- Moving office during a pandemic -
A Q&A with Nicole Clemens, CEO.
The lease on Structure's former office came up for renewal, this presented the perfect opportunity to review how we align a new space with the changing needs of the business and our clients.
Why a shared office space?
We knew we wanted to stay in Shoreditch and looked at different options, traditional and modern. Our new office (Fora in Shoreditch) provided the perfect combination of shared and private space. It is also located on Great Eastern Street, which is where our previous office was, so we thought it would provide some familiarity for the team and clients while providing the least amount of disruption for the move.
Why did you choose this space, what did you hope to gain?
The Fora building offers a variety of options and while the physical office space we occupy is much smaller than our previous one, access to the surrounding open spaces provides a superior offer to where we were.
The space enables our team greater flexibility, the freedom to choose an environment that is the most conducive to producing great work based on their needs – spaces to collaborate and connect, to work alone for deadline-driven tasks, spaces with open light and plants for tranquillity or inspiration, even outdoor areas for sunshine and a change of scene.
Through the move we were able to review current methodologies, we left our printer behind and moved to digital ways of working, how we review creative work for example.
We set the team free with their own laptops so they could enjoy and make the most of the space – while working with digital channels like Slack so we could still stay connected. We reviewed our archive and took the material that would continue to add the greatest value to the future of the business moving forward.
How did you make the office transition, were there any pitfalls?
We moved in March 2020, within weeks lockdown happened, with a directive from the Government to work from home. We were fortunate that we had already started to embrace different ways of working that could be adapted to working from home with the least amount of disruption to the team or our clients. The Fora team was also extremely proactive and implemented safety and social distancing procedures including hand washing and sanitising stands on reception, checking everyone’s temperature remotely on entering the building and capacity restrictions in certain areas.
What's your experience been – what have been the pros and cons of shared space?
We are still navigating how to get the most out of a shared office space. Having worked from home for the best part of a year we also wanted to connect with the team about what working in the future might look like. We conducted an internal survey to get a better sense of how many days a week the team would ideally want to come into an office space, was having a regular desk still important, what were the benefits of working from home and in an office space. We wanted to make the most of our lockdown experience, to build on positives and lessons we’ve learned as a business – the goal, to create a hybrid model that can make the most of each environment for our team to let them produce the best work possible for our clients.
The shared space certainly feels more like a community. A hive of people trying to grow their businesses, which seems especially important right now. We have shared office facilities – kitchens, dining spaces, breakout spaces and phone booths for quiet calls. We are also fortunate enough to have a large terrace which runs the length of the building which means in the summer months we have the additional option of working outside, during a time where distancing remains important the ability to sit in the fresh air is a huge bonus.
We have embraced sitting next to (socially distanced) complete strangers in the communal office areas. It is actually interesting to speak to someone outside of your sector experience and get insight into how they work, it helps us to stay agile and continue to review our own approaches.
What have you learned from the move and the pandemic?
The new office space has made us completely rethink how we use and appreciate space and manage certain aspects of our business activities. It forced us to reinvent processes and become more digital as a team, to improve our green credentials in a meaningful way which is important to us as a business.
The pandemic has enabled us to become more agile, we don’t need to book large spaces for workshops we run these digitally with our client where traditional static material is now all on screen.
We are excited to get back into our space and reset as a business in this new hybrid model which will enable us to create a new working rhythm, so we can balance the benefits of working from home and working in an office for the team. We will continue to reassess our needs over the next year and look to conduct a new survey in 2022 so we can grow as a business and continue to create an environment that meets our evolving needs.
Moving into a shared space certainly changed things for our business for the better.
Content from this article was published as part of a Business Reporter special for The Economist.