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The future of the workplace – blending work, design and community

The Lamp House, the latest addition to bustling Sandyford, Newcastle, is a new flexible office and social space, borne out of an unhappy virtual working experience. Here, owner Lisa Hart Shepherd talks through her take on hybrid working and why companies need to provide flexibility and support to retain and motivate employees.

For those of us now fortunate enough to have the flexibility, hybrid and remote working has become a major benefit we’re not willing to give up.

The saved time and money from removing commutes, handling domestic duties on breaks and being able to spend more time with our pets by our side are all major pros of home working. 

But, for many, there are also considerable downsides, which often flip the balance to wanting to be in an office location for at least two or three days a week.

On a practical level, home working can be difficult. It isn’t without distraction – interruptions and temptations – and some don’t have the physical space or budget for a comfortable desk and chair, never mind the privacy.

The biggest downside is the absence of in-person interaction, be it social, working together on projects or running ideas past each other. 

Informal coaching, on-the-job training and peer support are all just easier in the same office. 

On top of the interaction, some people like a physical barrier between work and home – to switch off when they leave the office and use the commute time to decompress. 

What’s important for all employers to recognise is that every individual has different personal circumstances and drivers.

To optimise mental and physical health and resulting performance, having choice, flexibility and financial support for your preferred way of working is a massive bonus.

For Lisa Hart Shepherd, full-time remote working was thrust upon her after selling her business to a major US multinational. 

After remote working had proven successful throughout lockdowns, the new parent company decided to reduce its office footprint and close smaller locations – which included its Sandyford office, in Newcastle, leaving its 55 staff stuck working at home on a permanent basis. 

Despite having a lovely home office, Lisa hated the isolation, the constant Zoom calls and the repeated muting and un-muting (when she remembered) as the dog barked at deliveries or passers-by! 

She missed her colleagues and found it hard to stay motivated. 

When the offices were returned to her as the lease ended at the end of 2021, she decided to leave the parent company and convert the property into The Lamp House, a new flexible working facility on Benton Terrace, Sandyford Road.

The Lamp House has been created for those that want to work in a positive office environment. 

It provides every member, from freelancers to SMEs, corporate remote workers and small corporate teams, flexible space to work, relax, drink coffee and, hopefully, license allowing, drink wine! 

Lisa, and centre manager Wendy Fisher, worked together to redesign the traditional office space into a vibrant yet relaxed setting. 

Warm colours, dark woods, soft furnishings, sofas, armchairs and a bar are just a few of the features at the new facility. 

Community is key to success at The Lamp House.

Bi-weekly get-togethers over coffee, cake and the occasional glass of wine to share stories, hearing about other members’ journeys and the joy of face-to-face chats allow members to build personal connections and benefit from each other’s experiences.

But most important is the flexible business model – easy in, easy out. 

This enables people to try out the facility and see if it helps them to thrive, and drop out and return to home working at short notice if times get tough.

After opening in February, the centre now houses a mix of co-workers and small businesses.

It has also provided an overflow facility for the local language centre and professional services firms that want additional meeting and training space, or a relaxed place to have informal meetings with colleagues and barista coffee. 

The Lamp House has just opened an external garden space to the rear of the building, aptly named The Lamp Yard, and is in the process of expanding its coffee services to include healthy food and a licensed bar.

The future of work is flexibility, and The Lamp House is a perfect example of how individuals can blend home and office working to have social interaction amid a vibrant community.