Swarm Test - Office of the future

By Amy Morgan

The office of the future is an idea that is spoken about a lot so it was only a matter of time before the Lab touched on this subject. However, we didn’t want to take someone else’s approach and try and fit it in to us. Plus we wanted the business to take ownership of this one rather than us squirreling away ideas; so we were thrilled when our facilities team asked us to bring this idea into the Lab environment.

This was a great opportunity to test out a swarm style session. We sent out an open invite across our internal social network and our colleagues didn’t disappoint. Our aim was to get 10 colleagues, as diverse in roles as we could. The result was 25 colleagues stepped forward.
After a short briefing and a video to get their imagination going we split the group into four pre-determined groups, making sure as much as possible we had diverse workers in each; for example someone that worked remotely, in a managing position, ICT based, customer facing and someone who is continuously stuck to calendars like myself!

The approach was simple; if the offices burnt down tomorrow what would you need to be able to do your job? Once that was established everything else could be changed.

The results were incredible, with 34 unique ideas found in one hour. It’s note worthy that not one person mentioned desks, either changing their desk or even needing one! All the ideas were based around the need to make work work for them and breaking the habits we have set ourselves.

A common suggestion was to scrap the 9-5 and allow for open working hours; the emphasis being placed on getting your workload done rather than sticking to 8 hour days. Our colleagues wanted to flip the norm on its head and make working remotely the everyday and the office out the ordinary and with the roll out of portable devices to all Bromford colleagues they really felt that attitudes could change.

To make this happen they recognised the need for a culture shift. Perhaps educating people on what alternatives there are to sitting in meetings face to face or leading from the top down to not feel like if you are working away you need to prove your worth could both help.
Some more techy suggestions were also made to try and achieve this. For example a booking app so they could access available space ad hoc, multi- conferencing facilities and perhaps even a mayday button (think like Amazon help on a Kindle Fire) so our contact centre colleagues can work wherever too. For our repairs team, what about a 3d printer on the back of the van to create instant parts for repairs.

On the rare occasion they wanted to be in ‘the office’, they wanted it to be a collaborative space. One suggestion was to keep the big spaces we have available but break them up into zones of working to fit with their mood. So quiet zones, active areas, sociable sections and break out space. They likened it to an Ikea showroom, with clear styles for each type of zone and an emphasis on flexible docking stations. It was pointed out how we are currently not very good with outside space and they would like to see more of it – places to work on sunny days or to relax on a rooftop garden. Also, they didn’t want to feel tied in to using our offices so suggested buying office space from other businesses to increase our location and extend our network or even being given a coffee allowance to support local coffee shop businesses.

There is a lot that can be done with how we work and it would be easy to run away with all these ideas but best to take a breather first. So our project team are taking on the challenge of collecting data on how we currently use our spaces to understand where we are at right now and how we can build on it with all these wonderful ideas.

Finally we want to extend a big thank you to the Facilities Team and all our volunteers for their input.