I spent the first week of my kids’ Easter break on Spain’s Costa Blanca with my in-laws.
A few days in flip-flops are always welcome, and you’ll never find me complaining over an abundance of prawns and aioli, barbecues and days at the beach.
You’d think I’d suffer from the post-holiday blues when I drove into Manchester to work on Monday morning – but you’d be wrong. After a weights session, a hot shower and an espresso – all within the HQ of our sister company UKFast, where we are based – I was ready to tackle the working week.
I’m far from alone. A multitude of studies have claimed the younger members of the nation’s workforce are placing ever increasing importance on the working environment, even at the expense of salary. Techies playing ping pong (or table tennis, as it used to be known) have become something of a cliché.
But the first time you’re dragged away from your desk for a quick mid-afternoon game, you realise the benefit of that brief change of scene, that opportunity to reset your mind. The positive atmosphere and opportunity to play while you work gives you an unconscious lift.
I’ve worked in my fair share of standard office buildings, snatching brief yoga sessions in vacant meeting rooms late at night before racing back to my desk. That’s often the nature of journalism, and I always accepted it, but the contrast to the modern tech firm where I can enjoy a full-on yoga class with a qualified teacher – incense and all – is marked.
Earlier this year we held a roundtable on tech in property with GL Hearn where it was claimed that tech firms such as AO.com and Zuto are competing with one another in terms of fun and collaborative office space, considering the escalating need to attract talent as they grow and the skills gap bites.
As Sam Routledge, solutions director at Softcat, put it: “Our differentiator is culture, so we need to recruit people who are like us. Your property reflects your corporate or, in our case, your uncorporate personality.
“People come in and they see the nice areas to sit, the bar in the corner, the table tennis table and pool tables and they think ‘this feels like the sort of place where I’ll be with like-minded people’.
“And hopefully it puts off the people who are grumpy and miserable because we don’t want them working for us anyway.”
Back at our UKFast HQ, when I have a meeting – say with a website designer or developer – we don’t sit at my desk or theirs. We find a comfy spot in a communal area and put our heads together.
A positive environment where you can fit your exercise and socialise as part of your working week gives you a real sense of ‘what can I achieve today?’
Journalism isn’t a clock-watching profession, but it’s hard work: we are always considering an angle, writing a story, setting up an interview or using social media. Sometimes hacks, like techies, need to give their brain a rest, and it isn’t easy to do.
The importance of a creative environment to productivity within both professions cannot be underestimated – something the tech sector seems to have embraced wholeheartedly.