Colum Horgan, co-founder of IT solutions company Aspira, on his company’s approach to making office life attractive, in both traditional and hybrid forms
As we are all aware, the way we work has fundamentally changed. The traditional office is no longer the space where we get work done. This change isn’t unique to one industry and is being experienced by organisations around the world. According to McKinsey, 9 out of 10 organisations will combine remote and on-site working for the future of their workplace.
In March 2020, Aspira like every other company jumped straight into the urgent process of replanning for a mass migration to remote working. Since then, we have made a conscious effort to reimagine how we work together across global locations and what the future of our physical offices looks like.
In the middle of all this change and confusion, we realised that the peak of the lockdown coincided with the end of our leases in our offices in Cork, Dublin and Amsterdam. While the world of work was in complete flux, ironically, this situation prompted us to start thinking a bit more radically about what we really needed from our office locations. As time progressed, we gained a better understanding of what we as a business, our employees and our clients need right now and what will be expected in the future.
Here is how we at Aspira are adapting to a new hybrid way of working, from onboarding and collaboration to accelerating our sustainability:
Supporting the New
Relationships are paramount for the success of any business. At Aspira, there was a strong consensus that there is huge value in face-to-face settings when starting something new. We know that new hires, especially those who have recently graduated, really value the insights they gain from fellow employees when they start. While some colleagues have been happy to talk with familiar faces online over the past few months, we have also recognised the importance of reconnecting, refreshing and restarting the relationships that have been formed within the office over the years.
Similar to onboarding and facilitating employees’ needs, interaction with new clients is also vital. As a business that conducts projects for numerous clients around the world, we know that initial project meetings are imperative for successful delivery. Although these meetings were facilitated remotely over the past year, we have identified instances where face-to-face meetings would lead to greater breakthroughs.
While collaboration can still exist remotely, there is a notable difference when you have a group of people around the same table. Conducting clients’ meetings within an office space is something that we are looking forward to as we adjust to our hybrid model. However, we are also conscious of the potential for a disconnect between those who may be dialling in remotely to meetings and those who are physically together in the meeting room.
Due to the removal of morning commutes, we realised that future offices need to be a place where our employees want to visit.
Reimagining the office space
An office space should reflect the reality of your business requirements. With hybrid working, traditional office spaces are being reimagined and it is important to carefully consider the practicalities of your space. As we got used to working remotely, it challenged us all to see what we needed from an office. Due to the removal of morning commutes, we realised that future offices need to be a place where our employees want to visit.
Our people have come to realise that some of our best ideas come from accidental unstructured conversations over a coffee or in a social setting. Based on our remote experiences, we reconfigured our office space to facilitate social and break out areas. We also assessed every task conducted throughout the business and ensured that each team would have a day of the week where they could work together in the office.
Hearing about someone’s passions, their challenges and their frustrations can be key to producing a new idea or way of working together. To facilitate collaborative working, in our new Cork headquarters in Penrose Dock, we have chosen to have fewer private offices and more “cubbies” for one-to-one chats. We selected a day to be set up for weekly cross-company events to allow for everyone to get together in a more social setting. We ensured that the office building had great common areas for get togethers so casual conversations can lead to great breakthroughs.
Although returning to offices means that we may see increases in greenhouse gas emissions, businesses now have the opportunity to adapt their spaces to be more sustainable.
Taking the opportunity to go green
We all now realize the huge responsibility we all have to reverse some of the damage that has been done to the planet. Over the past year emissions were reduced as individuals began working from their own homes. Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency show that in Ireland alone in 2020, overall greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 8-10%. Although returning to offices means that we may see increases in greenhouse gas emissions, businesses now have the opportunity to adapt their spaces to be more sustainable.
In choosing our new office, we put a huge emphasis on ensuring that we would operate within a sustainable environment. Our first decision was based on the capabilities of the building, we chose a Leeds Gold rated building that minimises energy usage. By choosing a space catered to our needs, we are not hoarding additional office space and wasting resources. We were also incredibly careful to ensure that the location made it much easier for staff and customers to walk, cycle or use public transport to get there.
When it comes to the move to hybrid working it is important to make choices that suit your business, employees, and client’s needs. This period of change allows for us all to make decisions that will better equip our businesses for the future and the requirements of our stakeholders.