Did we ever mention that we think that the working environment matters? Sure we did! Did we mention that we believe in talent and creativity? Methinks yes. Does a modicum of fun at work make a difference? Well, yes! Did we actually do something about it? A few things, but there is one easy-difficult, unremarkable-extraordinary thing which reliably causes moments of surprise for our increasingly frequent visitors. The editorial room.
Web folk, if they're web folk worth bothering with, harbour dreams of Google-esque interiors. The cliché says bean-bags and slides, but what we're taliking about is a venue for meetings where you can relax and let the creative juices flow. We are also talking about a space which says something about values and identity: who are we? what do we do? what is the spirit of this team? what makes these people tick?
Let's face it, a visitor from planet Google would be singularly unimpressed. But people from across the road in the Commission are wide-eyed in wonderment. Come to that, so are people from across the road in the Parliament. This is a room without standard-issue inventory-ised furniture. There are – gasp! – two bean-bags (though no slides), there are two settees, some strange cuboid, slightly padded things designed to be sat on (though preferably not for too long) and some low, low-quality tables you would only very tentatively dare sit on. There is a TV, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but which has never in living memory been turned on (though a persistent, unconfirmed and probably malicious rumour insists that a group of editors from unnamed Central European republics avidly, and possibly tearfully, watched Will 'n' Kate tie the knot on this set). Utter tosh, of course. TV doesn't even work.
This, folks, is DIY WebCom meets Google: fabricated from hand-me-downs from some-one's first leaky Brussels flat, departing editors' legacy greenery, and a self-funded, albeit decidedly cheapskate, trip to a well-known Scandinavian purveyor of low-cost furnishings. The very existence of this room is down to team members who didn't have to double up agreeing to do so, to free up a little of our allocated space for the collective benefit.
Is it used? You betcha! We've had to create our own room-booking system, such is the demand. This is the venue of choice for editorial planning, working groups, project teams, presentations to visitors galore and for the weekly "stand-up" meeting, where up to forty people pack in to absorb the week's schedule. They absorb it standing up, perched three to a chair, sharing bean-bags or just plain on the floor. No other meeting room in the building can accommodate the unit. Nor would this one, even remotely, if anyone had ever decided it was officially a "meeting room".
And does it matter? Is it important that we have this?
Do I even need to answer that question? Thought not.
Oh yes, and one more thing. Our beloved editorial room just got much, much better. Radically, excitingly, meaningfully.
But that's the subject of the next post…