Driving energy and enthusiasm in their new Farringdon office
For many, Farringdon is renowned as a revived commuter hub, where you’ll find the Elizabeth Line, historic spots like Smithfield Market and some pretty well-known nightlife.
For global sustainability brand iChoosr, it’s also home to their new office; a space scoped out by Kontor’s Beth Wem to drive energy and enthusiasm amongst its growing team.
📍 Sub800, St John Street
George Frost (UK Country Manager) and Matt Williams (Marketing Strategist) thanks for welcoming us back now you’re all settled in.
👉 A brief overview
So George, first thing’s first, explain what iChoosr is all about.
Hello again! iChoosr is ultimately helping to accelerate the energy transition. We encourage households to live a more sustainable life, engage them in sustainable products and services and create a safe environment where they feel comfortable making an informed decision.
We offer collective energy-switching schemes which help customers move to a renewable energy supply tariff as well as Solar Together, which is our group buying scheme for solar panels, designed especially for those who are interested in investing in solar energy but don’t know where to start .
We have offices in London, Amsterdam and Tokyo amongst other places, so plenty of international visitors and now a fantastic new office for them to visit us in.
It was in our interest to invest in a quality office so they can all come here when we have global get-togethers. We’ve shared photos of the space company-wide and they’re all very keen to visit.
We reckon we’d be keen to visit too. How did you first hear about Kontor?
Through word of mouth back in 2018 - Someone I know who lives nearby owns an office fit-out business, and they recommended Kontor.
We were put in touch with Beth who found our first office until mid-Covid and then we moved elsewhere. Post-Covid we found prices naturally increased so recognised the value in enlisting the help of some expertise to help us move again.
What made you want to work with Kontor over other brokers?
Originally that word of mouth recommendation, but when we wanted to move here I was short of time and knew Beth and the rest of the Kontor team would do a great job in finding us a new home.
Aside from the price increases post-Covid, was there another reason you were prompted to move?
Price and size.
We’d grown to the stage where we had 16 desks with break-out space and the next stage would be removing the break-out space and adding more desks. However, rent was due to increase substantially and we knew we’d outgrow it - We’d reached the stage where we didn’t want the hustle and bustle of a shared space and needed our own private hub with our own hustle and bustle.
👉 Area Codes
Then came the search for a new office! Was there anywhere you particularly wanted to be?
For ease, we initially looked where we were around Temple and Embankment, but decided to broaden in 3 directions - South of the river, Soho and Farringdon.
We put an offer in on a place in Holborn (a long story, which we won’t go into now) but I think it was meant to be as the Sub800 office we took is a better co-working and collaborating space. We viewed some great options in Soho but in the end I concluded it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for.
As soon as we ventured towards Farringdon there were 2 offices we could have easily moved into, but upon stepping into this one I remember thinking ‘this feels right’. It was almost like we’d been here for ages already, and I could easily see how we could match the vibe in the other European offices.
👉 The perfect match
How did you find the process, did your brief change at all?
It did! We didn’t want to be too prescriptive at first as we knew we wanted something a bit different.
After creating a loose brief based on Beth’s experience of where we were before we iterated on this in a couple of different ways: Viewing a handful of offices and observing my facial expressions (cue laughter).
In reality what we were looking for was something hard to put into a written brief, it was an emotional, quirky, different space. Somewhere individual that we could personalise even further.
As we progressed, the brief tightened but we also had a pretty short timeline. I dare say Beth would have been happier if I’d started the process a few weeks earlier, but it all worked out and now we have an amazing place to call home.
Would it be safe to say you had quite a clear end goal - which, although wasn’t necessarily easy to translate on paper - was achieved in the end?
Yes, I knew there needed to be an emotional connection with the space from the get-go, somewhere with a greater sense of being ourselves rather than borrowing a corner from someone else.
We don’t have firm rules on office attendance but we want the team to want to come in, so it’s important to have an appealing office workspace which drives energy, creativity and excitement, something which is difficult to encapsulate within a brief in a bricks and mortar way.
What we were able to include within a written brief was the need for more space, light, and a bearing on location.
Clients often speak about the feeling an office gives them, so we fully understand the importance and can offer plenty of experience in deciphering what this means when translating to the workspace itself.
What about pain points, were there any we solved (or maybe didn’t solve)?
Beth was able to streamline the brief and was on hand to organise every aspect, from initial searches, to viewings, and final negotiations, all of which I just don’t have time to do on my own. Having Kontor on board was invaluable.
