In the second of a new series of insights, Spacelab Founding Partner Nathan Lonsdale takes a frank and honest look at how he and the team were working – and how a change in culture has led to a brave new world.
Building a tribe
Today, we (Spacelab) have a culture built on trust. Our better ways of working have come about because people feel empowered and encouraged to push boundaries. We work on the ethos that if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Everyone screws up sometimes, and that’s okay – if you’re always learning. We trust people to make the right decisions, and this includes how they manage their time. Everyone at Spacelab has unlimited holiday, so they can find the best work/life balance for them. It just makes sense.
Communication and collaboration within Spacelab are the best they’ve been. We always favour face-to-face, and we’ve said goodbye to internal email (heaven!). We use another app, called Slack, to keep in touch with each other, and we don’t send work-related stuff out of hours or at weekends, unless urgent.
People don’t feel they have to be seen in the office. We’re now there 7.8 hours per day, on average. That means people have 10 hours – more than a working day – back each week to do what they want to do.
I’d be lying if I said this transition had been all plain sailing. It’s been messy and challenging at times. Not everyone was comfortable with our departure from traditional ways of doing things, and we wished some good people well as they chose other paths. This was sad and scary, but as we’ve got smaller, we’ve become more nimble and agile, which has allowed us to get ahead of the game.
Better still, the togetherness of everyone who has stuck with us, or joined since, is clear to see. Never more so than at our first Lab Fest, where we took our tribe to a sustainable yurt village for a spectacular summer party, complete with live band, steel drum workshop and cocktails.
Creating space to make a difference
A year ago, we shared our vision of how with heart, soul and belief, we now have something better than we’ve ever had. We’ve rediscovered why we’re here. We’ve realised we can be happy, do meaningful work and shape our future. We don’t have to be bound by someone else’s rules or spend our precious time ‘land grabbing’ projects and chasing fees. Instead, we’re creating fantastic spaces, which are making a difference. We’re also helping a local food bank, working with the innovation team at homeless charity, Crisis, and using our resources to empower communities to make positive change through The Lab Foundation – our Community Interest Company.
We want to revolutionise how people use and view space. It’s not about the designer. We’re here to design great spaces that solve problems, support individuals and help them achieve more.
Now there’s a great buzz in The Lab (our own amazing space), we’re getting brilliant client feedback, and we’re having our best ever year financially. To top it off, last November, we were proud to be named Interior Design Practice of the Year at the FX Awards.
One of the big beliefs I’ve always had is that Spacelab is not about the founders, the bosses – it is about the people we work with, it’s about the team. Our team is really young and they are so good – I’m really proud of them.
We’ve achieved all of this with fewer people, working less but with purpose, freedom and trust. Even a simple Northern lad like me can see there’s a message in there somewhere.