I’m waiting between a popcorn machine and a fruit bowl when a young woman named Simone greets me: “Welcome to the coworking space!” Since late last year when Babbel outgrew its headquarters, the 13 members of the B2B team have been working in a satellite office in a coworking space. Nowadays, this modern form of “outsourcing” is the rule rather than the exception, especially in cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. So what’s it like to work far away from trusted colleagues and the normal office routine? After three months, it’s time for an interim appraisal:
Before our move into the (extremely) fancy and well-appointed coworking space, we had some obvious questions: How would we be able to participate in meetings at the headquarters? Would we be less in the loop? And how would the new office space even look? Could it be better than the old one? One of my biggest worries was: How is the team going to work well if we don’t like the space?
We were used to a large open-office plan made up of table clusters and a kitchen island. There was always a place free somewhere, and if we had to we’d just sit with another team. In the new office, the workspaces are assigned. We’ve rented two rooms that fit our number exactly, and when everyone’s here it can feel pretty tight. And yet, on the first day I was already hearing from my team how pleasantly calm everything was, and how much better they could concentrate. My team quickly got accustomed to the new environment, and even liked it.
There was also the fear about having too much distance between ourselves and our colleagues in the main office, but that ended up being unfounded as well. Of course it’s more difficult to hold meetings because sometimes you really do have to talk in person. But we find ourselves asking more often: Is this meeting really necessary? Wouldn’t we save time if we just send over the most important documents without having to discuss them for half an hour? Of course, we definitely didn’t want to swear off all contact with the rest of our colleagues! As manager, I’ve had to think of workable solutions.
How it works
Mondays I always have us work in the main office. That’s the day we have the Company Stand-up, and we should really be there in person. Of course, at the Headquarters we don’t have any set workspaces anymore, but we can join other teams for that. Someone is always away on holiday, or out sick or working from home. This way we keep up with what’s happening at the company, and we hold our most important meetings on Mondays.
From Tuesday to Thursday we’re in the coworking space. If we have meetings with other departments we primarily hold them over videoconference. This is a bit of an adjustment for our colleagues, but I’d argue that they’ve gotten used to it quickly. And if an important meeting falls on a day other than a Monday, we can always commute over to the main office. Luckily, the offices aren’t more than a few kilometers apart. Going back and forth does keep us busy, but I find that being able to concentrate on ourselves as a team, and a relatively new team at that, is really beneficial.
On Fridays many Babbel team members work from home, but honestly I see more employees come into work on Fridays here than I did when we were at the old office. I hope this has more to do with the great work atmosphere than it does the free Friday happy hour at the coworking space!
Speaking of which: The perks here like yoga, breakfast, movies and other events — we haven’t really taken full advantage of them in the first months. Because we’re here as a team and not as individual freelancers, we use the coworking and networking aspect of the space a bit less. Our interactions with the other freelancers have largely been limited to a friendly hello at the coffee machine — but that may change in time.
For us, our new environment is the best of both worlds. Even though this is ostensibly a short-term solution to a temporary bottleneck, if my team had our way — and we say this absolutely loving our company — we’d probably prefer to stay here if we could.
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