By Lucie Sáblíková | 17.5.2022

Monika Vokounová: It is important to us that people feel at home in the office

Culture – 8 min read

It’s been nearly two years since Applifting’s moved into a beautiful new office space in the River Garden building. We asked Monika Vokounová from the back office team—who was in charge of the production side of the project—to tell us a bit more about all the things that had to be arranged and how the selection process played out. 

What was important when choosing new premises?

We had three strategic requirements at the beginning. Staying in our "native" location in Karlín was key for us. Then it was about having enough personal space for Applifters, and last but not least, the multipurpose use of the offices. We wanted to have enough meeting rooms, call booths for uninterrupted phone calls, places to relax (zen and chill), the possibility to work in a chair or swing, etc. As we went through the space, more and more requirements started popping up—windows that open, sufficiently bright and sunny spaces, parking spots, or just being able to bring our four-legged friends to the office.

Why did River Garden come out on top?

Without a doubt, it was the fact that it is located just a short walk from the original offices and the subway. Of course, the size to price ratio also played a role. As a bonus, we were convinced by the unexpected offer of a space for social events, which we would have been looking for anyway after some time. And I have to say that the approach of the company that arranged everything contributed a lot to the decision to choose River Garden; we needed everything quickly, and they helped us out with that. In addition, there was design work included in the package we were offered.

How did settings up the office go?

At the beginning, we discussed our requirements with the architect. We wanted people to feel comfortable here and to make the offices a pleasant home environment. We worked with the concept of smaller rooms, we didn't want just one huge open space (though we have that too because some people just prefer it). Then the designers came up with the first design, which was great. They listened to our requests and really managed to keep the homey feel, mainly because they used regular IKEA furniture, not custom cabinets. With Filip (Kirschner, Applifting co-founder and COO), we did a lot of things on our own—like picking out the colours and furniture. We really didn't want any fancy expensive things that Applifters would be afraid to sit on lest they get something dirty and I have a fit about how the fat-cat couch gets stained. 

Who was in charge of decorating the offices?

We did the final touches ourselves. The creative ideas, the decoration of the meeting rooms, the Lego wall, the incorporation of our A-shaped logo into the space, and other knick-knacks were all in our control.

How long did it take from signing the contract to the first people moving in?

It was a quick process—we started looking around at the end of August 2019; in October, the decision was made to take River Garden; and at the turn of November, the contract was signed. In December, we had moved in to the first, unfurbished part. We had permission from the owner to be there because we’d started to grow very quickly and couldn't fit in the original offices. So we basically had to renovate twice. The first wave of people moved into the renovated space in June 2020. 

The covid pandemic significantly interfered with our plans. For example, we were waiting for tiles from Spain and carpets from the US, so we didn't know if we would even be able to move in on time. But it all worked out thanks to the dedication of everyone involved.

How much was there to do? 

The first crucial task was to set up a good internet connection. We did a trial run with one company first, but it didn't work for us, so we had to redo our contracts. We were also caught off guard by the building code, which is different to what we were used to before. We had no clue that it could limit us so much. It's a good idea to read the building regulations carefully before signing a contract and consider the different situations where they could cause you potential inconvenience. 

Over time, we also had to furnish the interior and arrange for the flowers to be delivered, etc. There's always something to do. 

Meeting rooms are inspired by iconic computer games, who came up with this idea?

Meeting rooms and call booths were a big topic in the company. There were a lot of ideas coming from the designers, but they were more generic and didn't represent Applifting. So we decided to ask Applifters themselves. First, we collected ideas, then there was a poll, and then when the winning topic came up—video games—we chose specific games that were suggested by our Applifters. The creative team of Filip and Týnka (our graphic designer) then worked out the design of each individual game and how they would fit in the meeting rooms and call booths. They personally decorated each of them by hand. We solved everything on our own.

From the first days, it was clear to us that it was the right choice. It shows that both us and the world of IT in general are playful. We can see it during meetings with clients and candidates who react to the meeting rooms. They really like them. Some come to us already having seen a particular room on social media and wanting to see it live.

What types of rooms are there in Applifting and what purposes do they serve?   

We wanted to have varied, structured spaces, so you'll find a lounge for relaxing and hosting larger meetings, a chill zone with a projection screen, a zen zone for meditation, nine call booths for private phone calls, two kitchens, a children room with a play area, a hot desk, which is a tall table with (or without) a chair for quiet work, and finally, a meetup space. We are really happy about it. It is equipped with a stage, screen, ping pong, darts, and table football, and it’s used for various meetings, meetups, and internal events. 

It's great that our offices aren’t exclusive to just Applifters. For example, our English teachers stay and work here after class, we don't have boundaries for that.

What do Applifters appreciate the most about the offices? 

I would say it depends on what stage of life they are in. Some are happy to be able to shut themselves in the zen zone and get some sleep or just swing around in the hammock chair and browse the internet; parents are grateful for the kids room. Then there are people who are happy to have a quiet environment to work in, which is more important to them than other amenities. 

And what do you personally like the most about the premises?

I guess I can't pick any one place as my favorite, I just enjoy everything. The fact that we got the hand-sewn fruit plushes in the Fruit Ninja call booth made by the girls at Ušito is amazing. They really nailed it. I'm happy about the Need for Speed meeting room and the beautifully painted kitchen by Míša Sodoma. Every time I see someone sitting in a chair and working by the window in the chill zone, it makes me happy to see it all come together like this. I just can't decide. And I love my workplace, of course :-D

Why do you think Applifters love the office? 

I hope it's because of the people, because they like working here and they like hanging out with each other. It's also because of the quiet work environment and the fact that they can go play ping pong, darts, and table football. Or because we're downtown and they can get a lot of things done from here.

Can you share the secret behind making the office a place people like coming to?

Do it for them. That was the whole idea. I feel that things like a coffee machine, being able to work out, darts, and ping pong are more important to Applifters than having fancy chairs and couches. Because of that, the investment went into amenities rather than luxury design features and decorations—having a super high-end couch and being constantly worried you’re going to spill something on it wouldn’t make anyone feel comfortable here. I myself don't feel comfortable in and around luxurious and expensive things.

It's also important to listen to people and their ideas. That's why we have a soda machine. We wouldn't have thought of something like that, this suggestion came directly from Applifters. And from day one, it's been clear that this was a great move.

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