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Why we really love our new office – Anissa Wong on our #NewDigs

new office
What is a startup like ours to do, when we have big plans but no money?  We mind every penny we spend.
First and foremost, we invest in people. Then infrastructure and tools. Then marketing and business development.  And then way down the list, the office space. Why was the actual office space the least of our priorities? We noticed that people are rather tolerant of a less-than-perfect environment, as long as the journey to success as a team is exciting and challenging. The scruffiness brings a certain charm and drive – one that makes you want to work harder to help lift the entire tribe out of “this dive of an office”. And that’s exactly what we did!
The team in Chennai had been working extremely hard, with a few complaints of the less-than-perfect office.  We had only made some minor changes to ensure that people wouldn’t get too depressed!  Slowly but surely, clients started saying ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ to Crayon. And more Crayons joined the box. All of a sudden, we found people working on the floor, in the pantry, in meeting rooms, our game room and even in the reception area. Not that they preferred to, but they had no choice. Conference calls were on 24×7(almost!). People were struggling to find space. The office was simply too overcrowded and ineffective. It was time to move to a bigger, better place!
Decision made. Budget allocated. Location confirmed – not very far from our current space! And we were ready to go!
But wait, what kind of a space did we want?  Other than addressing the obvious needs of an office space, what else should we add to it? To ensure that it is as future proof as possible? While we were scratching our heads, we reached out and got help from an interior design firm through our investor network. The brief we gave them was this:

  • Open, Open, Open
  • Bring in the natural elements
  • Promote collaboration within the office and across continents
  • Flexible use of a large designated space for training and group activities
  • Modern and functional
  • Something for everyone

Combining all these asks into a 12,000 sq. ft space that is to accommodate 100 people, is not as simple as one thinks. Luckily, our design firm, Space Matrix, came to the rescue!
Open, Open, Open
So far, we’d been in an office with a 2.4m ceiling. A solid wall divided it into two very separate sections. People lost their sense of personal space altogether in the 5 years we were there.
We needed height and open views in our new workplace. So, we removed the artificial ceilings and took down the walls. In places where walls were required, we replaced them with glass panels. The result was absolutely stunning. We could finally breathe!
new office
Bring in the natural elements
According to research, natural light in the office can improve moods, reduce stress and allow people to sleep better at night too.  Employees in offices with natural elements, like greenery and sunlight, were also found to be more conducive to creativity. So, all the natural light that was once reserved only for meeting rooms has now been unleashed. It fills every corner of the office. And with a 100 plants around the office in specially designed planters… we’ve brought the outside, in!
new office
Promote collaboration within the office and across continents
We follow an agile development model at Crayon. This requires us to have a lot of standups in our office, across different teams. We also have a few large projects where the teams in Chennai need good, uninterrupted connectivity with teams at client locations. To address all these needs, we now have 7 meeting rooms with varying capacities and AV configurations. We also have designated strategically located collaboration spaces, where people can just casually meet up and discuss issues. Or conduct standups without disturbing any of the adjacent teams.
new office
Flexible use of a large designated space for training and group activities
We really wanted a large space that could accommodate up to 80 people, for company meetings. We also wanted a slightly smaller space to conduct trainings in. And also, another mid-size meeting room, while we were at it. For those occasional breakouts and our yoga sessions.  But we didn’t have that much space. Our design firm gave us the genius idea of installing removable walls to divide up a large continuous space into 3 smaller rooms. We can now easily push the walls to the side and hold company events. Or close them off and go about our training, meeting and eating businesses. The rooms remain soundproof too.  Brilliant!
Modern and Functional
From Dubai to Singapore and New York to Delhi, many Crayons are seasoned travelers. They have been to many superbly designed offices of our top-tiered clients, around the globe. We wanted to bring that design sensibility to our workplace in Chennai. To let our team experience a similar level of sophistication. The message we wanted to send out to our clients and team was singular – we are world class in every aspect of what we do.  Luckily for us, all of this happened within the boundaries of our set budget.
The office now sports a look that is simple and elegant. It has clean lines with white walls, and splashes of Crayon colors in all the meeting rooms.  We have amenities that range from writable glass surfaces and cable management trays with USB ports at every desk, and every meeting room table. We’ve used softer lighting for a warmer feel. We are now an organized bunch working out of an office of international standards. We’re a box of happy Crayons!
new office
Something for Everyone
We Crayons work a lot with numbers and codes, as well as strategy and design of all kinds. When we are at it, we need complete focus. In between those intense thinking sessions, we need to wind down and refresh our minds. Some Crayons are more sensitive to noise; others cannot sit for longer than an hour at each stretch. So how did we address all these varying needs?
One, we created some ‘chill corners’ to ensure some peace and quiet when needed. Chill on a bean bag next to a window with your laptop. Or read a newspaper sitting on the sofa. Or just look out the window and watch the traffic go by, as the birds fly over the treetops in the Chennai sky.
Two, we made sure we had a games area, with a carom table and a designated space for board games. So that folks have enough activities to stimulate their brains. In fact, the budget for a foosball table is in the queue to be approved!
Three, we added bar tables that double up as standing desks. For those wanting to stretch their legs.
If that isn’t enough. How about tea, coffee and healthy snacks and fruits for the perpetually hungry? We’re well stocked!
So Far So Good
We have been at the new office for a month now.  And the reactions we’ve received so far from fellow Crayons and our visitors have been very positive. It goes to prove that a well-thought-out and optimally designed space can really work like magic, to reinvigorate and energize a high output team.
At the end of the day, we just wanted everyone to be happy, being a Crayon.  And in return, our happy Crayons are delivering stellar performances, across teams.
We thank all Crayons for having put up with the old cramped office. And we look forward to new Crayons joining our brand-new box and enjoying this special space, together with us.

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Anissa Wong

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