Written by Gaby Hersham, Co-founder and CEO, Huckletree
The past 13 weeks have essentially been a global ‘working from home’ experiment. The learning? Working away from the office can have its silver linings.
Despite doom-laden predictions that this is the death of the ‘office’, we truly believe that spaces to come together are needed more than ever. As more members return to Huckletree Hubs across the UK and Ireland, we’ve seen a newfound love for in-person connection, a greater value placed on productivity, and that people (more so than appropriate desk furniture) are the invisible glue that make up a highly productive and strong company.
HOW NOT WHERE – FLEXIBILITY
Working from home has given many of us the newfound efficiency and space to get stuck into our Trello boards without office distractions. Hold fast though, this doesn’t signal the end of face-to-face working. Put it this way: we’ve all struggled to gauge the tone of a virtual group chat or raise the energy for a key creative session with a lagging wifi connection.
We predict (and are already hearing from our member businesses) that many entrepreneurs will choose to undertake solitary, deep work at home, but continue to head into the workspace for elements that just don’t work in a virtual setting. Less a place where you keep your desk and clock in and out, the workspace will become more of an immersive hub for face-to-face creative thinking and collaboration. And as we know, that is critical to keep your edge in a bear market.
Flexibility also means changing our perspective on what workspace membership can be. It’s forced us to be far more creative and responsive. We’ve adapted fast, introducing new membership models personalised around how each member of the team works, not where they work from. Let’s be honest, CEOs and Founders are focusing on how to pivot their operations or product. They don’t have the time to factor in the multiple workspace needs and configurations of their team (including those who are still shielding and have anxiety around returning to a workspace) as well as introducing shift-esque working hours for safety.
This is where we can help them choose their own workspace adventure, giving more teams adjustable, hyper-personalised options that really work for them, without having to jump through logistical hoops on their own.
SPACE DOES MATTER
The future of the workspace is about far more than physical design. It’s simply not enough to build Instagrammable spaces and expect creative minds to head in and do their work as they may have done previously. We’ve been rethinking what design means in a post COVID-19 world.
The answer: experiential. Over the past five years, we’ve continually pushed the boundaries of our Hubs. Podcast booths, Kids’ Studios, Dreamscape meditation dens, each exciting addition to our workspaces is inspired by the market’s demands for a more experiential offering. Post COVID-19, those parameters have exploded and people will want so much more from their workspace, especially if they’re braving public transport to be there. PJ-friendly calm zones? Openair screening ‘rooms’ on roof terraces? There really is no limit to reimagination.
THE INVISIBLE GLUE – CULTURE
The purpose of the office is continually evolving. 50 years ago, it was a Hub for hosting lots of people in one space, monitoring their activity, giving them access to (at the time) physical documents and communication across colleagues. Just as we shifted away from this iteration, the time has come for another revolution in the workspace… and this time, culture will be the biggest driver.
Feedback from our own team and member businesses highlight how much we’ve all missed being physically ‘at one’ and present with our colleagues, both for the intangible magic of bouncing ideas off each other but the morale boost of being right there in the trenches alongside our people.
Collaborative spaces should be the bedrock of your People strategy. From attracting the best talent in an ever-more-competitive landscape to getting your full workforce engaged in and contributing to the business mission. A space to collectively come together is how you ‘read’ the room, ‘read’ your people, build empathy, build a spiritual home and inject creative stimulus into the company. Put it this way: you can close a deal, but can you really build culture over Zoom?
Just as we don’t recognise the 1970s office, we may not recognise the office of thirty years’ time. It’s down to workspace providers to rip it up and start again.