites.

Spelunk on your lunch break.

If you want to find the original reels of masterpieces such as “The Wizard of Oz,” you’ll have to, fittingly, go to the suburbs of Kansas City. Under them, to be precise.

Massive mining of limestone in the 1900s left an enormous network of caves under the city. By the 1950s, investors began renting office space and storage in the caves. The cool temperatures and plentiful space (around 20 million square feet - that’s about 347 football fields - BIG!) make it ideal for storage. Other businesses soon popped up, and now more than 400 companies call it home, including a paintball course, a college, and a post office facility.

And if you want to see those films, good luck. The company guarding those reels does not allow visitors.

Shuck the office altogether.

Thanks to the internet and mobile devices, work can happen just about anywhere. Workspaces have evolved to accommodate this mobility. In Japanese airports, guests can rent private pods by the hour for working or power naps at Nine Hours hotels. LaGuardia provides “modern phone booths” for travelers. These work pods offer encrypted Wi-Fi, charging stations, and the ultimate in working-on-the-go luxury – quiet.

Indeed, flexible workspaces dominate these days as more people work from home or work on the go. Tiny offices the size of sheds reign as a source of individual working space and for small groups. (Here’s my favorite. It’s Hobbit heaven. Come join me for second breakfast.) Attach wheels to the structures, and you can haul your office wherever you like. Companies are even converting shipping containers into offices. It’s a relatively low-cost and eco-friendly option and they look cool too!

Let me grab my (swim) suit.

With these businesses, you don’t fight traffic. But you do have to slip into your diving gear.

Off the coast of Vanuatu is the world’s first underwater post office. The post office, located under 10 feet of water, takes in hundreds of postcards each week. Vacationers love sending their loved ones a unique waterproof postcard, and the postmaster gets a daily dip at 3 pm each day to retrieve them.

But hey (you say), 10 feet is nothing. I want to go deeper. I invite you to visit Susami Bay in Japan, where a postbox lies 30 feet deep. It welcomes about 1,500 pieces of mail each week. An employee of the shop that installed the box dives down every couple of days to collect the mail.

Some organizations stay underwater on a more permanent basis. Nestled 63 feet under the Atlantic ocean, the Aquarius Reef Base in the Florida Keys is the only permanent underwater research facility. The school-bus sized base hosts everything from astronauts to marine biology students.

Climb that corporate ladder.

In 2015, a pop-up workspace allowed people to work in the trees (sort of - more of around trees). Titled TREExOFFICE, the treehouse united workers with nature by providing a rentable space including electricity and Wi-Fi – all in the middle of a London park.

Although the London treehouse workspace is no longer available, treehouse office spaces are catching on. Microsoft recently revealed treehouses on its campus. The gigantic structures are 12 feet off the ground, have Wi-Fi, a gas fireplace, skylights, and an outdoor extension of the company’s cafeteria. No word on if bug repellent is provided.  And, hey, if you just love treehouses, check out the Post Ranch Inn’s treehouse hotel rooms in Big Sur, CA.  While not officially an office space, you could work from there on vacation while enjoying the views.

And if that isn’t high enough for you …

You can dine 14 stories off the ground hoisted by a crane, feet dangling. I’m waiting for them to launch the business edition.

When businesses set up on Mars, they may be working in mushrooms. (While we’re considering working on Mars, for one author’s take on what it would be like living and working on the Moon, give Andy Weir’s (yes, the one who wrote The Martian) Artemus a read.)

August 15, 2018
Jennifer Zimmerman
HR Manager, Employee Engagement and Development, Bill.com
Jennifer is responsible for engagement, recognition, and learning & development at Bill.com. Once on the path to becoming a college history professor, she found her love of learning in the business world. She loves animals, glitter, shiny, sparkly things, the color pink, books, sleeping in on weekends, kale, and helping people be happy!