What does it take to be an Employer of the Year?

 

It takes a special kind of business to win Business Leader’s Employer of the Year award – and Xledger is undoubtedly one of them.

We spoke to to Xledger’s CEO, Mark Pullen, shortly after completing their office fit-out in 2020, exploring how Xledger build a sense of family through place, process… and putting.

 Photo credit: Business Leader Awards 2021

Xledger’s journey to success

 

“The business in total is about 20 years old. I took over the UK business in September 2019 (I was employee number nine or ten), and I started to operationalize the business from there. So I brought in a new Sales Director and started recruiting some of the key individuals that we needed from our own internal investment.

We defined a five-year plan, which we called the road to a billion. So our business objective is to get a billion turnover in five years (that’s Norwegian kroner – very important to define that!), which is about £120,000,000.

We actually put a target in of 12 direct deals for 2020, but we did about 13 or 14 in Q1 alone. We obviously knew we were on a good trajectory, so we needed new space – we were in Hartwell house and we had about just under two thousand square foot. It was fine with ten people, but soon started to get cramped.  We worked out that we wanted about 11,000 square foot.

Now, for us being in of Norwegian heritage, there are different cultural styles to office space: it’s far more spaced out. I think that the normal guideline in the UK is about 100 square foot per person. It’s double that in Norway. We tend to go for bigger spaces with fewer people. I think there were 150 people in this space that we moved in to before us. We’ll max capacity at 70 or 80 before we’re looking at satellite offices or keep this as our main hub expansion will grow from beyond there.

We are a work in the office culture, highly collaborative. If you’re on that sort of growth trajectory (we’ve grown 170% this year), you need momentum, you need strong collaboration, you need good people.

But the idea of people being in and on client sites all the time was obviously changing, so we put our heads together as to what’s the future going to look like on a lot of assumptions.

One of those was that clearly the working behaviours are going to be different.

Therefore we don’t want an office. We want a hub. And it needs to be a destination choice working environment. Within that, we defined different categories of space that would be required for the different working styles and job functions within our business.”

See the full Xledger case study here.

 

Designing for flexibility

 

“We have consultants whose role is to implement our software into a customer’s business – they have a lot of configuration work, data migration work, accounting work. They have to educate the users on how to use the tools that all of those require slightly different work environment.

They needed a place to sit in the office that was their home, that was theirs, that needed to be relatively quiet. They’re less gregarious as individuals. They’re on the phone a lot with customers. So they needed space to be able to lock themselves away in a focused room, plug and zone in, do complex data mapping and data migration without any interruptions, or interact with a customer in a quiet, controlled professional environment.

We also made the assumption that at some point we will all return to office.

So we wanted a dedicated training facility to give customers the option of doing it remotely, which we now got pretty good at through necessity.

I then looked at collaboration. We’ve got the working areas, then collaboration spaces, different styles in the formal meeting rooms, relaxed booths, sofas, a wellness room where you can just chill out, all those different styles to keep it interesting – but also just to give some variety to their working day and not that formal structure all the time.

Our pre-sales who are previously consultants but interact very heavily with the sales team and the press, needed to be the middle of those so they can easily interact.”

Breaking down “transactional interactions”

 

“If we’re going to make this a destination place, it’s got to be a welcoming, kind, friendly environment with a bit of fun – half the meetings here are just conversations.

So I kind of figured what better to why not do that over a game of shuffleboard? I wanted to create the break-out, the kitchen, an Xbox arena.

Working remotely, all virtual interactions require something. Every time you talk to one of your colleagues, it’s because you want something. There’s no over the water cooler conversation or by the coffee machine conversation. Small talk doesn’t happen because everything’s structured – I’ve got a call in because I need something from you.

I wanted to break that cycle and get people back to just talk. Remember that as human beings, someone’s got their own struggles and get back to a bit more of sense of family. So that area, used to facilitate a bit of fun, is important.”

See the full Xledger case study here.

Creating connections

 

“We’ve facilitated everything you need to do for the different styles of work – but you’re in a really comfortable working environment. You’re back with your chums, with your family. Your job becomes more effective because you’re able to do things quickly.

The point is, we don’t have to actually demand anything – you just provide the facility that makes the choice a no-brainer: I want to be with my buddies in the office.

And that’s why we went quite bold with what we’ve got. Not many offices have a rooftop putting green with a bar and a barbecue, an outdoor TV.

A lot of our day is spent with the necessity of conversing with other colleagues. You don’t sit in a meeting room and do that. Go and sit out and grab a putter and walk around. Have inspired ideas, more creative ideas, away from the mundanity of sitting there in the same four walls.

The flip side is our solo working spaces. There’s a professional microphone, professional camera, big screen. You just plug your laptop in and go.

The issue that’s come out of remote work is remoteness and disconnect.

That’s the opposite of what you get being in an office. You know what everyone’s up to, even whether it’s none of your business. People need healthy conversation, healthy debate, validation. It’s a lonely place when you’re just becoming accountable entirely for your own work. If I’ve done a bad job, I find out after. If I’ve done a bad job in an office, you’re constantly getting “am I on the right track?” feedback.

