Going office (no)mad!

Approximately two months ago I, along with a whole bunch of other people, moved offices from a tired building in Soho, to a brand new one in cool King’s Cross (just next to Google, as everyone likes to point out).

The Google building on the right is being designed by Thomas Heatherwick — envy!

This wasn’t just any old move though, more like a culture shift for an entire organisation. Havas London, where I currently work, along with all the other Havas agencies spread across the city, were to re-locate to a single location, a bit further north, and create London’s very own Havas Village.

As part of the move, and the fact that we wanted to go from being a group of agencies to one integrated offering, hot-desking was actively encouraged. Which made complete sense to me — meetings are obviously one of the ways people can be brought together, but they’re usually not that productive and everyone tends to want to leave them as soon as possible (…or maybe that’s just me). On the other hand, sitting down next to the person(s) that you’re doing a project with, no matter how good Google Docs has become, not only helps sort out any doubts quickly and efficiently, it also facilitates creativity. Plus, the new building (named HKX, by the way) was designed with enough break-out spaces for both deep, quiet work and small group brainstorms.

So, despite my nice window seat, my very cool neighbours (L.A. Ronayne that’s you) and all the articles dissing this approach, I decided to go for it.

Step 1: make it a ‘thing’.

Hot-desking is a terrible name. Makes it feel like you’re going to get burned if you stay at your desk too long — and it assumes cold-desking (if there is such a thing) is bad, when there’s actually nothing wrong with it. No, I did not want to be a hot-desker — so I came up with Office Nomad™ instead.

I liked how it had a sense of adventure and travel baked in. I could almost imagine myself walking through the desert, the warm morning sun hitting my face, and my camel’s soft paws hitting the sand (…too much?). Anyway, alongside the name, I decided to design a simple logo, which I subsequently printed out (using moo.com) and used to decorate my belongings, from notebook to laptop. I was inspired to do this after fortuitously bumping into an exhibition on nomadic tribes, at the British Museum earlier in the year.

If you’d like to print your own, download the design files here.

I’ve always loved how past cultures used decoration and design as a way to add significance to their possessions, and wanted to do the same with mine. Which, I’m conscious, probably sounds completely unnecessary and a waste of time, but side projects should be stupid and I take pleasure in doing this.

Step 2: have a base

Did I mention my window seat? I decided to keep it and use it as a base.

My tendency is not to have that much personal stuff lying around anyway, but still, it’s nice to be able to return to somewhere you can call your own (even if all you have there is a big screen and a re-usable coffee cup). Plus, this avoids the worst bits of office nomad-ing, no free spaces and chargers.

Step 3: travel light

1. Klean Kanteen water bottle 2. MacBook Pro 3. Apple Magic Mouse 4. Dominican Republic pin & Dolls House squirrel (long story…) 5. a very small memory stick 6. Beats urBeats earphones 7. eraser & sharpener combo 8. MagSafe adapter 9. Carhartt wallet 10. assorted pens & pencils 11. OlloClip iPhone lens kit 12. Earthy Leather handmade pencil case 13. iPhone 6 14. Leuchtturm1917 Whiteline notebook (great if you use Evernote) 15. iPhone cable 16. Jack Wolfskin Leicester Sq laptop bag and usually a book.

Since I knew I was now going to spend most of my time moving around from desk to desk, including the ones in nearby coffee shops, I decided to relook at what I carry around, in an effort to simplify and lighten my load.

Step 4: explore

With ten whole floors of nice desks, new sofas, big windows and even bigger views the only question should actually be ‘where should I work from today?’.

A new desk a day, keeps the boredom away.

Step 5: sit next to strangers

Ok, I admit it, I haven’t really done this enough. Awkwardness has taken the best of me (for now). On the other hand, I have sat next to a far wider group of colleagues I knew — but didn’t. Which in itself, has made a big difference.

In fact, try sitting next to someone you’re not sharing a project, or a client, with. You’ll quickly notice the conversation veering towards what you have in common, beyond your day to day roles. Meaning you’ll get a better sense of who they are, and more chances of stumbling upon all that knowledge sitting outside the range of your personal radar. Refreshing, and so needed, in today’s highly curatedif you like this, you’ll probably like that” existence.

Look, I’m as skeptical as anyone when it comes to company mandates, and hot-desking is, at the heart, a cost-cutting exercise. When done badly it can make employees feel under-appreciated, and even unwanted — but can’t you say that about any other organisational shifts? I prefer to believe change can be good, and part of the responsibility in making it so lies with us, the ones at the coalface. Two months in, I don’t want to go back — this approach has helped me meet new people, deepen relationships, make boring tasks more bearable (it helps having canal views when going through piles of emails) and find the space to do proper work, by allowing myself to disappear once in a while (which the lack of phone signal further helps with). Shhhhhhh…

The beautiful new HKX building in all its glory — pictures by @jay0hh.

I’d love to know what your experience has been? And if you found this post useful or entertaining, I’d also love if you kindly tap the ❤ button.

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