What would your perfect workplace look like? Would it be within walking distance of your home or a commute away, super cosy or well ventilated, full of character or minimalistic? The options are endless. But by listening to businesses, carefully analysing key stats and taking design inspiration from the local vicinity, it is possible for designers to create a space that ticks plenty of boxes.
Angus Boag, Development Director at Workspace Group, Henry Squire, Partner at architecture firm Squire & Partners, Rob Holdway, Professor at Brunel University London and Innovation Director at Co-Innovate joined moderator, design journalist Helen Parton, to weigh in on the design debate over breakfast in Shoreditch at new Workspace centre, The Frames.
The Frames was designed with the local vicinity in mind, giving a nod to both the traditional rag trade and the newer graffiti scene, says Henry. The entrance is brought to life with a colourful two-storey mural by graffiti artist, Mr Jago.
Henry says, "The industrial [elements of the building] speak to the area. The chosen artwork is very specific to Shoreditch - we wouldn't do that kind of thing in Mayfair."
The only important thing about design is how it relates to people” Victor Papenek (Viennese designer)
Since the advent of industrialisation, land has traditionally been carved into separate areas that have their own distinct purpose, such as residential developments or industrial areas. But mixed-use developments are growing in number.
Henry says, "You can live and work in the same area, I imagine a lot of people that work in Shoreditch live around here."
As with most Workspace centres, The Frames is equipped with features that take into account customers' commutes, such as showers and ample bike storage to encourage cycling to work. These types of design features are informed by ongoing customer feedback gathered by centre mangers.
Angus says, "The most important thing is customer surveys and the most important person is the centre manager. They will speak to customers every other day, if not every day, and gather feedback. We collate all that information and work it into the next building."
Companies that work out of a Workspace centre thrive as part of a broader business community, but also need the freedom to put their own stamp on their work area. This helps companies instil their own values, while still being part of a bigger collective.
Environments have to be designed which enable staff to see that the company means what it says. You can’t eat, drink or sit on vision and value statements” Wolff Olins (Brand consultancy firm)
Angus says, "Our view is that each customer should be able to have their own branding, that is something that is very important to them. We don't want to overwhelm the building where everyone looks at it and says, "It's a Workspace building." We try to allow each business to have its own identity, and use the building as a projection of their own identity."
Workspace's newest building, The Frames, designed in collaboration with Squire & Partners, was built with this in mind. It is up to individual customers how they fit out their office space. One customer nailed wooden boards to the wall to use as a mood board, while others have beanbag corners to work from their laptops.
The basic design of a building is about more than just installing the essentials though; it can have a knock-on effect on workers' productivity and even influence our wellbeing.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing” World Health Organization.
Brunel University London has research expertise in the use of biomimicry - using nature’s principles - in architectural design, health and wellbeing in the workplace. Rob says, "There is an inextricable link between work space design, culture, productivity, and health and wellbeing. Air quality can impact productivity by as much as 11%, according to the UK Green Building Council."
Sickness absence costs businesses in London alone £10.4 billion every year, and 10% of UK's Gross National Product is lost due to job-related stress. The London Healthy Workplace Charter, backed by the Mayor, gives employers steps to make their workplaces healthier and happier, which includes the workplace environment.
Factors like natural lighting, and private and open spaces that encourage people to talk to one another can significantly impact wellbeing - for example, offices in The Frames are fitted with adjustable glazed windows.
Angus says, "Each individual business has to have its own space, but we didn’t want those to be behind closed doors. If you walk down the corridors, you will see lots of glazing so that people can look in and see what's going on in those units."
Each floor has a kitchen area that is close to the lifts, to encourage people to bump into one another and start a conversation. For those craving a bit of private time, The Frames has booths dotted around the building.
You've got to go out and meet people face-to-face, unless we all become robots" Henry Squire (architect)
Will workplaces become a thing of the past, thanks to the digital age? The rise of online collaboration tools makes working from home easier than ever. Our experts vehemently disagree, citing the need for a sense of community and a place to talk business. As Henry says, "The need for actual human interaction will always be important."
Read our feature on what the future of the workplace might look like from award-winning design writer Anna Winston, in issue four of Workspace's homeWORK magazine.
Find out more about Workspace’s newest development, The Frames. Close to Liverpool Street, Old Street and Shoreditch High Street, it boasts 65 offices and studios with natural light, high ceilings and whitewashed walls. Not ready for an office space? Try Club Hangout from as little as £150 per month and enjoy the same perks such as high-speed Wi-Fi and networking with fast-growth companies.