Above: Paul Schwenk, Senior VP of Engineering for the travel website Kayak, opens the door to the company’s offices in Concord. Visitors use a call button to get buzzed in, not a receptionist.
Startups are Shunning Receptionists, And Here’s Why
When we think of tech startups, it’s tough to imagine a traditional receptionist in the mix. Everyone’s hustling and bustling about, big ideas are being exchanged, and a lot of code is being written (so much code).
It’s not just an opinion – today, more and more startups are shunning – okay, choosing to skip – the traditional receptionist. The reception-less office trend is definitely growing and there are several reasons for that, as D.C. Denison reported in The Boston Globe. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Startups don’t prioritize traditional receptionists
There are a couple reasons startups don’t generally find traditional receptionists high up on their priority hiring list. All quotes you see below are taken from D.C. Denison’s Boston Globe article, Some Startups Forgo Receptionists: Firms with a high-tech bent or shoestring budget are rethinking the traditional way visitors are welcomed.
a) They’re expensive.
Traditional receptionists get paid to sit in your reception area and wait for someone to call or come in. That usually amounts to a lot of waiting, and a lot of money needlessly spent by startups. In addition, startups often occupy office space that is just large enough to accommodate them, so sacrificing space for a traditional receptionist is difficult.
Denison nailed it when he said, “Some fledgling companies would rather apply the salary to a position they consider more important, while others figure a reception area is poor use of expensive real estate.”
b) They aren’t crucial.
Traditional receptionists just aren’t a priority for most startups because there are other, more cost effective ways for these fast-growing companies to handle their calls, meetings, and appointments.
Plus, because most people (and more importantly – investors) realize just how expensive hiring a traditional receptionist is, hiring one can send the wrong message about a founder’s money management skills.
Denison chimes in: “In a shaky economy. . .projecting an image of frugality is crucial and a traditional front desk receptionist sends the wrong message.”
Boston architect Vince Pan, who designs office spaces and reception areas for companies that do not employ traditional receptionists, has heard it over and over. “. . .It’s now a big question for nearly every young company: Do we want or need a receptionist? In the start-up world, you don’t want to look like you’re wasting money.”
The reception area can still be welcoming without a receptionist
Startups realize that with purposeful tweaks and changes, the reception area can still be welcoming, even without a flesh-and-blood receptionist.
a) No receptionist = less formal vibe.
Startups are shunning the traditional receptionist because they can give the place too stuffy a vibe. Perhaps Paul English, CEO of the well-known travel website Kayak.com, said it best: “Receptionists serve as a buffer. They make the organization seem too formal.” He went on to say he believes the best way to design the entrance area is by making it a comfortable lounge area where people can meet “on equal terms.”
b) Virtual receptionists fill in the gaps.
While startups may take issue with the idea of the traditional receptionist, they’re growing more accepting of virtual receptionist services. Virtual receptionists enable startups to have all the benefits of a receptionist (answering phones, making and managing appointments, delivering messages and voicemails) without the drawbacks of a traditional receptionist (taking up office space, requiring a full-time salary, appearing wasteful with money to investors and other founders, etc.).