Ziferblat was started by a group of poets in Moscow, and that fascinating story has led to the pay-per-person-per-minute spaces opening throughout the UK. But just how do they work, for workers?
Describe your business in no more than 100 words.
The way we use city centre spaces is changing, Ziferblat is a new pay per minute social work space acting as a solution where other traditional venues aren’t fit for purpose. Situated in convenient city centre locations, Ziferblat’s shared sitting room creates a culture of collaboration through familiar surroundings accessible to everyone on a super flexible pay as you go basis. Everyone is welcome to relax, work and treat the place like home. For just 8 pence per person per minute, guests can curl up on a soft couch, help themselves to unlimited cake, coffee, tea, breakfast and more!
What kind of workplace do you have? Factory, offices, home office...
Ziferblat is a pay per minute sitting room with branches in Manchester, Liverpool and MediaCityUK. Our guests use Ziferblat as an alternative to a café or coworking space. Each branch also includes private creative meeting spaces, for example a chintzy vintage dining room and a primary school classroom. These rooms are bookable on a pay per minute basis and are regularly used by large clients such as NHS, BBC, Google, Santander and Nike as well as creative SMEs and charities in the North West.
Is there an interesting history to your workplace?
Ziferblat was started by a group of poets in Moscow. They hid laminated cards of their favourite poetry across the city with an email on the back. Curious individuals who found the cards and contacted them would be sent details of a group where the poets would meet, socialise and progress their work. As the group grew, they realised café, bars and friend’s houses were not fit places to meet.
To solve this problem, they rented an attic in the city centre and coined it the “treehouse for adults”. The space was decorated in the style of a living room and ran on guest donations. As the treehouse grew in popularity, the group introduced the pay per minute model as a novel way of charging for use of the space. Guests paid one ruble per minute to dwell in the treehouse. Since then Ziferblat has expanded to 18 branches worldwide in Russia, Mongolia, Ukraine and UK. The two largest branches are now in MediaCityUK and Manchester.
What makes your workplace special?
Our inclusive culture. Ziferblat is a shared space, everyone is welcome to treat the place like home. Everyone comments on the atmosphere the first time they come to Ziferblat.
Nowadays, the word community is over used by a lot of businesses. We have built our whole business around our guests, at every stage the needs of the community are paramount. We continuously change and improve our branches to minimise any barriers in the guest experience. This lengthy and understated approach has led to brilliant results. The time model gave us the flexibility and freedom to find new ways to create this social cohesion.
Who is responsible for making your workplace brilliant?
Gareth Harold, Head of Operations at Ziferblat, project manages the fit out of each Ziferblat. The Ziferblat team come together to discuss how to create the optimal space for our guests to work, socialise and relax. For example, soft furnishings are positioned in different area to the hard seating to zone the sitting room’s multiple uses. The team take inspiration from the branch locations with subtle nods to their respective areas.
Ziferblat’s largest branch was created with direct input from businesses and individuals in MediaCityUK. An in-house research project fed into the structure of the branch, design features and room sizes. This process not only made sure the branch was the best fit for those who would use it, the individuals involved in the process felt a connection to their new Ziferblat through their contributions.
What made you want to deviate from the standard ‘desk, chair, kettle’ office setup?
As the freelance and start up population grows in the UK, there is a growing need for more flexible work space. These shared workspaces can be used as an asset to galvanise people in their working environment. Our sitting room interiors are familiar but novel for a city centre, which helps us attract a broad range of guests to work together under one roof.
How does this affect morale, productivity, staff retention?
Our hosts are encouraged to bring their personalities to work with them. If they want to change something in branch, we listen. The Ziferblat host role is almost purely focused on customer service as our Zifer-kitchens are primarily self-serve. Therefore, their morale directly influences our guest experience. Across review sites, such a TripAdvisor and Facebook, our hosts always receive positive praise instilling a real sense of pride in the business which breeds a really positive culture.
What kind of reaction do you get from visitors and clients when they see how you work?
One of our favourite quotes from a blogger who visited Ziferblat for the first time – “it’s like a cross between your nan’s living room and working at Google”.
How far is too far – have you had to say no to anything?
A house cat. A few of the team are allergic.
What other plans do you have to make your workplace even better?
Our branches belong to the hosts and they are always making little improvements. For example, Branch Manager Abbie introduced a “doodle table” for guests to draw on and it’s been incredibly popular at our Media City branch. Guests leave each other little sketches and notes across a large paper cover on an eight-person table. Their freedom to shape their own branch is crucial to making each Ziferblat feel unique to its location.
Ziferblat aims to expand across the UK with three new branches currently in the pipeline - so watch this space!
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