People Behind the Space: Out of Office
Meet Fraser from Out of Office
Meet the team behind Wellington's newest space for hire, designed to enable quality thinking
In this edition of People Behind the Space, we catch up with Fraser Callaway co-founder of Out of Office. We chat about his journey, alongside business partners Matt Innes, Oliver Ward and Geoff Cranko, to reinvent what it means to hire a workshop space, incorporating their Refold products, what makes a great workshop, and their greatest challenge so far.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background?
Born and bred in Christchurch, I made the move to Wellington to study design at Massey University - where I met Oliver and Matt. In our last year, we teamed up to redesign industry internships with the focus on making the experience better for everyone involved. During the project we came up against countless problems to creatively solve. One was the recurring industry reaction of “we love this new approach, however, unfortunately we don’t have any free desk space for students.” Disheartened but not deterred, we joked about designing furniture to solve the problem. The joke became reality and the resulting cardboard desk was the key to enabling the project’s success. Post-uni we decided to give the product a real nudge. We launched a Kickstarter campaign that went viral and Refold took off. This was the first time I experienced first hand how good design could positively change how society operates.
And so, we ran a cardboard desk company and a tiny design business out of a shoe-box studio on Cuba Street. Some lofty visions took shape in that shoebox. Mostly we wanted to work on projects that would change the world through great design.
After making a few ripples in the industry with several national and international awards for the reimagined internship model, and the viral success of Refold, we caught the eye of Strategy Creative. They reached out and asked us what we would do if we owned and ran a design agency. I think we bullishly answered – reimagine everything. Less than one year out of university we became owners and directors of Strategy Creative Wellington.
How did Out Of Office come about?
Fast forward three years, our team size had tripled and we had taken over 300+ square metres of studio space. Our only complaint with our studio was we wanted a bespoke space for team sessions, workshops and collaborative client meetings.
When we started to look for workshop spaces, it wasn’t promising. All the spaces we found were windowless, cave-like conference rooms. We wanted something open, filled with natural light and tech that actually worked. Essentially, a space where we could focus on ideation more than getting the projector screen to work.
When a space next to our studio became available, we saw an opportunity to create something we would want to use (and we do!). But we also knew we weren't alone in this boat, so we decided to make it available for others to hire. And so, Out Of Office was born.
Can you tell us a bit about how you’ve incorporated the Refold products into your space?
We’ve learned over the years that teams get better results when they’re able to work collaboratively. This is where modular, moveable furniture is key. So, incorporating our Refold products into the space was a no-brainer. In fact, the design of Out Of Office lead to the development of a new range of Refold products dubbed the Project Series.
When we work, we tend to take up every inch of wall-space. So, we made sure Out Of Office had plenty of whiteboard surfaces. We also made sure our Project Boards were double-sided (whiteboard on one side and cardboard on the other). This way, someone could write on the whiteboard side and then flip it over to the cardboard side to stick up post-it-notes or print-outs.
But my favourite part of the space has to be that nothing sits still. Everything you see in the space can stack, move and has more than one purpose. Our Project Boards either slot into our stools or hang on our pegged-moveable units. These units can also be used to create breakout areas – which is perfect for splitting your team into groups.
Once you use the space, you see how non-functional traditional office furniture is. But the good news is if you like it, you can buy it to create the same experience in your own workplace.
What has been the biggest challenge so far, and best highlight?
The biggest challenge for us has been encouraging people to embrace a new approach to working. Out Of Office has been designed to get people out of their 9-5 routine. To get them into a place where creativity and collaboration can reign supreme.
Our highlight has to be the amount of great work that’s been created in the space. From afterhours styling workshops, to design sprints and leadership training sessions – we get excited when someone brings a fresh idea to the (cardboard) table.
Every time we receive positive feedback after a workshop, it truly reinforces the “why” behind what we do.
What are some things that make a good workshop/Out Of Office space?
For us, a good “Out Of Office” space should be well thought through and considered—from when someone books to when they walk out at the end of their session. It’s important to have a memorable customer experience. So, we made a conscious decision to offer something that was hassle free and seamless. That’s why we have a fully automated booking system, a dedicated Space Manager and supply all the workshop tools and supplies you need as part of your booking.
We believe the most important thing a space can offer is versatility. Everyone needs something different, so people should have the option to choose what they want. Out Of Office does just that. You can select what layout you want and we ensure it’s set up and ready to go before you arrive. And if you decide to change your mind during the session – we say, “move that wall!” How else are you supposed to be agile, if the space you’re working within isn’t?
Run us through some of the rad workshop/events you’ve hosted in the space?
We’ve been lucky to host some brilliant workshops in Out Of Office so far, thanks to the partnerships we’ve made with awesome people doing great things in our industry. Some of our favourites this year have been Design Assembly’s “Designing a Culturally Authentic Aotearoa” workshop and Creative HQ’s “Experience Week” at the end of last year. We’ve also hosted some pretty epic after hour events with the team at Strategy, that may or may not have included a skateboard competition.