The Zeven Office
‘Miss the good old days,’ sighs Mr. Sold-My-Start-Up-For-A-Million- Bucks. ‘We did all our work in the strip of garden outside the garage that was our ‘office’ - from client meetings to brainstorming to actual assembly. The best days of our lives.’
He’s sitting in a freezing glass cube that looks out onto rows and rows of cubicles, awash in silence as people sit staring at their laptops separated by tiny islands of carpeted space; some of the women are wearing thin sweaters even though it’s the middle of a harsh summer; inside the huge football-stadium of an office, the aircon’s probably set to sixteen. Peace and quiet envelops us, but it feels more like a graveyard than a living breathing space where human beings gather to spend the bulk of their waking moments.
God knows what it is that drives us to quickly ‘upscale’ to such morgue-cum-refrigerators the minute business picks up, but there’s enough to chew on below, for those of us wishing to escape this seemingly inevitable ‘destiny.’
People need space, but not that much.At Zeven, we have people working a few feet away from each other; the layout is simple: long wooden tables and comfy chairs house the mob. However there is enough garden space outside for someone to retire every once in a while to work on something that needs peace & quiet, their laptops perched on picnic tables under the garden umbrella’s that dot the landscape: incidentally, the CEO’s ‘office’ is under one of those very umbrella’s.
Our CEO’s ‘Office’
Take away: Calculate the amount of space you need. Then half it. This is about what you really need.
People need to breathe, very much.I once worked in an office that was ‘temporarily’ located in a warehouse (we later realized that by temporary, the management meant a year). But for all its packed-like-sardines-in-a-smelly-can kind of quality, the warehouse had large opens spaces, and ever so often one popped out for a chai or a ciggy. And so we knew when we were scouting around for the Zeven office, that we would need a space that had openness – this tied in beautifully with the Bangalore weather too. The extra bonus? We save on aircon. Big time.
Take away: Take advantage of the local. In Goa, find something with a sea view. In Hyderabad, park yourself close to a set of well-priced food joints. In Pune, find some green even if it’s in a university campus that offers the same.
Because we love cricket!
People want accessibility.Of course this was easier for us than most, as we are a small team that don’t need floors of space. Still, choice of location was ours and we made it based on the factors that were most important to us– centrality to our flagship store on Brigade Road, not too far from the airport (every visitor thanks us for this), and not too far from the metro station either. An Iyengar bakery would have completed our wish list (where else does one find the best egg puffs?) but the more restless of our lot manage quite nicely with the friendly chai-lady parked at the bus stop, that also doubles for an informal ‘smoking zone’ and the best place to dig into the latest office gossip.
Take away: Ensure access to open spaces even if they are not yours.
Work as you please. But work. And yes, play.
People enjoy resonance.Simply put, we are a sports brand and so everything we do must reflect sport. And so the garden space also boasts of an indoor cricket pitch – a patch of garden flattened and netted to create a makeshift pitch – a TT table, Foosball table and a Basketball stand. But it’s the more ambiguous things that really speak for themselves. Like the ‘flat’ seating structure in place – the COO for the longest time sat on a table elbow to elbow with his team, till he was forcibly relocated into a cabin on the pain of death. The security and housekeeping team are pivotal players in every match and the amma’s in the kitchen have their local version of Ludo that they pull out after a morning’s work and enjoy over coffee.
Take away: Stay true to your values. If you’re into IT be tech: stay open to the new, encourage dissidence. If you’re in retail put in a stool for the security at the store to rest his legs every once in a while. Your team can only be truly welcoming if they’re treated well in the first place.
Everyone enjoys a friendly landlord.Enough said.
Take away: Pray for this one. Hard.
The average homosapien today spends two third of his time sitting on his behind in an enclosed space aka the office. Worth one’s while to put some effort into getting this one right, we think. And you?
The author of this piece leads HR at Zeven and would love for you to drop by so she can personally expound on the benefits of office selection.