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In a world where business moves quickly, where internet-savvy clients and businesses connect instantly and seal the deal within minutes, where BYOD and casual atmospheres dominate but workers are keen to have caffeine and inspiration-fuelled offices, businesses like Tribes are taking the lead. In conversation with Chief and founder Eduard Schaepman, we found out about his unique vision for the future of office working.
"I expect offices will no longer exist within 50 years. People decide how they work and where they work. However, the deeply rooted desire for communications and human contact remains", he says.
That's why Tribes operates a variety of different sorts of workspaces, such as bars, espresso bars, library lounges and the new Tribes café in The Hague. It's vital to their guests that their office space can be as flexible as they are - and where they can enjoy exactly what they need from their office without the baggage that comes with traditional cubicle operations.
Schaepman understands that, and has produced a chain of flex offices since he "doesn't believe in just offering functional square meters".
Decor that's not traditionally safe-for-work
Walking through a Tribes office feels less like a place where people are working, and more like a blend between a coffee shop, a relaxed but sophisticated hotel and a supremely elegant home. Spaces are airy and feature trendy furniture, with plenty of high tech 'plug and play' ITC and an abundance of coffee tables, on which freelancers and corporate bigwigs alike balance their espresso cups and slimline Macbooks.
What comes through most strongly is what Tribes calls "the nomadic tribe culture", and I start to realise that the name of the business is more than another hipster culture reference. The meeting rooms and spaces are themed around tribes - the Maasai, Maori and others - which lend a hand to Schaepman's idea of a new generation of businesspeople that are "more accustomed to connecting (both online and offline) and moving within a social environment".
The office building is spread out over the floors, but with separated segments and artisanal furniture. There's no 'water-cooler' as such; that's been replaced with both a fully-functional cafe and bar, where businesspeople from different companies recline and cross-fertilise.
There's a definite sense that people don't have their own desks - the whole area is open to all. Hospitality staff greet people on arrival and offer out coffee, and an abundance of copiers and IT equipment lurk behind leafy and atmospheric installations. This doesn't feel like a workplace; it feels like a playground for adults.
Pricing that suits the nomads
Tribes has an innovative new way to process their guests' specific needs. Rather than using a traditional per-month payment for office spaces, Tribes has 'members', who have access to varying levels of office functionality, from business address with occasional meeting space (The Virtual Office) to full-time workforce accommodation with gym access (Workspace).
The mixing of different businesspeople in one space - the Tribes cafe or flex office - creates chance meetings that Schaepman believes are crucial to innovation and business success."In nomadic tribe culture, there was no preparation. There was more room for spontaneity," he says. "And I really believe that spontaneity is an important ingredient in making meaningful connections."
The on-demand office
Central to the success of Tribes, and in generating revenue from membership that has been ploughed into investment in new spaces across the Netherlands and Belgium, has been its digital marketing strategy. The company uses an attractive website, with a lengthy digital tour of one of its offices which accentuates the spaciousness and stylishness of its design
The site also has details on the various plans and membership schemes which business nomads can buy, as well as information on the different 'styles' of workspace, such as the newest addition of the cafe in The Hague. A far cry from the few low-res pictures of a dusty office that are unlikely to elicit any real-life viewings, the site means that consumers can browse from their own tech at home, and sign up to the use of multiple Tribes sites.
The advantages of a serviced office over traditional tenancy are made clear, with an icon graphic showcasing over 25 of Tribes' services, such as shoe repair services, a gym and a 'library lounge'. It's the perfect combination of achingly hip and desperately functional.
Towards the future
The number of Tribes members is growing every day, most of them are freelancers who make use of the offices and facilities as and when they need them, but also a lot of large corporates choose for Tribes. The company's ambition is to be the replacement to traditional office space that they believe will no longer exist in fifty years.
That means over 2000 workspaces for members in over 100 countries, a target that at this rate, they might well reach. In the meantime, Schaepman says, they'll be working on an interim goal: "we want to make work fun again".
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