Before starting The Office coworking spaces, Gosia Kramer worked in a corporate environment where she says two elements in particular were missing: kindness and collaboration. It was a trigger for her to do something different.
“We are all taken by pictures from Amazon, Facebook or Google offices that are like masterpieces, but, of course, those are the companies where innovation is their religion, basically,” the CEO and co-founder of The Office Coworking says. “But this can also be transferred to traditional office spaces.”
This is how The Office “Charlotte” coworking space was launched. The space spans 250m2 of open space in a former garage along the boulevard Grande-Duchesse Charlotte and was the first of the two sites The Office now runs. It offers private offices and meeting rooms, plus a green chill out area and café.
Their second location, The Office “City”, opened its doors at the end of last year in a space whose main entrance faces Monterey Park. Much larger, with 1,400m2 of working space, The Office “City” shares the boho vibe of the first space, adding a touch of industrial-chic. Vertical gardens made of moss adorn the entranceway, bringing bright green into the interiors. A café was also underway when Delano visited the site this spring. In addition to hosting private offices for startups, the two spaces also host a variety of events and workshops.
Kramer says when she started, she was researching several aspects concerning workspace design, but the culture is something she continues to build. Visitors may first notice the bold colours incorporated in the space, for example. “Furniture colours are very important. I choose colours that interact with the creative part of your brain…You don’t feel it, but your brain feels it immediately, so you work better.”
Many of the furnishings in The Office “City” are upcycled, and the conference room maintains the original door (and script) of the office that was there before it. Efforts were made at the outset to obtain elements of offices that had been recently renovated in Luxembourg so that items which may have otherwise been merely discarded were rescued.
Adapting to people
The circular economy principle behind The Office design tends to attract others who also care about those aspects. But the concept goes well beyond just environmental considerations--people are also attracted to the philosophy behind the space, which aims to place people at the centre.
In Kramer’s experience, millennials particularly prefer remote work, even working with a variety of companies for multiple sources of income, and they don’t want standard employment as generations before. And the future of the workplace will have to keep this in mind.
In an increasingly digital world, Kramer says, what can be lacking is the human connection, but this should be the first and foremost concern of any new business entering the market. “What is very much needed is protection of our humanity, direct contact with other people, safe places where you can build friendly relationships and have supportive communities… Workplaces will have to adapt to people, but not in an artificial way.”
For example, it goes well beyond setting up a beach corner, or putting a sofa in a corridor, says Kramer. The philosophy should run deeper. “It’s important to create the heart of the place. At home you have the kitchen or living room which is where everyone is gathering, and the same must be created in companies to give people the feeling that they are safe there.”
Kramer says she regularly sees individuals interacting in The Office “City” over coffee, to share constructive feedback, or simply to get verification of their ideas--The Office spaces are “very suited for people who want to develop something”. Space also impacts how happy individuals can feel. As Kramer says, “You have a good mood when you come here, and I think the good mood and positivity spread.”
Creativity over investment
So, what does it take for an already-established company to help foster such a collaborative, positive environment? It may come as no surprise that Kramer advises keeping people at the heart of the discussion. “It’s very important to get employees involved and encourage them to come up with the ideas.”
However, she adds that it doesn’t have to require a massive investment. Much can be done with items already existing in the workplace--cupboards, tables, and so on--even with a simple paint job. However, she adds, “It’s more about creativity than investment. Corporates think budget-wise, cost-cutting, but they don’t realise they can so easily push efficiency by making people happy and willing to work.”