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Tech City: Flexible work space will ‘disrupt’ business world

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:02 10 August 2015

Fiona McSwein

Fiona McSwein

Archant

With cinema screenings, wine and cheese nights, yoga sessions in the office and increased working from home, one business is trying to show how flexible working is the future of the corporate world.

Simply Business, an online insurance broker based in Finsbury Square, which gained 100 employees in a year, realised it needed to radically restructure the working environment to ensure productivity stayed high.

Chief customer officer, Fiona McSwein said: “We’ve been doing this for about 18 months. We wanted to do more in trying to improve the way we delivered; we had growing pains and needed to figure out a different way of working.

“We thought, you can sit wherever you want as long as there are tools at your disposal to communicate with colleagues.”

Employees use Google Hangouts, video and portable tablets in order to see each other or check in to conferences from afar.

The unconventional solution was the brainchild of CEO Jason Stockwood who joined in 2010.

Fiona said: “His different way of thinking accelerated the growth of the company.

“For people, rather than travelling and feeling trapped in an office, they can pick kids up, make dinner for their partners – it gives people a sense of pleasure in their work and their daily life and we have found it has really helped from a wellness perspective. There are less sick days, for example.

“It is actually less about productivity but trying to make people enjoy what they do. We have also been trying to use the office as an opportunity to bring life in, with events like poker nights, so when people are in the office it is extended on both sides they can do things they want to do and be physically in the office.”

Simply Businesses also runs a series of initiatives to connect with the community such as coding workshops for people from deprived or minority backgrounds.

She said: “We are a diverse company and often diversity is more interesting. We definitely feel much more akin to the Old Street community and the tech community than we do the insurer community; we have a foot in both being in Finsbury Square.”

Fiona added: “The diversity of our employee base works well with the diversity of our customers. From pub landlord, to jeweller or cleaner – they are all very different types of businesses and demand different services – we need to be thinking of that to be able to serve the diversity of Britain.

“We have 320,000 small business customers which, from the government’s perspective, are a forgotten market even though they make up 90 per cent of the overall UK economy.”

Fiona said the company has seen this desire for flexibility permeate the business world with a big increase in people who are self-employed, artisans, online retailers and pop-up entrepreneurs.

She said: “It is growing quite considerably, we are definitely seeing that trend already flip from people doing selling things on Ebay to moving into a professional business. People are looking for

flexibility and want that independence.

“I think if large corporates don’t start figuring all this out people in their early 20s are going to opt out of them and small starts ups are going to start disrupting the market and getting people who are full of ideas.

“People look at what is happening in Tech City as what the future could look like.”

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