Making hybrid-work work for 9folks
- Megan Trotter
We are a Hybrid Workplace and have been since before 2020. There are no mandated or fixed days to come in, instead, we encourage our team to work from where it suits them and their team. To emphasise this, our founders work from home just as much as anyone else. Teams plan their own ways of working, all the way from regular weekly “team days” in the office to once-a-quarter strategy and planning days in person.
How do you create an office environment people want to work in?
As lockdown came to and end and our hiring spiked, we realised we were quickly outgrowing our section of the co-working space in our previous London office. Being a people-centric company, we wanted to ensure that any decisions about where to move to, what kind of office we needed, and how people might use it were data-led.
The aims of this project were to:
- Inform office decisions (location, capacity, layout, facilities)
- Provide hybrid working guidance (ensure our people felt empowered to choose the work mode that suits them best)
- Build excitement (make the office an environment where people wanted to work)
The answer - taking a people-centred approach
Read on to learn about the four stages of our office move and how we took a people-centred and co-creative approach throughout.
🔍 Discovery: We made sure to uncover what our people expected from a new office.
✏️ Design: We chose a location that would be suitable for 9fin and our people.
🔨 Build: We gave our people opportunities to contribute to the office design.
🚀 Launch: We hosted a party to celebrate the opening of the office.
How 9fin took a people-centric approach to our office move
🔍 Discovering what our people expected
To understand what our employees were expecting from a new office, we asked our employees why they like to come into the office, where their preferred office location was (and wasn’t), and what was most important to them that the office have. We also asked employees about whether they would support designated in-office days, and whether they felt comfortable discussing their work-mode preferences with their manager. Finally, to understand how likely the office space would be used, we asked about when they planned to come it and how frequently.
We learned that the reason employee come into the office is…
- to spend quality time with other 9finners (even those outside of their team)
- to build a sense of connection to 9fin by experiencing the energy that comes with working for a start-up
- to collaborate with their team members, and
- to support their wellbeing (by getting a change of scenery and breaking up the routine)
We also learned that the true value of our Hybrid & Flexible Working benefit for our people is in the autonomy to choose when to work from home and when to work from the office. However, almost 50% of people were certain that they would be in the office 2-3 days a week, and that they would likely be in on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. You can see the entire survey playback here.
✏️ Designing an office experience that would balance 9fin and 9finner needs
As the results were coming in, we could see that our people wanted our office to be located centrally with various transport routes to enable an easy commute. 60% of our people preferred a location near Bank station, Shoreditch, or Liverpool St. We could have decided to choose one of the most cost effective options in Canary Wharf, but at least 20% of people pleaded for us to not move there because apparently “it’s soulless”. So, our Co-Founder, Huss, spent a whole day walking around the North Easterly and neighbouring areas of London’s financial district, visiting potential locations, and taking notes on which offices had the best access to transport and other features.
Once we had a location pinned down and kitted out, we invited a small group to test it out
Based on the feedback that our people needed an office that would allow for quiet working, and space for meetings and breakouts, we split the office up into a quiet zone and collaboration zone. We also dedicated one of the meeting rooms to being a Focus Room, with 4 desks, for those who like coming into the office but can be easily distracted by noise around them. Our test group helped us to ensure the setup of the office felt comfortable, and based on their feedback we:
- Adjusted the monitor arrangement on the desks and made sure all monitors would charge laptops, so people wouldn’t need to bring in chargers,
- Tested out the meeting room setup to ensure they would support collaborative meetings, and
- (Most importantly) explored the best spots to buy lunch in the local area
🚧 Giving our people a chance to make the office their own
We wanted our people to experience some of the joy that comes with moving into a new place, by giving them opportunities to contribute to the design of the office. Two of the ways we did this were by crowd-sourcing the meeting room names and setting up a 9fin library with our people’s favourite books and boardgames.
Naming the meeting rooms
We launched a suggestion box in slack for people to submit ideas about what to name our meeting rooms, we then conducted a poll to select the favourite suggestion. Being a fin-tech, we had a range of finance related themes suggested. It might seem like a trivial thing, but when you don’t come from a finance background, having a meeting rooms named with finance terms can be a little confusing. In true reflection of our playful culture, the unanimous decision was to go with the theme “Places listed in the song Kokomo” and we now have rooms named ‘Aruba’, ‘Bermuda’ and ‘Key Largo’. Each with a beautifully designed label (thanks to our designer, Jordan) with reference to the lyrics of the song that the names were inspired by. It was a late surge win from Kokomo.
🚀 Helping our people to settle in comfortably to the new office
Moving to a new office can be overwhelming for people. There are lots of little things that are new that can take time for people to get their head around. For example, how to get into the building, where to find the bathrooms, how to access the wifi, and where to sit. We tried to address all of these things a few weeks before the move-in date by sharing all the information people would need to get settled and productive in the new location on at our weekly all-hands (9hands) meeting. We also put together a notion guide so that our people could find answers to any of their questions ahead of time, and offered office tours once people arrived.
On launch day, we gave office tours and hosted a party
We happened to be launching the opening of the office a few days before Halloween, so we organised an after-hours costume party to encourage people to come into the office to celebrate with us. This was quite a big moment for 9fin, so we wanted to ensure it was memorable. To make this inclusive for people who aren’t interested in drinking, we also held Halloween-themed activities such as pumpkin carving and apple bobbing.
Our people love the office
Anecdotally, we’ve heard that our people love coming into the office. We have some people who come in every day and others who come in every now and then. At 9fin, we encourage our people to work from the location that best suits them, and we try to make sure that the office is a place that is comfortable to work from if people wish. One of the biggest themes we’ve noticed is that our people love to connect with each other over a meal - people will either bring in treats from their holidays abroad or post their favourite meal on #munchwatch (an employee-led slack channel).
As our team grows beyond the capacity of the office, we’ll need to start analysing how the space is being used and what changes need to be made to accommodate our growing team. Until then, we plan to start using the space to bring people together for social activities that enable everyone to build meaningful relationships and a connection to 9fin.