👉 Grand Designs
Fantastic to hear. Now pivoting to the design aspect, how did you want the office to reflect the brand?
Firstly we wanted that energy I spoke about, to make it a comfortable and creative place the team wants to spend time in.
The two most important characteristics for iChoosr are collaboration and communication, and for that we need to be in the same space.
When viewing the office in Holborn we would have all been tucked around different corners and whilst our new layout isn’t designed so that you can shout from one end to the other, we can communicate pretty seamlessly and that’s important to us.
In terms of the interiors, we opted for a mix of soft informal furnishings and more engaging, creative spaces.
Although it’s got all the hallmarks of a practical ‘grown-up’ office it’s still executed in a quirky fun manner, without veering too much down the Google route (we didn’t want a ball pit but we do have a pool table!). The look and feel also reflects that slightly warehouse-style vibe which is reminiscent of our Dutch and Belgium offices.
The team wants to be here and we’ve experienced an increased amount of socialising in the office because of it. Rather than disappearing to the pub, if we finish early we’ll have a glass of wine and a game of pool.
👉 The must-haves
Maybe we need a pool table 😏
Were there any other must-haves you wanted for the office?
Light and space away from desks to collaborate.
The break-out spaces were non-negotiable, too. All of our global offices have a kitchen table where everyone goes to enjoy lunch together so we wanted to continue that here in London.
We can go and bask in the sunlight by the big windows next to the breakfast bar and have informal conversations, or make use of the shared space around the sofa where we conduct team meetings. Oh and the team wanted a shower and separate loos - essential.
It’s also a showcase for recruitment - It’s all very well talking about your culture but investing in an office which embodies it really does the talking.
People won’t join your business simply because you have a cool office but when you’re looking to join a new company you’re thinking ‘Do I want to spend 3/4 days each week here’.
Ultimately the space is a reflection of the people.
What about things you didn’t want?
We were very clear about wanting a genuine space, and not feeling fake. We didn’t want it to feel impersonal or excessively large, it needed to have privacy and feel personal.
Sometimes the corporates masquerading as startups try to replicate that type of environment but it lacks soul. To me, I would have felt like I’d failed if we’d been in a nameless, carbon copy office. We needed depth.
Reverting back to the point on recruitment, existing and potential employees can see right through somewhere pretending to be something it’s not.
We took a space that had the basis of a creative office and put our iChoosr stamp on it.
We think the right office space speaks volumes when it comes to a successful hybrid working policy. It sounds like this has had a positive impact on the team wanting to come in more?
I was speaking to a colleague the other day who was saying the office has re-energised the team and there’s been a visible lift in spirits from being here.
We were happy where we were but when you’re happy it is easy to not challenge the status quo. By moving somewhere else we’ve created a happier space.
As mentioned we don’t have firm rules of attendance and I don’t keep tabs, as I’ve seen the team want to come in. We’re mostly in Tues-Thurs, although our overseas colleagues probably wish we were here Mondays and Fridays so they could have a long weekend in London!
👉 End Game
Who doesn’t want a long weekend in London?! What would you say was the highlight of working with Kontor?
Beth of course!
I hadn’t left enough time to get everything done, so although the easiest option may have been to pay more in our old space, in reality I knew it wasn’t right. However I didn’t have the time, contacts or resources to embark on any of this myself.
The Kontor portal was really helpful, it saved us so much time not having to call up and check in, and Beth was fantastic in advising but also being a great mind-reader. She really understood what we wanted.
If I wanted to do it myself I might have found some options but I couldn’t have found enough to zero in on the best, let alone all the complexities of negotiations. I needed the time, and knew I could trust Beth.
Is there anything that could have been improved?
Not from my end. I was short of time and not very helpful in giving said time to view places. Beth was able to operate when I wasn’t being helpful, and super responsive when I was in touch, including getting results at speed.
I really felt like she was representing us in order to get the best deal.
With so many learnings from the process, what advice would you give to other businesses looking for a new office?
I always like referring back to this - I don’t enjoy someone telling me how to do my job when they don’t know how to do it, and the same applies to the office search.
Recognise your strengths and ability, the resources you have available and put your trust in the experts.
There’s an easy and a hard route to find an office, take the easy route and work with someone who knows how to do it, who to talk to and how they can make the process as seamless and stress-free as possible.
We think it’s fair to say we can vouch for all of that! It’s always great to see a vision come to life and the space has achieved all those initial elements you were seeking.
Reckon we have a game of pool before we head off?