24 October 2016

Do you really need an office? lawrence jones mbe

Many start-ups and small businesses now operate without one. It’s a workplace trend that shows little signs of slowing down, particularly due to the growth of cloud. Products like FASTdesk and DaaS mean that employees can access and share work files and, with all the available apps and communication tools, access the same data as in a physical office. But does no office space work for all businesses?

I don’t think so. UKFast is a good example. We undoubtedly have the technical skills to accommodate a ‘no office’ model, but that’s not who we are. Our culture is based upon people; upon working together and being a family. We need that communal environment. Even back in the days when we were starting up, I can’t imagine not having had somewhere to go and share ideas.

I can see how an old-school approach to offices can stifle creativity and aren’t always the most productive option, but the 9-to-5 mentality has changed. An office, to me, is more than a physical space. People don’t have to be glued to their desks. I hope that most of our team consider our Campus to be something of a home away from home, rather than a place they feel forced to be.

No-one can be productive for the whole working day without taking some time out. That’s why our team are able to use the gym whenever they feel the need, take a break in one of the chillout lounges or go play MarioKarts or old-school video games in our gaming loft.

I was reading an article the other day about a growing trend for companies to reduce the space per employee in their offices, because of flexible working. There’s a lot to be said for this, and it definitely makes sense for many firms at the start of their business journey when space is at a premium, but these flexible-working options shouldn’t come at the expense of the development of a strong workplace culture.

The right technology can greatly add to any workplace and a business’s capability, but finding the right balance seems the best possible option.

I think the whole idea of an office needs a rebrand.

Offices are no longer one sizes fits all. They are no longer needed to simply provide a space where employees can come to do their work. I can see how an old-school approach to offices can stifle creativity. A workplace now needs to serve a different purpose. Why would anyone need to go there? UKFast Campus offers an all-day experience, looking after all aspects of everyday life.
Rather than reducing space per employee, I’ve just signed a deal to double our office space by next year. In designing our offices, we’ve used the rule of 2/3 work space and 1/3 leisure space, with chill-out zones, games areas, ping pong tables, a fully equipped gym and a crèche. I believe this really works for us in creating the best possible work-life balance for everyone.
The team spend time here outside of their working hours, on Beer Fridays, in exercise clubs or even using the crèche for kids’ birthday parties. On top of that, we make an effort to get our local and the tech community in to our space. Our auditorium is often used by Manchester Camerata, our gym gets used by young, local athletes and our bar is the location for networking events.
Our office is a place where people work, but also where they exercise, have a drink, play a game and meet with others.
What do you think: is the era of the office over?

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