As many more of us return to the office, we take a look at how Julian Randles, the CFO of Czarnikow, is changing their office environment to meet their people’s needs post-pandemic.
Julian has 30 years’ experience as a finance professional and is currently CFO at Czarnikow.
Czarnikow has managed complex sourcing, financing and logistics in the sugar industry for over 150 years. Czarnikow has been around for 150 years and has seen world wars and four pandemics in that time, including the Spanish flu of 1918.
We talked to Julian about how Czarnikow is working differently.
“Ironically, just before COVID came around we’d just expanded our office to almost the maximum number of desks that we could. It’s an open-plan office in Central London.
I think we’ve got about 110 desks in London and 250 people worldwide.
The old setup was very much everybody had their own desk. There was a certain amount of distance between those desks and it worked very well. Obviously, the experience that we’ve had through COVID has somewhat changed our view.
Will we all embrace hybrid working?
I do think we’re heading for a more ‘hybrid’ way of working. We feel that there has been a change, although it’s hard to say if it’s a permanent change for the whole industry. None of us really know how things will settle down post-COVID. But there’s definitely a need to take into account people’s preferences in respect to how they would like to work, and the efficiency of that work going forward.
Having said that we still believe there’s a huge role for the office. It’s a crucial place for collaboration and that kind of osmosis effect that happens when people come together. So we’ve taken the opportunity to redevelop the office even though we’d just added some desks.
Our thought process was: “Let’s make the office an exciting, vibrant place to come in and let’s make it fit for purpose for the post COVID environment.” We’ll have desks of course but it will be more of a hot desk-type environment. The majority of the office will now be set aside for meeting space, for audiovisual type areas so that people can come in, have meetings, get on video conferences and so forth in order to collaborate with others around the globe.
Maintaining a collaborative and social environment for the next generation of employees
Generational differences come into this too. I think it’s easier for those with 15/20 years’ experience to do that role 100% at home but bringing through the next generation and on- boarding is a challenge as they gain a lot more from interaction and learning from the team.
I think we’ve taken on approximately 10 people since the beginning of the pandemic. At first, it was a case of ‘rabbits in headlights’ and how do we deal with the situation where we can’t actually bring people into an office and introduce ourselves. But actually, everybody has onboarded and worked from home in a seamless manner.
I think the problem is the interface on a video screen is not quite the same as being physically there. It’s those coffee bar chats you miss. That’s the biggest thing that we’re hoping to engender by having people back in our remodelled office. But other than that, I think the process has still been very successful.”
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