Wednesday 1 August 2012

Our approach to flexible working: pt 1 - The Office

When Fifth Dimension decided to move offices at the end of 2011, the goal was not simply about finding an alternative office but to implement a genuinely more flexible working environment that would benefit the individuals while still being no less effective for the company and our clients. There was also talk about the impact of the Olympics on business in London and with the experience of various transport interruptions and security alerts in the Capital, then it also made sense to have better contingency plans.

Many people in different organisations already work from home in some sort of arrangement. At Fifth Dimension we started doing so around 10 years, though arising out of circumstances rather than a planned strategy. As individuals within the company got older their circumstances changed, and location or family life meant that commuting to our office everyday was not so easy.

But this has largely been applied to the software developers, who invariably have longer defined tasks to work on and notably less interaction with clients.

Our goal was to consider how to apply this to the whole organisation, and the move of office provided the perfect opportunity to initiate a new era.

The first step was to give notice on our existing serviced offices which gave us a timetable and commitment that something had to be done.

We considered that we should really commit to do things differently, rather than just tinkering which led to the question: “Do we actually need an office?”

Clients like to know you have an address, but this can easily be solved with a virtual office service where post can be addressed. Many provide meeting rooms, so that client visits can also be accommodated as required.

Employees also need a place to congregate – even if not on a daily basis, physical interaction is important in a business. A new alterative to the serviced office, which can be expensive, is a shared workspace (such as Club Workspace). Provided on an individual membership basis, this is a large serviced office where individuals from different companies pitch up and work. This is not dissimilar from the members club approach, though without the usual bar and restaurant attached it is aimed more at start-ups, and small companies who require a more formal working area.

Currently though, neither the shared workspaces or members clubs provide suitable storage for ancillary office equipment such as scanners or printers, or to keep the physical items that we need to store such as card or packaging samples.

So, we looked for a suitable self storage unit close-by, and the result was a fortunate encounter with SafeStore – we now have an office in their building and access to cheap self-storage as we need. We have a physical office to meet and work – meetings tend to be held in much the same way as before – for partners, it tends to be coffee shops and business hotels, and clients tend to be at their premises.

Next time: how do we cope with communication, networking and the post.

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