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Published 03.12.2021

Interview — Workspaces with a clear vision

Marco Checchi is a Stockholm-based architect and co-founder of Studio Stockholm. Since the creative studio’s foundation in 2014, Studio Stockholm has been in business without a CEO. Instead it’s been collectively led by its employees. Rather than basing the development of projects solely on their own architectural taste, Studio Stockholm has had great success with a collaborative approach where their clients’ objectives and ambitions have played an equally important role. Here, Checchi talks about working small and workplace design’s influence on recruitment.

— Interior Architect and Founding Partner, Studio Stockholm.
Sveriges Arkitekter, Leadership in Architecture, 2011–2012.
Konstfack, Interior Architecture & Furniture Design, 2005.

What does your own workstation look like?

I have no workstation. Every day of the week I bring with me a bag with a computer and a phone and a charger, and that’s all I have. Sometimes I sit with clients and work. Sometimes I sit in a cafe and work. When I am in our studio, I can sit anywhere and work. I sit next to those I need to talk to and work with. I don’t really have any papers with me, which makes it very easy for me to work from anywhere. I can get started very quickly wherever I am.

And when are you most effective?

When I know what to do. I try to switch off my mail and put the phone on silent so that I can focus on what to do. If I’m working with colleagues we always try to eliminate all external influences, and just be present in the moment. Try to focus on the flow. And then make things visually clear on whiteboards.

What is the single most important factor in recent years that has significantly changed your work life for the better?

To be privileged enough to work with such an amazing team at Studio Stockholm. It makes my work life so much better.

And what part of your work life do you want to change next?

I want to be better at giving feedback.

How has the way we design our workplaces changed during the last five to ten years?

“Above all, there is a rather big change in the culture of work. The culture has gone from a rather hierarchical pyramid-based organizational model to a more open organization where we work much more with our own responsibilities. We do not do the same things all the time. We collaborate much more today than we did earlier. There’s a higher demand for focused work today, and that’s why we need optimized features and larger spaces, but also to be able to choose where to work during the day or in the moment. This calls for a much more flexible office.”

How would you describe workplace design today?

“There is not a single idea or concept that you can apply to all companies. It is very important. The most important part is to work with a clear vision for each company or organization that describes what goals they have with the office and what effects they want to achieve. It’s only possible to formulate a strategy once we know the direction.”

Don’t you think designers did that 10 years ago?

“There was a heavier emphasis on how many employees there were or how many conference rooms they needed. You didn’t find the strategic mindset and the idea that an office is actually a tool you can utilize to optimize a business. It was more about space, not so much that workplace design had the ability to create comfortable environments and more efficient employees with increased productivity.”

Do you think companies are aware of the importance of it?

“Yes, more and more. In the past five years I believe managers and CEOs have realised the impact of good workplace design and how it plays a vital role for the core of the business. But we also work with fairly strong brands that in general know what it takes to be at the front.”

Are some industries better at workplace design than others?

“The tech industry is very far ahead. The entire industry is about focusing on innovation because that is what puts them above their competitors.”

Do you see an untapped potential in workplace design as it is today?

“There may be even greater potential for working small. Today, there is too much focus on meeting rooms and booked meetings. There is room for improvement in the informal ad hoc meeting where things just happen. Not only because they arise from an occasion, but also because the collaboration in general increases across domains. That being said, there’s a need to be able to focus and shut yourself off from your surroundings.

What happens if you, as a company, do not take workplace design seriously?

“You fall behind your competitors. That’s just how it is. Recruitment becomes harder. It’s all about being an attractive employer with good premises and a pleasant atmosphere if you want to compete for the best employees. And then it’s linked to the employees’ productivity. We’ve started working with a new client. They conduct employee satisfaction surveys every quarter. In the most recent one, perceived productivity is only at 49 percent, which is extremely low. Our goal is to raise that number to above 80.

And what happens when you do take it seriously?

“It’s kind of the same thing. The company gains leverage with better employees and higher productivity. The employee retention goes up. I think the workplace design is closely connected to everything companies do today: From advertising, to how employees feel and what the office looks like. Everything is about building a strong brand.

How do you think the workplace will look in 10 years?

“An increased focus on collaboration. Our digital equipment already allows us full flexibility. We can actually work anywhere, but the need to meet each other still exists. To develop and come up with new things together, not only within the organization, but also between other companies and organizations, where you sit together across business domains and collaborate. And then proper handling of stress.” +