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Spotlight on… Sonder

Placing wellness and security at the forefront in Chancery House

On the outskirts of the City, Holborn & Chancery Lane is no longer considered an overspill area, it’s fast becoming one of London’s office hotspots. In 2023 it gauged the most interest during your office searches, and increasing investment from providers and asset owners in the area means we’ll likely see similar in 2024.  

So, when the time came for award-winning medical, mental health and wellbeing app, Sonder - which has been recently adopted by the Kontor team - to explore a London HQ, they looked to us for help, and Beth Wem knew just the place.

📍 Chancery House, Holborn

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We’re joined by Lucy Wilkinson - Senior Customer Success Manager, Nicola Fisher - Member Support Manager (both pictured) and Alex Bennett - Marketing Manager.

👉 A brief overview 

Sonder’s roots go back 7 years. They provide medical, mental health and safety support to millions of employees within the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and like many scaleups, spent their first days being built from a kitchen table. 

Originally launched as a University safety tool to support international students with journey tracking and safety check-ins, when the global pandemic hit a natural decline of international students led to an expansion beyond education into the business sector, incorporating medical and mental health support.

Now, catering to both audiences, a 300-strong team spearheads Sonder’s Sydney head office as they continue to scale across new regions including the UK. Then came the search for a London office…

Lucy reflects: “Sonder’s founders really understood the client-broker relationship in that he wanted to just work with one. A friend who had previously worked with Kontor recommended Beth and the team, and the rest is history!

👉 The perfect match 

Of course, London was the next logical move, but which locations jumped out and what was the end goal?

“Accessibility was a huge one,” Lucy confirms. 

“We hail from all over London, as well as outside of the capital, so we needed somewhere with great transport links. Plenty of investors were speaking very highly of Holborn, lots of businesses we’d see as ideal customer profiles are also residing here.” 

Employee safety was another key deciding factor, explains Nicola, “We’re a 24/7 business with nurses within our support team who work shift patterns outside of the usual 9-5, so safety was another fundamental reason why we opted for this area.”

It’s clear Chancery House’s wellbeing focus played a large part, too. The enthusiasm shown for the tie-in with the on-site gym, fitness studio and recharge rooms aren’t just attractive elements for the team but they also reflect Sonder’s purpose as a brand.

“We were given a free corporate gym class when joining,” recalls Lucy, “We did a group pilates class which was a fantastic way of socialising without drinking. 

The gym is open long hours which means it’s accessible for the support team alongside their shift patterns, Fora helped organise and cater a founders event we ran the other week, and there’s tons of other initiatives to bring teams into the office and encourage networking between businesses in the building.”

“Including the bangers and mash days” Alex enthuses. 

We like the sound of that…

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Much to their delight, the team were also heavily involved in the feedback process - What did they think of the space? Will they be happy here? Was it an inclusive workspace for all?

Opinions are so valuable, as Nicola relays: “We want people to want to come in, there’s immense value in the team connecting in-person rather than virtually, especially when we’re all so new here and Kontor were amazing at giving plenty of optionality, collating offices across areas outside of our initial go-to (Holborn) which gave us more flexibility with budget.”

👉 Grand designs 

Functionality is of course paramount in any office search, but how did Sonder want their workspace to reflect the brand? 

Wellness is one of the hot topics here, and with Chancery House being predominantly wellness-focussed bridging that gap, the next step was looking at the layout. 

“The team needs to be in the same space so we can coordinate between us. A collaboration hub was the end goal,” Alex says.

👉 The must-haves 

Onto Sonder’s top 3 must-haves:

Security // Putting the safety of the team, and their shift patterns, first.  

Location // They honed in on Holborn from the get-go - a decision the team were heavily involved in - including a pulse survey asking if they were to move from Victoria would this be an improvement on their commute, with the overwhelming majority of results saying yes. 

Wellbeing // Specifically how this concept reflects Sonder’s core values, plus the light, airy openness of the aesthetic akin to that of a hotel. 

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The flexibility of the layout and variation of working spaces has also encouraged the team to want to come in more, Lucy confirms.

“We struggled with breakout space limitations in our previous office due to the compact size, whereas now we have big meeting rooms, the cafe and entire ground floor, so we’re spoilt for choice with different areas to come together.”

“We value working in different spaces to re-energise ourselves,” she continues, “We didn’t need to do any work to the office and were happy with the current set-up, whereas other spaces we viewed needed some work which meant we wouldn’t have been able to move in on time.”

Nicola agrees that the move was an easy transition, and the team now reside in a space they can show off: “Pre-Christmas my son came in and I was really proud to show him around.”

👉 Honing in on hybrid

What about hybrid working, does Sonder have an official policy? 

“No policy, mainly because we’re comfortable with the team’s working rhythm as it is. Some of us want to come in every day, others 2 days a week, but we’re still connecting with everyone at various weekly touch points - it works for everyone.” Lucy says. 

It’s clear the aesthetic plays a big part, as Alex agrees: “I wouldn’t feel energised coming in if the office wasn’t exciting, the amenities make me feel like I want to be here.” 

Lunch and learn sessions are another contributing factor. “We’ll use our lunch and learn sessions as anchor days,” Nicola relays, “For example, Dry Jan is this month’s theme so one of the nurses is planning on taking us through a member case where we can connect and learn. 

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👉 End game 

The attention to detail and variation of options were glaringly obvious positives for Sonder. 

“Beth was always super quick in getting back to us and combining multiple options. She had plenty of patience and was adaptive to changing briefs, as well as facilitating conversations with Fora, the provider,” Lucy explains, “One of the many highlights of working with Kontor was the quick turnaround - we had several options and within a day were able to view the potentials.”

And to finish, what advice would they give to anyone looking for a new office? 

Lucy is first to answer, “Let Kontor be the experts. We weren’t familiar with UK geography so were happy to be guided on what areas made sense and why. Whilst we provided a brief, Kontor looked outside that scope and guided our thinking to give the bigger picture. That made us stop and heavily consider what was the best option for us.”

Inspiring, secure, and providing a purpose; just looking around the space it’s clear to see that Chancery House is a brilliant fit for the Sonder team. Assisted by Kontor, their Holborn home has longevity.

Now, before we leave, only one thing remains… Let’s hope it’s bangers and mash day!

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