Walk into any office space today, and you are likely to be greeted by colourful walls, inspirational quotes and quirky pieces of furniture. If these were not a giveaway already, welcome to the start-up office.
Gone are the days when office space meant cubicles placed in a straight line and the bosses taking up the cabins in the corner. Corporations and start-ups alike are moving to the open office format. Everyone wants to do away with the hierarchical seating and instead make way for a more open and collaborative culture.
Enabling business owners to implement these ideas in their offices is the four-and-a-half year old bootstrapped company Flipspaces – tech-enabled Interior Design Venture for commercial spaces. Entrepreneur India caught up with Kunal Sharma, founder, Flipspaces as he spoke about the growing culture of open offices and shared tips on entrepreneurs can get it right.
Changing Work Cultures
As per Sharma over the years, there has been a dramatic shift in the way we work. Sharma attributes the change of work environment to the change in work culture. The fast growth track of companies is forcing employees to spend more than 12 hours in a day in their office. “Companies are realising that if their employees are spending so much time at work, the office has to be lively and welcoming. It is essential for employee retention and talent acquisition,” said Sharma.
Sharma believes that a workspace is reflective of the culture of the company. In the past two-and-a-half years, more than 70 per cent of their clients including MNCs have given them the mandate of an open office. “That has been key to our growth, we were fortunate to identify the market landscape,” he said. Commercial spaces in India are a 5.5 billion dollar market, he points out.
They are building open offices for companies like Bosch, Radio Mirchi, Bennett & Coleman, Ethiopian Airlines etc. Talking about how corporates are adapting the concept, Sharma said, “Today, the talent pool is common for corporates and start-ups. Corporates have realised that they are competing with start-ups when it comes to employing the younger workforce. They understand that they are up against a very different thought leadership. So, they too have to change their culture.”
What is an Open Office?
Recently, Reliance was in the news for adapting the open office culture. Explaining the concept of an open office, Sharma said,” That open office cuts through the hierarchy. The key element of an open office is functionality, Instead of a hierarchical seating order, people opt for functional team-based seating, where teams that work together are seated next to each other. CEOs too don’t have separate cabins. If need be, there are cases where CEOs have a separate corner so that they can work in isolation”.
According to Sharma, to build an open office, they go through a fundamental research process, where they study the kind of interaction teams have with each other.
Leveraging Tech for Interior Design
In the interior design landscape, Sharma and team identified a few common problems. First being that there was no comprehensive product discovery platform for commercial spaces. Products for commercial complexes are different than those for residential properties and the intersection is not more than 10 per cent. The second problem is that visualisation of the space is left to the consumer. The third problem is that not many are able to deliver or execute the same perfectly within the deadline.
To resolve these issues, they have come up with their own product discovery platform Flipstore (products are not for sale but to browse), a VR platform and a project management tool to ensure speedy execution. “We have managed to gamify the interior designing experience for the user,” he said.
Do’s and Don’ts for an Open Office
When you talk about an open office, the often mistaken look is the one that includes bright colours. Sharma debunks the myth for us and says that offices can have bright corners but don’t necessarily need to be all bright. “Another important point is to have meeting rooms outside the main office area, near the reception. These are for vendor meetings, we call them war rooms,” he added with a laugh. They have also added nap rooms to the must-have list as employees often spend nights working in the office, especially in start-ups.
Keeping in mind the functionality aspect, he said that it’s important to design the space according to how teams work with each other. “There should also be collab areas or standing desks to break the monotony,” he said.