I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while – we actually moved offices at the end of May!
My company Filament has, since 2017, had two UK offices. One up in London and one on the South Coast in the solent area. I live on the south coast and I spend most of my time at the latter office. I’ve always been a huge advocate of hybrid or even full remote working – since long before COVID made remote working more “socially acceptable.” All of our staff have always had the option to work from home when they want or come in and spend time on site if they prefer. We have a small number of fully remote staff who live on the other side of the country from our office space. People who live near one of our hub offices tend to balance their time between home and the office according to what works for them.
Our Pre-COVID Setup
Most of our tech team are located on the south coast and I was given the mandate to
make our Solent office as much of a “developers’ paradise” as possible – a place where people would want to come and spend time solving problems together and socialising.
From 2017 to May we were based at the University of Southampton’s Science Park (USSP) nestled away near a small village, Chilworth, just north of Southampton and surrounded by woodland.
The science park itself is a pretty nice spot, you can do loads of walks and there’s a really lovely on site cafe. If you want a bit of variation, there’s a pub within walking distance with a large beer garden and the team and I spent many extended lunch breaks sat out there on a sunny afternoon.
Pre-covid we had a really nice big office space on the science park with a pool table and a little kitchen area. People like being there and most of the time, local-based folks would come in a few days a week and we’d hang out, play some games of pool, get lunch together, that kind of stuff.
During and Post-COVID
Unfortunately, we ended up downsizing during lockdown and that was sub-optimal for a few reasons. There wasn’t anything wrong with the space per-se, but it was small and uninspiring and when it got busy, it was really hard to concentrate. It probably didn’t help that it was half full with flat-packed furniture from our older larger space making it feel cluttered and scruffy. Also, post-COVID working patterns have changed a lot.
Now people want to spend more time at home but tend to congregate in the office when there’s a big in-person meeting, a birthday meal or a well-liked full-remoter is in town for a few days. This leads to a bit of a weird pattern where the office is at maybe 50-60% capacity most of the time and then suddenly experiences big bursts where everyone wants to be in at the same time. In the “small” USSP office these bursts probably meant you weren’t going to get any work done that day and there wasn’t really anywhere to go and take calls unless you paced in the corridor, booked a meeting room, or as I started doing towards the end of our stay there, lurk in the mail room.
When we raised some money in April, we decided to start looking for a new space. We figured that we probably wanted some kind of new “hybrid” deal to facilitate these new ways of working. Ideally, a smallish office with access to a communal breakout space/lounge area and ideally some small phone pods where we can take calls. We spoke to the USSP and unfortunately they were not able to offer a deal like this although they did tell us that they’re working on revamping the building that we were in to provide some of these amenities. So we widened our search.
Our new Space and Whiteley Village
We looked at a few local offices before settling on Spaces Whiteley. It’s about 20 minutes down the motorway from the old office location and it’s a modern co-working setup managed by IWG (the guys who also own Regus).
There’s a pool table (ah we missed you pool), loads of communal break-out space with comfy seating and a couple of sound-proofed phone booths for us to take calls from when the office gets busy.
Like USSP it has loads of really nice scenery and walks nearby but it definitely wins in terms of amenities. It’s a 15 minute walk from an outdoor mall with a bunch of different restaurants and coffee shops.
I think the team have generally been enjoying the new space more too. People tend to want to come in more frequently and make use of the new space a few days a week. I’ve been enjoying going in more regularly too. The new office location means that I no longer need to drive on the motorway to get to work so I’m considering starting to cycle in a couple of times a week instead.