Now that we have settled into our new home, it’s time to take a look at how we’re getting on here so far and what the move means for nearForm.
A place of our own
The move means so much more to nearForm than just a physical change of premises. It is of huge cultural significance to us as a growing company to have moved on from the incubation space that we previously occupied. While that environment was perfect for us in the early months, nearForm quickly outgrew it. We needed our own dedicated space. In the new building, we have exactly that.
The new building has space for 104 people. It used to house the former County Council.
Before, people came in here to pay their motor tax or to meet with planners as they prepared to build new homes. Now the people walking through the door every morning are planning the next generation of the internet.
Where are we?
nearForm’s new home is the seaside resort town of Tramore, County Waterford, in the south-east of Ireland. The town nestles between the Comeragh mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. This photo was taken by a nearFormer on lunch break last week:
Space to grow, room to think
In the new office space, we enjoy three precious assets: quiet, space and natural light. The rooms are big. The maximum number of people per room is four. The rooms have solid doors and large windows.
It’s widely accepted nowadays that people need space and natural light to work productively. The need for quiet, however, may not be so obvious. Let’s take a closer look.
The need for a quiet environment for software development work is well documented. One of the seminal works on software development and productivity, Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister (1987), explains that one of the keys to high developer productivity is a low-noise, low-interruption work environment where the offices have doors and windows, and there are between two and four people per office. In 2000, software development guru Joel Spolsky named “a quiet working atmosphere” as one of his famous ‘12 steps to better code’.
The developers’ section of the nearForm building features two-, three-, and four-person rooms, structured around a large, central “water cooler” area. Developers’ office-mates are other developers, so everyone has the same work environment requirements. Doors can be closed to indicate that the occupants are “in flow” (developer-speak for a state of pure concentration and productivity) or left open if the people inside are available for a chat.
At the official opening of our new building, nearForm CTO Richard Rodger spoke about how his dream of a “library-like atmosphere” for nearForm software developers was becoming reality. What he and co-founder and CEO Cian Ó Maidín wanted, Richard said, was to give developers an environment that would make them happier and more relaxed, with the proven corresponding increase in code quality and productivity.
How is it working out? nearForm senior architect Damian Beresford (who’s had a twenty-year career to date) says the new office is “the best work environment I’ve ever had”. Software developer David Cahill puts it like this: “The new office is definitely helping my productivity. When your mind is calm, the quality of your work improves dramatically.”
Quiet doesn’t just help coders work better—the work of writers and graphic designers, who also form part of the team, is greatly enhanced by a quiet atmosphere, too.
Healthy body, healthy mind
When planning the office move, the nearForm management team had a number of options. They looked at bigger premises in an industrial park on the outskirts of the city; they considered a city centre location with all the amenities and buzz of an urban setting; and then they thought of Tramore, which is pretty much as close to nature as a tech consulting company can get.
Once the third option got into the guys’ heads, it was difficult to get out.
nearForm CEO Cian Ó Maidín has a strong personal interest in fitness and nutrition. For years he had been mulling over ideas on how a tech-dominated company could be a healthful place to work. Now, his vision for nearForm’s new location is for it to be an asset to the physical and mental health of everyone who works here.
“We have the beach and the sea at our doorstep. nearForm members can have lunch in a seaside cafe followed by a walk on the beach. The surfers among us can take their boards out. I couldn’t be happier that nearForm can offer this optimal balance of work and play for the benefit of our members’ minds and bodies.”
Flexi-time and trust are key aspects of this “healthy body, healthy mind” philosophy. After all, it’s all very well being located in an amazing natural environment, but not much good if members don’t have the time during their work day to enjoy it. This is where another aspect of company culture comes into play: members are trusted to manage their own time. Nobody is interested in ‘presenteeism’. As long as you’re getting your work done, it’s cool that you take a two-hour lunch break to go for a long walk, or a swim in the sea.
Cian knows that it’s not just what the body does that matters; what goes into it is crucial, too. The fact that we now have our own fully-equipped kitchen gives nearFormers more freedom to bring in and prepare their own healthy lunch choices. Cian and CFO Fiona Mc Kenna also plan to bring in a nutritional science specialist to help nearForm members with their nutrition and diet, and to measure the effects of a better diet on their sense of wellness and energy levels.
The global team
A globally distributed team is a core part of how nearForm works. We currently have 52 staff and counting, 26 of whom are on-site here in Tramore. The remaining 26 are remote workers in the following locations: Romania, Italy, Norway, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Jamaica, USA, Canada and South Africa.
However, the term ‘remote workers’ does not reflect the reality of our daily work. Nobody in nearForm thinks of our off-site people as separate or different in any way. They are included as standard in all company email lists and communications, and in our much-used collaboration tools Slack, Trello, and Google Apps. For software developers, GitHub–the world’s biggest open-source code management tool–is an instant forum.
The only effect that the move to Tramore is having on remote workers is that they now have a wonderful place to visit when they make work trips to company headquarters.
The long term
There are key indicators of how well the office move is working for the health and well-being of the people who work here: ‘hard’ factors such as low staff turnover and low absenteeism, ‘soft’ ones such as a palpably pleasant atmosphere in the office, as well as consistently on-target delivery of client projects.
Only time will tell if these indicators are met on an ongoing basis. It’s looking good so far.
Want to work for nearForm? We’re hiring.
Phone +353-1-514 3545
Check out nearForm at www.nearform.com.