‘It’s a culture thing – why tech companies are changing their workspace approach,’ writes Martijn Roordink, co-founder and managing director of Spaces, the creative work environment.
Technology businesses are some of the most successful of our age. They have created products and services that shape our lives, and benefitted from the resulting business growth. They have also created some of the most impressive headquarters in the world for their employees, and are known for their exciting workspaces. And yet increasingly, they are also exploring ways to embrace flexible working and to partner with workspace organisations that can allow them to work in multiple locations and different communities that are not their own.
Why is this?
In the 10 years since we opened the doors of our first Spaces in Amsterdam (on the very day that Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial crisis really began!) I have learned something very important. While we have beautifully-designed offices, design is not the deciding factor for our tenants. State of the art, secure tech is our standard – but again, this is expected, but not a gamechanger for members. Perhaps most important of these attributes, we are hugely proud of the quality of our stellar coffee! Our members love it, and recommend it. That’s great, I love our coffee too, but it’s still not the whole picture.
Spaces is home to tech leaders of all sizes, from global companies to the next generation of innovators and everyone in between. We have found over the last 10 years that creative, tech businesses benefit from offering their employees flexibility. The reason businesses choose to partner with us for years is because we help them to establish a culture that works for their employees. All the little factors I have outlined above, and many more besides, add up to creating a culture of collaboration and creativity that businesses find invaluable. To give just one example of how we do this – when you enter a Spaces, you will find we’ve hidden the lifts. Why? To stop people hurrying to their office space and encouraging them to pause and have a conversation. You’ll also find that our café-delis are in just one central area in our buildings Why? To ensure that people have more opportunities to meet others when they are getting their coffee fix. Contact breeds collaboration, which leads to creativity.
The tech industry benefits enormously from this. Often, tech businesses can be quite introverted by nature. They have hugely smart people working super hard, and it can be a challenge to find the right mechanism to ensure people get away from their screens or R&D labs, speak to other people, interact face to face and have the sorts of conversations that can spark great ideas. Without these interactions, tech wouldn’t be able to continue innovating. As Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, said: “The best ideas start as conversations.”
In a flexible workspace built on collaboration, this effect is amplified – because people are speaking to fellow creatives not simply from within their own business, but more widely. This is a key benefit recognised by tech businesses and one of the main reasons why they are exploring flexible workspace strategies.
We recently asked some of our members about what they thought about these culture-building efforts. Denis Cassinerio from Bitdefender, who uses one of our Spaces in Milan, Italy, told us the experience lets “people work in a pleasant environment where socializing and meeting customers becomes an easy task.” Scott Love, CEO of Lovelytics, who is based out of our Spaces in Arlington USA, told us about the bottom-line benefits of collaboration for his company: “The events held at Spaces have justified my rent for a year … they have brought revenue to my company and provided business networking opportunities, especially with other start-up founders.”
One of our other partners in fact, Microsoft, has gone so far as to work with us on a special project to bring a collaborative, flexible workspace culture into the heart of their own office building. Microsoft and Spaces have partnered at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to create a new international hub for accelerating innovation within the areas of artificial intelligence and data analytics. By putting the best of the best in data and AI under the same roof, we’ve created a new breeding ground for innovation and creativity.
It means that Microsoft AI and data experts, along with their suppliers, potential customers and other innovators in the same fields will be able to network, collaborate and speak to each other in one place, in the same building as Microsoft houses its own teams. We believe this will drive the sort of conversations, innovation and creativity that tech companies need. It’s a hugely exciting project.
The final reason tech companies are embracing flexible workspaces is the war for talent. Some of the smartest minds in the world work for tech businesses. These are businesses that need specialists at different times and across different time zones. Flexible workspaces not only allow a business to put together an attractive package for a candidate, but allow them to be agile and nimble in where they find that talent. As David Becker, CEO of London-based event management tech firm Zkipster, told us: “Spaces gives us a home wherever we go.” Carl Tengberg from Foodora, based in a Spaces in Norway, informed us: “When Norwegian companies are going to compete globally, they need problem solvers. Then the question is how to attract employees that are focused, curious, and that value personal and professional development higher than stability. With offices like we have at Spaces, where we have continuity, security, space and everything is clean and fresh, where you can choose to be social or hide away a bit, this gives us an advantage for attracting the right talent.”
Spaces is proud to partner with the most successful tech businesses on the planet, and those who will become the most successful in the future. Yet tech is an industry that often leads the way for other sectors. Their approach to workspaces is no different – and businesses both within and outside tech can take note of the benefits of the turn to flexible working. Different companies, different experiences, but a shared need. It’s a culture thing.
• Spaces has a centre in Greyfriars Road, Reading.