When Microsoft's The Outlook office was closed for nine weeks for renovation, staff had to work from home, on location with business partners, in Spaces or elsewhere. Lieke Hamers, Partner Development Manager, recounts how this #refresh made her reassess old habits and develop new rituals.
'Our challenge while our building was being renovated was to develop new rhythms and find the workspace that would be most conducive to our productivity that day. I myself was able to work from home, but we also asked our business partners if they could make space available for us. Other bases of operations were provided by Spaces, the collaboration partner with whom we will be sharing the building once our office officially reopens in the autumn. We had the use of their sites in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam.'
'I often work with business partners as part of my job, so I've often worked on location with them. The benefit of this is that it allows you to be more focused on the work that you do together with them. The collaboration is more intensive. You see your business partners all day, have lunch together, get to observe their rituals and gain a better understanding of what matters to them. We also held team meetings on location. When you're away from the office, you feel the need to get together more often to exchange information. As a bonus, you also get to know many new people.'
'At first, it took some getting used to: not having a central meeting place meant organising meetings at various locations to see people, so I was on the road a lot more often. In the early days, I often worked into the evening to make up for lost time. The upshot is that I've learned to plan better. I moved from spending entire days with multiple business partners to spending part of the day with a single one. On occasions when I had several meetings with business partners in one day, I made sure there wasn't too much distance between them.
What I missed were the brief, spontaneous interactions with colleagues at the office, the 'creative sparkles' – for instance, when you've been to an interesting lecture or had a great idea that you want to share with a colleague on the fly. When you see a person in the flesh, you're more likely to talk to them about something. If you don't share the same office, you need to pick up the telephone, which is less easy to do.'
'Although the renovation is ongoing until September, we've now returned to work at the office. What matters now is to stick to our new rituals. For instance, I've noticed a decline in the number of internal meetings. Whereas in the old days I flitted from meeting to meeting, I've become more conscious about scheduling the meetings that I really want to attend. Major meetings are no longer held exclusively at the office, but also in more central locations with business partners, such as in Utrecht.'
'The refresh and our future collaboration with Spaces has made Microsoft adopt a more open way of dealing with each other, with business partners and with clients, both now and in the future. Everyone is welcome in the new building, where we work together to co-create. It's also made me look at my productivity with different eyes: are there too many meetings in your day, who do you meet, where and how? Do you take enough time to relax? You can now structure your day to fit in time for sports and you determine when you're at your most productive yourself. I'm striving for an ideal balance between work, being on the road and relaxation, and in that sense the refresh has given me more opportunities to experiment.'