5 Things We Learned Building Cerebra’s Offices

Mike Stopforth Submitted by on the 13th of August 2012

It’s been 18 months since we moved Cerebra into new offices in Design Quarter. We’re quite proud of our spot – our clients love coming to see us and our staff love the fact that we’re accessible and in the middle of a shopping centre that offers multiple lunch options! 18 months is about enough time to figure out what we did right and what we did wrong, and seeing as we’re applying those lessons to the current expansion of our awesome work space, I thought I’d share our learnings with you too.

Moving offices is never easy. Nor is designing them, we found out. There are so many variables to take into consideration – so many needs to attend to – it’s hard to make everyone happy all of the time. But there are a few principles that have worked well for us that you might be able to apply to your office, whether it’s brand new, old and needing a serious refresher, or somewhere in between.

1. Sometimes what you want is not what you want
When Craig (my business partner) and I started planning the new office space, we thought we knew exactly what we wanted. A nice boardroom, some closed offices against the wall, general workspace, a kitchen… we briefed four agencies, three of which came back with pretty much exactly what we wanted. Some would perceive that as good interpretation of the brief and a job well done. But one agency sat us down and said, “No offense, but you don’t know what you want… What you want is THIS…”, and they presented us with a concept that blew our minds. They understood our company and culture better than we did, mixed that with their expertise and delivered something simply mind-blowing. That design went on to be the inspiration for our offices today.
Craig and I often retell that story, and try and remember it when we get a brief from a client that we know we can add strategic input and insight to. We’re not afraid to say, “No offense, but you don’t know what you want…” – if we don’t say it when it’s appropriate, we’re not doing our jobs properly!

2. Make it easy for your staff to move (around)
Our industry changes so dramatically from one day to the next that it’s not uncommon for job descriptions to do the same. As a result teams change shape, roles evolve and consequently adaptation means survival. We have made sure that our almost paperless, open and transparent environment makes it as easy as possible for our information age employees to drift between pods, locations and projects without much disruption at all. Hopefully this means swifter, more creative delivery to the client at the end of the day.

3. Your physical space reflects your culture
Keeping with that topic, we like to believe our office compliments the culture we nurture in our team, and vice versa. Our offices are almost completely transparent from one side to the other (including the feature boardroom in the middle), and we’ve tried to keep clean, minimalist lines consistent throughout the space. Even the ceiling is transparent (or rather non-existent), with all the cabling and air-conditioning ducts open to view.

4. Light is magic!
I’m utterly convinced that natural light inspires creativity and generates energy. We try and maximise the amount of natural light in the office at all times of the day, only closing the blinds to avoid ugly glare off MacBook screens early in the day and late in the afternoon. A good view helps too – we have an amazing North of the Republic of Fourways stretching right out to the Magaliesberg on a clear day. It’s quite spectacular and our staff love it!

5. Mix it up with your staff
Speaking of staff, Craig and I have resisted the urge to have a closed off office, rather opting to be in the mix with our staff. This has its pros and cons of course – it’s very difficult for us to have any sort of confidential discussion unless we retreat to the (transparent) boardroom, but we believe that approachability and openness trumps all that. I like my staff to know they can approach us at any time and that we are integrated, and not segregated from, the work they do every day.

I hope these lessons we’ve learned building our offices will inspire you to make the most of your space and maximise staff productivity and collaboration as you build your culture and business in the process!

See more pics of the office on our Facebook Page