Rosie Haslem, director at spacelab_

Personalities

HOW TO WORK NOW. Interview with Rosie Haslem

New Ways of Working New Working Environments

For those who do not know, what is spacelab_? What makes spacelab_ so unique?

Spacelab_ is a creative, research-driven architecture and design studio based in London. We’ve been at the forefront of driving change through design for many years, developing imaginative and bold solutions which are informed by data and analytics. We work across all types of projects and scales but have particular experience in workplace strategy and design. We’ve developed a unique approach, integrating in-depth research and creative problem solving into our design process – resulting in highly tailored outcomes for our clients that really work.

Why did you decide to run your research in April 2020?

Our work has always been driven by research and data, which for many years has enabled us to help lead the conversation about new ways of working and living. So back in the spring of last year, when the pandemic meant that all of us had to start working and living in a very different way, we wanted to gather some data to help us understand the new patterns, and how people were finding the new context – in order to help inform our thinking on the types and spaces and places that would be needed going forward.

What were the most striking results?

Initially, the most surprising results were those showing how well – and how quickly – people had adapted to working from home overall, and their appetite to continue doing so, at least for part of the week. 81 % people were feeling just as happy, or even happier, working from home, and 83 % were feeling just as productive, or even more productive. However, another stand-out finding was how much people were missing human interaction - either in a social or collaboration context. So this led to a pretty early indication of some form of ‘hybrid’ future. And 72 % respondents said that they would like to work from home at least 2 days per week in future, and 43 % at least 3 days. Although these insights have subsequently been confirmed by various other pieces of research, in the relatively early days of lockdown, these findings were illuminating.

How did this influence spacelab_´s workplace?

We’ve always evolved our workplace in line with what we needed it to do, and the results of the survey – as well as our own internal conversations over last spring and summer – showed us that going forward we would be using the space differently.

Like the majority of our survey respondents, our team had discovered some of the benefits of working remotely (e.g. saving on commute time and the greater flexibility to integrate life and work). But we’re also very collaborative, and so we knew we would always need a space to come together - to chat through ideas, to gather round plans and scribble on paper as a team. Even if not every day of the week. More generally, we were also just missing the stimulation of being in a creative environment, with other people. And we knew this would be the case for many others too. So we decided to turn our former workplace into a very different type of space. We created ‘the depot_’ as a place that is open to anyone to come and use. And not just for work. It is more like a ‘community club’ with space to meet, to eat, to grab a coffee, to attend an event, to buy some art - and/or to work! And we’re looking forward to starting to use the space properly as things begin to open up again...

Will we still need the office?

The experience of the pandemic certainly won’t lead to a complete ‘death of the office’, but it should mean the death of the office as we knew it. Most of us will still want and need a place to go to, at least some of the time, to do the things that we can’t do as well remotely (including just being around other people). But this needn’t be an ‘office’ in the traditional sense. And the depot_ is an example of just that!

What should the optimal home office look like to be productive?

This will vary from person to person, as we all need different things to be productive. But for me, a clean, clear space, with lots of natural light, and a nice view, would be optimal!

The experience of the pandemic certainly won’t lead to a complete ‘death of the office’, but it should mean the death of the office as we knew it. Most of us will still want and need a place to go to, at least some of the time, to do the things that we can’t do as well remotely.

 

The most exciting thing about my job is… being able to influence the transformation of spaces, and by doing so, to help completely transform the everyday lived experiences of the people using them.

My current workplace looks like…  my kitchen! Though after 12 months of working from the dining table, I am finally turning my spare bedroom into a study. I’m looking forward to a change of scene!

I am missing the office because… it’s much harder to collaborate remotely - with colleagues and clients. I am also really missing my daily cycle to and from work.

Rosie is a director at spacelab_, a well-known creative research and design studio with extensive experience in workplace strategy and design, where she leads all research and strategy for clients such as Dyson, the Houses of Parliament, Warner Bros., and the University of London, and she consults widely on the future of work.

She is a known industry expert and has given evidence at the House of Lords’ Design Commission enquiry on how data-driven design can improve the quality of the built environment. The findings have been developed into a whitepaper for government policy. Over the last year she has been leading the practice's research into how people are finding working from home through the pandemic, and their views on the future of work, and of the workplace.

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