With an end to Sweden’s work-from-home recommendations, a “new normal” is emerging at Refined.
Life is slowly getting back to normal here in the Nordics. Governments have lifted most COVID restrictions on work and life, including the recommendation to work from home.
Of course, these are welcome developments. But it makes you wonder: What is normal in the post-COVID world?
Things have certainly changed. Most companies have realized that working remotely is going really well or at least surprisingly well. And a lot of employees have enjoyed the increased flexibility, the lack of time spent commuting, and the extra focus that comes with working from home (parents with young kids aside).
On the flip side, tasks that require a lot of creativity and collaboration have suffered in my view. Creative brainstorming just isn’t the same on Zoom or Miro. I’ve missed all the social interactions of office life, and the energy and drive I get from them.
The other week, I was enjoying a spontaneous glass of wine at the office with three colleagues. In that hour of free-flowing conversation, I had more creative ideas for our business than I’ve had in a long time. It reminded me that casual in-person meetings are important, because they get creative juices flowing in ways you simply can’t plan for, and because they have a way of deepening connections between colleagues.
In this post I will share how we at Refined will work going forward. Our goal is to find a balance between focus time, collaboration and flexibility for our employees. Critically, the balance between these does not look the same for everyone, so we want to give everyone the chance to find a work arrangement that suits their role, life situation and personality.
Choose your track
Since everyone has their preferred way of working, we’re introducing two “tracks:”
- Fixed: This is for the folks who want to make our office their primary workspace. Meaning, they’ll spend more time working in the office than outside. Those on this track get a dedicated desk at the office. It’s theirs to decorate and settle into for the long term.
- Flex: This track is for those who plan to spend the majority of their time working from home. They can come into the office any time, but they won’t have a dedicated desk. Instead, they can choose from a bunch of different workspaces, including desks set aside for flex workers scattered around our office. Those desks will have all the same features of fixed desks—a monitor, an ergonomic chair, height adjustability—but they won’t be reserved for any one user.
Of course, no one has to commit to one or the other permanently or as a condition of hire. If someone on the flex track decides they’d rather spend more time in the office with a dedicated desk, we’ll accommodate it.
An office redesign for a new era
With this new, flexible way of working, the purpose of our office has shifted. More than a place to simply come and work, we see it now as a hub for meeting and socializing (and working, too, of course). A place that sparks both community and collaboration.
When COVID hit, we had the chance to expand our Malmö office by taking over an entire floor of our building (pre-pandemic, we were nearing max capacity in a half-floor space). We jumped at the opportunity. Partially because our headcount was rising, but also because we had a hunch the nature of office life would change permanently and we’d need more space to adapt.
Our new space is more of a meeting point than a place to sit and work. With that in mind, we made sure that we have a lot of creative meeting areas and also a lot of space for social events. Here are some highlights:
An oversize kitchen and dining area that doubles as an all-hands meeting space or as an event space:
A boardroom with a midcentury design that makes little Malmö feel like New York in the 1960s (we call it Malmöhattan):
A few other meeting and collaboration areas with seats or tables for a quick impromptu synch, or to drop-in and work for the day.
Incorporating wellness at work
Another outcome of the pandemic was an increased focus on health and wellness.
With that in mind, in addition to standard keep-fit benefits, we added a gym during our office redesign. It’s a place to work out and stay in shape, but also a place to relax and clear your head when you need to. It’s just as much a place to do a gentle yoga flow or a short meditation as it is to lift weights.
To encourage people to use the gym—or take part in any form of exercise for that matter, even outside of the office—everyone at Refined can bill up to one hour per week for work-out time.