Architects in Richmond – 50 Degrees North moves in!
Phew! So, last week we moved office. We said goodbye to historic Willoughby House in St Margarets, our home for the past 6 years, and hello to the equally notable St Johns Studios in the centre of Richmond.
Having not moved house for a very long time, this is the closest we have come to the experience for a while and it really made us think about (and empathise with) our many clients who come to us not only having just moved house but also ready to embark upon a major build project. What a huge task it is – stressful, expensive and exhausting but also hugely exciting and refreshing. It’s been a great opportunity for us to rethink and improve our working environment.
Whilst our move and refurbishment was small in scale compared to the projects we work on for our clients, it struck me that there were parallels and tips worth sharing.
Here are our 5 tips for a successful move:
1. Plan your space: Spend time thinking about how you would like your new space to function, how you would like it to feel, how you would like to move around, what things you need to store and how you would like to store them. Spending time up front crafting your space leads to a clear plan which can be quickly and easily shared with your team – it’s the best way to ensure that your vision isn’t diluted or bad decisions made in the heat of the moment. As we do for our clients, we carried out a full measured survey of our new office space and then, with the plans in front of us, set to work considering all the various layout options. It was important to us that the whole team were very much part of this process as we believe that happiness levels at work are closely linked to one’s environment. We tried out various alternatives and settled for a clean and clear plan with desk pods set up in sociable groups of 4, all paper and books stored behind a wall of folding doors and a huge feature wall constructed in OSB with shelves to form an ‘Inspiration Station’ where clients can explore and touch a selection of the materials we regularly specify.
2. Clear out the clutter: A big move presents a fabulous opportunity to unleash your inner Kondo and clear out the clutter category by category – books, papers, miscellany and finally, sentimental items. I only discovered the joys of the ‘KonMarie’ tidying method relatively recently. Having read Marie Kondo’s second book, Spark Joy – An illustrated guide to the Japanese art of tidying, I set about transforming our own home from a Big Yellow storage unit into something more closely resembling our original pre-child / dog / rabbits / stick insects vision. I spent weeks holding items assessing whether they ‘sparked joy’ and more often than not, thanking them for their kind service and placing them into piles for ready for recycling, charity shop or dump. When it was time to move office, it was to Kondo I turned. We set about decluttering years of books, magazines, product literature, samples and random computer cables. Our new office really feels lighter and more airy now that we are not weighed down by the many ‘might come in useful one day’ bits and bobs we used to keep hold of.
3. Try out new online tools: Before the summer, I completed a Digital Retox course run by Digital Mums. During my studies, I learnt about loads of brilliant new tools to help run a small business like ours. One that I particularly liked and was keen to try out IRL was Trello. Trello is a task management app that gives you a visual overview of what is being worked on and who is working on it. In essence, it is a system of boards, lists and cards. Whilst we use a database application for our day-to-day project management at 50 Degrees North, Trello is a useful and actually quite fun way to manage one-off special projects, especially where a few of us are working together to achieve something. Instead of making a long list of all the to do’s on a spreadsheet and then meeting to review progress (each making paper notes) and sending stacks of emails and What’s Apps in between times, we used Trello. With Trello, we started by brainstorming all the tasks required to make the move happen from hiring a solicitor, to ordering floor tiles, to creating signage and setting up IT. Every task was typed up on a series of lists and cards. A project owner was allocated to every card and dates and deadlines inputted. We attached all documentation to the relevant card as we moved through the project and team members were automatically notified when a task had been completed or an item was due for action. The whole system really helped us to keep the move manageable and on track. As we could all see what each other was up to, it reduced the need for meetings and it felt good to mark tasks as completed and move cards to the ‘done’ section. It worked so well during the move that we are now creating a ‘New starter’ Trello board. From now on, whenever a team member joins us, we simply personalise and share the board with them. This removes the need to reinvent the wheel each time and enables team members to quickly settle in, find answers to questions and access new starter documentation in one place.
4. Create a healthy environment: Think about how to make your live / work environment a healthy one. As a business one of our founding principles was to create sustainable, healthy homes. Our West Wittering Beach House project is a good example of this – here we overhaul a typical poorly constructed 1960’s bungalow retrofitting with a materials and technologies (insulation, double glazed windows, low energy lighting and intelligent heating controls) to increase the building’s energy efficiency. In addition we created a low-toxin internal environment specifying, for example, porcelain flooring, formaldehyde free OSB and fully tiled bathrooms to prevent mould growth. With health in mind, we chose our new office for its wonderful airy high ceilings and natural light. Also as the majority of our work is desk based, we invested in the top quality chairs and desks from a company that restores and recycles Herman Miller furniture.
5. Plan utilities early: We know from experience that it can take a great deal of time to set up utilities, it is essential therefore to research and plan ahead so that build programmes are not derailed. With the office move, we started looking at the options for our new phone and IT system from the start and in many ways this was the most difficult and time consuming part of the move. It was of utmost importance that our work was not disrupted and downtime was kept to a minimum. A swift and seamless IT move was critical in achieving this. And so, after months of preparation, we downed tools in St Margarets at 3pm on the Friday and by 2pm on the Monday we were receiving calls on our brand new VOIP phones and back running projects. We could not have achieved this seamless transition without very careful planning and of course the help of our wonderful team and external support network.
So, we’re in and we’re pretty much settled. We’re loving the Richmond vibe and the beautiful sunshine that sweeps through out office from around midday. We’re ready to welcome our current, repeat and new clients for a chat and coffee so do drop by to discuss your project. If you can, like the very first clients to visit us here, leave time afterwards for a sneaky lunch and stroll by the river to mull things over.