Having grown up in Los Angeles, car culture has always intrigued me. In Southern California, not only does one spend a lot of one’s time inside a car, but the automobile also serves as a signifier — representing simultaneously the driver’s personality, needs and aspirations.

I gave up my car shortly after I moved to San Francisco — the hundreds of dollars in parking tickets and endless hours looking for parking made the decision easy. But I still need a car frequently, either for utilitarian purposes or for emotional ones.

So I was delighted when Zipcar came on the scene a few years ago. Suddenly a large and diverse fleet was at my disposal, a vehicle befitting any need or mood — an Audi for a client site visit, a van for IKEA runs, a Mini convertible for a day at the beach, etc. And all of them available through a seamless user experience — hourly or daily, keyless entry, smartphone booking, free gas and insurance. It’s a brilliant model — trade in the idea of “owning” a single vehicle and the subsequent unrealistic expectation for it to meet all your needs and expectations, and instead shift your mind to a “share” model. In exchange, have painless access to a variety of vehicles tailored to serve the different needs and desires of any occasion.

Though perhaps not an exact analogue, I think Zipcar serves as an instructive model with crossover lessons to be gleaned for the new workplace. As work culture shifts in response to technology, mobility, and the new ways we all work, the playing field in which work happens has expanded to include the home and third places. If the traditional workplace is to survive, it becomes imperative for it to forgo the old model of “fortress building” of cubes or private offices and instead deliver spaces that respond to the changing landscape of work. The key is offering diversity in spacial typologies, each corresponding to different work modalities — quiet spaces that accommodate heads-down work and signal “do-not-disturb”; serene spaces that allow for the often needed moments of repose and contemplation in the workday; dynamic spaces that foster creative collaboration and encourage innovation through co-creation; and delightful spaces with “vibe” that organically nurture social connections fundamental to building culture within an organization.

As work and life increasingly integrate, there is a new expectation of workplaces to be inspiring destinations because the new workday already includes other inspiring spaces like the home and 3rd places. Workplaces that are successful at being inspiring destinations deliver access to a variety of spaces whose qualities are relevant to and supportive of the new ways we work.  

Off I go to a weekend of cycling in Santa Cruz, in a Zipcar Jeep. Long live choice