Hannah Cookson, Ecosystem Manager, Plexal
Regular readers may recall that we were fortunate enough to take a look around the amazing Plexal facility last year. East London’s coworking space and innovation centre continues to go from strength-to-strength – and so we asked Hannah to tell us about the forward-thinking approach she and the team at Plexal takes when it comes to working and workspace.
Has the importance of the desk lessened?
I think that what we consider as our desk has shifted. I’ve worked in the serviced office industry for over 11 years and things have completely changed. 11 years ago, the demand was very much about a dedicated private space, where you kept your work and belongings locked away, whereas now it’s very much about collaboration and flexibility.
At Plexal, our members love being able to work in different spaces and they can choose from working in an office or using our facilities as a coworking space. I’ll often see members work in a few different locations in a day, whether it’s at an actual desk or sitting in a deckchair in our indoor park. Just having the freedom to move around depending on your mood is hugely beneficial for your mental health and creativity – it just makes you feel so much more refreshed.
As Plexal’s Ecosystem Manager I’m constantly moving around and only a very small part of my day is spent at my desk, which suits me just fine. It’s great to have a base where I can go when I need to concentrate on a report and have somewhere I can put pictures of my daughter and make it feel homely and personal.
But ultimately, I love the freedom of knowing that at any time I can pick up my laptop and work from anywhere.
What is an Ecosystem Manager?
My role is to ensure our members are happy, our building and the facilities are working as expected and that we’re always on-track with our wider business strategy. Plexal has a jam-packed events calendar and our members come from all sorts of sectors, so no single day is the same. My team and I are always anticipating what members want and need, whether it’s more booths for casual meetings or connecting them with somebody influential who will take their business to the next level.
No two days are the same – and given that Plexal is spread over 68,000 sq ft, it definitely keeps me fit!
What is the best thing about your job?
Without a doubt, it’s getting to know our members, really supporting their vision and helping them make the right connections. We’re nearly at full occupancy now and there’s an amazing buzz in the air. One minute I’m speaking to a member about 3D printing diamond rings and the next discussing the future of mobility technology in London. And, as we’ve brought on more members, we’ve seen our community come together even more – not just at social events, but also to collaborate and share advice with each other. I find those moments really inspiring. It was only a few years ago that the mentality was very much about secrecy when it came to your success and how you got there, whereas now it’s all about sharing and helping – which can only be beneficial for everyone.
Some of our members have even set up community groups, like the fortnightly public speaking group where they all gather to practice their presenting skills. We really do have the best members!
Tell us one thing that gets on your nerves.
Messiness! Although I’m based very little at my desk, my ritual each night before I leave is to tidy my desk, put all my paperwork away and ensure it’s ready for me to start the next day with a clear space.
Name one thing that will have disappeared from the workplace in the next decade.
Desk telephones. We only have two members at Plexal who still use a desk telephone.
The concept of being tied down to your desk and using a hardwired telephone is very alien these days.
Mobiles have changed the way we operate in all capacities, whether it’s at work or in our personal lives.
What tech is occupying your thinking at the moment?
I’m thinking a lot about mobility at the moment – self-driving cars, electrification and where that will go. We’ve been having a lot of conversations in the office about this and, honestly, the future of mobility is so bright and I’m excited that Plexal is so heavily invested in its future.