I heard someone recently refer to an office space as ‘a lifestyle choice.’ This stopped me in my tracks because, if true, Grafton Studio are being what no young company can afford to be - wasteful. Behind wages and taxes, renting an office space is our biggest expense.
At Grafton Studio we strive to provide great value to our clients and look for the same for ourselves. When it came time to move office last year, after some searching we found a reasonably priced space in the heart of Harvard Square. Despite the cost being fair it is still money going out and so must provide more value to us than the rent check written toward it each month. This thought prompted me to compile a list of advantages of having an office space and discover if the benefits truly outweigh the cost.
The word “Culture” is overused, but it is so important. If a team isn’t familiar with one another, they are not in the best position to ideate most effectively for our clients. That’s why we place team culture, vibes - whatever you want to call it - at the top of Grafton’s priority list. It could be pretty isolating for team members to always working alone, unable to turn and instantly check-in with their teammates, getting an organic understanding of each other’s roles, and being able to adapt in real-time to make other’s jobs easier. Even the little things like grabbing lunch or a coffee together make the difference in establishing that all-important team culture.
For whatever reason, prospective clients seem to take confidence from a web agency with an office space. Perhaps it proves that it’s not just a few chancers teaming up to put a quote together, and that at least the agency seems established enough to keep a lease. With so much of the sales process revolving around establishing trust from scratch, any avenues of credibility are critical.
We’ve recently added new members to our team. We hired people with experience who could jump straight in on client work, but no matter how experienced a web developer or designer, there is always back and forth on the first few projects, as standards, approaches and best practises are defined. There is nothing like sitting side-by-side with a seasoned team member to move this phase along at a higher pace while providing more teambuilding value than long feedback lists ever could.
As a creative agency, new ideas and clever solutions are required at every stage of every project. Having our web designers and developers in the same room keeps projects moving while questions get answered and solutions are found. Sure, this can be achieved through video conferencing or team messaging tools, but not to the same extent as in-person team members speaking freely around a whiteboard, unconstrained by technology glitches and, to a lesser extent, time.
We have clients who have offices 3 miles away who we don’t see in-person from one quarter to the next, but there are clients who are collaborative in nature and really enjoy coming into our office and drawing out solutions on the whiteboards with us. We also use our office to hold industry events like Front-End Friday, which aims to bring talented designers and developers together to share ideas and knowledge.
With all this said, I’m not trying to advocate that all work should be done at the office. For us, we get most value from having the option of both. We often work from home a day or two a week (in fact, I’m at home writing this article!), but having an office space is an important part of our mix. It allows us to do our best collaborative work, while working remotely allows our team to retain flexible schedules that cater to our lives.