Walls are tumbling down, as businesses move onto the Cloud, businesses opt for open-plan offices, and management hierarchies become less rigid. Three speakers from design, tech and consultancy, gathered to imagine how our ways of working would change in the coming years. Joshua Uwadiae, founder of the social network for personal trainers WeGym, and a young entrepreneur who’s always worked in digital, chaired the discussion.
Under the neon sign ‘No Limits’, Liz Close from Generate Studios talked about the physical design of the office. She started off by mentioning the space we were in, where a host of Workspace-based businesses and other new and growing companies had gathered for the networking dinner.
'Westbourne studios was a challenging design project for us to work on,' she admitted. 'It's a great iconic building with a fantastic reputation for being the cool place to work. Our challenge was to maintain the cool but create a space which was better to work in.'
The Workspace Business Insight Dinner organised by the business network Knowledge Peers provided an opportunity for businesses all over London to come together. Henry Pruwer, the founder and director of HP Diamond, which is based near to the new centre Record Hall told us the issues discussed were important even in more traditional industries:
'This was a great opportunity to network and meet interesting people. As a fine jeweller, I work in a very traditional industry that is reinventing itself to embrace modern technology and working practices. The ideas discussed at the WBIDinner were quite exciting for me to hear. The old workshops of Hatton Garden are fast disappearing, due to soaring rental costs, so organisations like Workspace have an exciting opportunity!'
David Sheehan is Managing Partner at Veldhoen + Company UK, and was part of the team which introduced 'activity-based learning' at companies such as Lego and Sainsbury's. The concept organises spaces according to activities, so employees are not tied to their desks and move around according to their current task. He explained how he gets the top tier of organisations to come up with a list of statements on how they want their office to work. 'Unless you've got those values you'll basically be moving chairs on the Titanic'.
This seemed to echo the thoughts of the third member of the panel, albeit in a very different way. Daniel Humle is the CEO of Satalia, a London-based company that provides Artificial Intelligence (AI)-inspired solutions to solve business and industry problems. The open-plan design of his office echoes the lack of hierarchy in his company. He argued that a flat structure is more 'flexible like a swarm of birds' and encourages innovation and productivity.
Despite their different approaches, all three agreed on the importance of an office base for collaboration and to fulfil the human need for contact. Ian Durrell, the owner of Back Office Support Solutions Ltd, which is based at Canalot Studios, agreed on the importance of networking face to face, describing the talk as: 'wonderfully structured and informative’ followed by ‘a relaxed networking environment with interesting people.'
We may be moving more of our work on to the Cloud, we may be increasingly doing virtual conference calls, but David Sheehan summed up the enduring appeal of a water-cooler gathering: 'There’s always the human connectivity. People need to come together.'
If you’re a Workspace customer and you’d like to come to our next quarterly Business Insights Dinner, keep your eyes peeled to our Events Calendar, which is packed with insightful workshops and seminars held at many of our business centres each week.