Our Reimagined Approach to Office Life
How we're working in the new normal.
How we're working in the new normal.
To clarify, we’re not talking about Michael Scott and the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. Comedic gold like that is timeless. We’re talking about the physical office, where pre-2020 business was conducted on a daily basis around the world. No masks, no sanitiser, not even plastic dividers. Just colleagues in confined spaces working their way through to-do lists and deadlines, under the influence of stale coffee and water cooler banter. It almost sounds too good to be true, but this was indeed the office pre-2020.
Now, however, the office has become the kitchen table, the home study, or the bedroom. The water cooler has been replaced by video calls, and team lunches by roommates or family. And the stale coffee…well, the stale coffee has actually improved a great deal, as it’s now our coffee! At WONDERLAND we’ve worked hard to steer into the skid, rather than fight it, and in doing so we’ve completely reimagined our approach to the office, and how we work.
In June this year, we closed our office space permanently, and in doing so we closed the doors on the traditional office model. This doesn’t mean won’t have an office moving forward, far from it. Even as I write this we’re renovating a new space on the Vinkenstraat in West Amsterdam. One that is similarly sized to our old space, even though our team is rapidly growing.
What we’ve done is remove the traditional office structure. Instead of a bums-on-seats model, where everyone has to come in from 09:00-17:00, we’re creating a collaborative creative “hub” for our team to create and explore together. We see it as a “creative wonder cafe”, where people can come in and out, open their laptops on room seats and brainstorm in our meeting rooms while the main body of work happens at home. We trial with 3 days fluid and 2 days in the studio (or the other way around) and people can mix it up how they want.
This is because we’re prioritising flexible working conditions, where our team can work from anywhere they want. This could be a café in Amsterdam, opposite the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, or the island of Lefkada in Greece, we really don’t care. The only caveats to this approach is that people are on - or close to - EU time, and that they get their work done. Beyond this, it really doesn’t matter where they log in from. Our focus is on the quality of work delivered, and as we continue to experiment in this space, our approach may shift even further.
The second reason for this approach is the composition of our team itself, and the way the pandemic shifted our attitude to work. Although a Dutch company, WONDERLAND is comprised of people from nine different countries, and throughout 2020 and into 2021, we’ve had people work from all around the world. In 2021 alone we’ve seen people work from New Zealand, Reunion Island, Greece, France, the USA, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, South Korea, South Africa, The Dominican Republic, and Abu Dhabi. While this can cause the occasional disruption due to time differences and connection disruptions, we’ve seen no impacts on project deliverables or client satisfaction. There have been no disruptions or frustrations with projects or their planning, and no issues with communication between team members.
We’re not saying that it has been a seamless process without the occasional hiccup, but on the whole, there has been nothing to indicate that this can’t work for us moving forward. That’s why we’ve reevaluated our approach to the office. As mentioned above, we’re in the process of creating a beautifully designed creative hub, where the focus will be on inspiring teamwork and collaboration, rather than a place to grind through tasks and tick boxes. As a creative business, we want our team to feel inspired and stimulated by their surroundings, and if this is enabled by being in the office, their home, or somewhere in the hills of Tuscany, then we want to enable and empower this.
Overwhelmingly, the response from our team when they’ve worked in different countries has been that it’s both inspired and energised them to have a change of scene. No one has said it’s been hard or added complications to their days, and neither have the people working with them from Amsterdam. We wanted to ensure that all of these learnings were captured and logged for the culture we’re striving to create at WONDERLAND.
Freedom and Responsibility are 2 of our values we live and strive for and when the world does eventually regain a normal ebb and flow with regards to work, we will continue to work with this flexible system we’re creating and allow our team to find inspiration from around the world, rather than limiting them to a single desk and chair.
Use the world as a source of inspiration without any limitation.
Words by Martijn van der Does & Theo de Monchy