Beyond the Four Walls

Beyond the Four Walls : dezerv.’s First Office

Over the last one year, there has been tremendous debate around the post-Covid office. Most organisations have struggled with deciding on the right balance between work-from-home and work-from-office.

In early 2008, when a few of us were working on starting up a wealth management business, I distinctly remember being excited about the new office we were to work from. The vibe that emanated from folks coming together for a common mission, energized each one of us individually, and eventually, the company. After nearly 13 years, we still tell stories of the times from hanging out in the office.

For a lot of folks, these stories, and how startup offices were different contributed in a big way to the excitement of working in a startup. These new offices were about spaces which facilitated casual conversations, creative ideation sessions, and in general “hanging out”.

So when we were thinking about our (first!) office, it was about this sense of bringing people together. We settled in on a great location, the heart of Mumbai’s CBD at BKC. It was designed to be open, bright, modern and yet to have a personal touch. Earlier this week, we finally got the photos of this place. And it was exactly as we had dreamt it to be.

But in this new era of WFA, I wonder what this office space now means. Are we going to be a remote-first company, or are we going to mandate office attendance hoping to build a strong culture? And how does this office need to evolve to reflect that?

The office after all should reflect the values that we stand for:

1. Growth-oriented: We are a young and dynamic team that has hunger, shares the passion to grow, as a team and individually. By sharing our knowledge and experience within the team, we all come together with a common vision to build this into an idea that our users love.

2. Trust: Irrespective of where we work from, we trust each one of us wants to contribute. We do not need to supervise each other.

3. Relationships: We want to build meaningful bonds – not only with our friends and family but also with our co-workers and clients.

When ideas come forth, innovation happens

The office space then should reflect these values. After all, the space informs our team’s culture, productivity and efficiency, and general well-being at work. Taken openness for instance. Offices without cubicles and cabins allow for better exchange of ideas. Most folks may not hesitate to share new ideas as much as they hesitate to knock on their manager’s door. So why have that door at all? Better communication means more collaboration and even greater innovation.

To encourage ideas to be shared, we need to encourage conversations. So we decided to find a way to do that, across teams. Multiple breakout areas, some well lit, some cozier, some casual, some formal. In fact, we are most excited about a lounge area where team members can hang out and unwind. Different spaces should set the context for different types of conversations.

We believe that everyone can work from wherever they want, no questions asked. With this choice, comes the responsibility – on the organisation – to ensure we create the capabilities for remote collaboration. For us therefore, creating hybrid working environments was also important. Someone working from home should be able to reach out and connect with folks in the office seamlessly, and feel like they’re together.

And that’s how we will build this office. It will be our watering hole, where we come whenever we want to. It will also be equipped to with technology to engage with our colleagues who are working from elsewhere.

So for us, this office space remains as crucial as ever. A place that is always available, that will welcome us when we want to go there. A place we want to go to when we want human connection. A place which we belong to. A place where stories are made and friendships are built. A place that breathes the culture of trust, openness and warmth that dezerv. wants to be about.

Author: Sandeep Jethwani (Co-founder — dezerv.)

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