In February 2020, we waved goodbye to the scaffold and dust and celebrated the completion of the £9 million refurbishment project which saw 40 Berkeley Square transformed into a premium co-working and meeting venue. Excited to be welcoming over 600 members to our community, we had no idea that the doors were about to be forced shut indefinitely, with the uncertainty of a global pandemic dominating the news and a stay-at-home order in place. What followed rewrote the definition of flexible working, as most businesses adapted their practices to allow teams to continue their roles from home. Workstations were set up in spare rooms, kitchen tables were repurposed and Zoom calls became the norm. Employees were forced to adapt, and among the concerning headlines and the stress of juggling homeschooling with home working, people embraced the benefits. The daily commute became a morning run, lunch breaks were taken in sunny gardens, household tasks were completed while waiting for the kettle to boil, and the rise of ‘work from anywhere culture was born. As the world started to reopen and people returned to offices, we asked members whether they would like to return.
The response was in favour and with Covid-safe measures in place, we welcomed teams back to the space. Despite further lockdowns, it was clear our office still served a purpose; the next step was simply working out what exactly that purpose was. We launched a range of flexible membership plans starting from just £99 a month, allowing businesses to embrace hybrid working. Many businesses moved to use office desks on a rotating basis aiming for the right balance of in-person and online. Companies that would have never considered a co-working environment joined Origin and reaped the benefits of a premium-serviced office environment with an inbuilt thriving community, costing less than the space they had leased before.
Three years on and although the positive benefits of hybrid working are clear, for fully remote workers, cracks are starting to show. Our recent competition to win a membership here provided some interesting insights. It seems many home workers are feeling lonely and unmotivated. Some people, new to Bristol, had not yet met people and felt completely isolated; others had started new jobs during the lockdown and were yet to meet their teammates in person, leaving them feeling disconnected. Even those who had previously worked from home reported feeling claustrophobic and unproductive. The answers provided, in the hope of winning a membership, highlighted the negative physical and mental health impact of the WFH lifestyle. Employees need a place to call the office for more than just fast Wi-Fi and ergonomically designed chairs. It seems people need people. Perhaps it is a knock-on effect of the post-Covid world, we now place a higher value on human connection having been forced to go without social interactions for so long, or maybe we are experiencing collective PTSD and the isolation of working from home has become a trigger for us. Or could it be that we just want the best of both worlds, having now experienced both working from home and the office environment?
Whatever the motivation, the team at Origin are pleased to welcome new members who are seeking so much more than just a desk. We are a destination worth leaving the house for; it’s a space for meeting new people, feeling inspired and productive and provides countless opportunities to grow social and business connections. Ultimately, we offer an environment that fulfils a natural need to feel a part of something.