We have a big sign at the front that says this space is a hub: this is where you come to facilitate anything that you might need to facilitate.

It’s fun. It’s pleasant to be in. It’s healthy, safe. We prioritise wellness. We have Peloton bikes. But if this had been banks and banks are desks, nobody would be coming back. Why would you? This is now not a functional workspace. It’s a hub to collaborate.”

“We’ve hired thirty people recently, and a few of them had their interviews in the office and were saying, holy cow, this place is brilliant. It’s better than my home.
That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”
Mark Pullen, Xledger

Read the full Xledger case study here or sign up to our webinar for insights on creating brilliant workplace culture on 20th October here.

 

 

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What is an office fit-out?

 

Are you about to embark on an office-fit out project? Wondering where to start?

It makes sense to start at the beginning. Fit-out is a term we use every day – but what does it actually mean?

A fit-out is simply how we describe a project that develops a commercial space with the purpose of making sure it fits the needs of its owners or occupiers. It’s the process of turning an empty shell of a building into a suitable space for an occupier.

The different types of office fit-out

 

We know for some this can be a daunting project but to help you get off on the right foot we’ve clarified some of the FAQs and common industry terminology that you’ll encounter frequently:

  • What is a Shell and Core project?
  • What’s the difference between a CAT A and CAT B fit-out?
  • What is CAT A fit-out?
  • What is a CAT B fit-out?

What is a Shell and Core project?

 

Before a CAT A or a CAT B fit-out takes place there is often a Shell and Core project, installing or updating the infrastructure of the building, specifically areas relating to the concrete and metal frame, such as lift shafts and loading bays.

Example of a Shell and Core project before CAT A works commenced at Frome Business Park

What’s the difference between a CAT A and CAT B fit-out?

 

One of the first questions some clients like us to clarify is “What’s the difference between a CAT A and a CAT B fit-out?”

Both terms refer to design and build projects in commercial properties, but they have different implications.

 

 

Example of a CAT A to CAT B fit-out at St Stephen’s House, now home to the production companies of Netflix.

What is a CAT A fit-out?

 

CAT A is short for Category A; it’s a fit-out project that results in a functional yet empty space – a blank canvas for interior designers to work their magic on.

A typical CAT A project would be undertaken on behalf of a landlord who wants a finished-yet-feature-free space to market to prospective tenants; an empty space completed up to a point where a tenant can engage an interior designer to create a habitable office.

The finished CAT A project will typically have all the necessary infrastructure and finishes in place, including water, power, toilets, fire detection systems and painted walls.

 

Examples of CAT A fit-outs

 

1. St Stephen’s House, 7,592 sq ft

The transformation of ground and lower ground floors into sought-after commercial office space in central Bristol. After 14 weeks on site, the finished result was a contemporary, creative and open plan space – and one that looks appealing inside and out.

See the full case study here.

 

2. Pinesgate, 30,000 sq ft

Despite being in a prime location in Bath, Pinesgate had been unoccupied for some years. It was time to reinject life back into the building and create desirable commercial office space.

We stripped the building back entirely to its shell before carrying out a full CAT A refurbishment.

See the full case study here.

What is a CAT B fit-out?

 

CAT B is short for Category B. Most often a CAT B fit-out will be commissioned by a tenant who is seeking to either turn an empty space into a finished workspace environment, or an overhaul of an existing office.

Ideally beginning with a period of workplace strategy consulting and space planning, a CAT B fit-out will be tailored around the bespoke requirements of an individual business, from the type of work done there to the colour of the vases in reception.

With detailed floorplans and spaces zoned and shaped by the needs of the occupier, CAT B fit-outs should result in a space that brings out the best in the people that use the space every day; a place they can thrive and do their best work in an environment that reflect their company values and aspirations.

It’s worth noting that the CAT A works may need to be modified during the CAT B works; both projects can be completed in parallel to reduce timescales, budgets and waste.

 

Examples of CAT B fit-outs

 

1. Xledger 13,216 sq ft

Xledger is a people-focused business and needed an office that could accommodate a variety of working styles. It was clear they needed a flexible multi-use space to cater to the differing needs of teams, all centred around a vibrant communal area.

The design honours their Scandinavian heritage whilst nodding to their hometown of Bristol.

Sustainability was a key driver for Xledger in their office fit-out, from subtle biophilia to 128 plants which exactly balance their CO2 emissions, natural materials and light wood tones, and a fully-fledged wellness room complete with peloton bikes.

See the full case study here.

 

2. Granger Reis 3,550 sq ft

After spending a lot of time working from home, Granger Reis wanted a beautiful and inviting space for people to enjoy. They needed a space which better represented their character and values, while offering their staff a destination workplace flexible enough to accommodate any kind of work.

During the fit-out we added partitions to help transform the open plan space into a functional ‘broken plan’ space. This was key to creating an environment which promotes collaboration and communication while balancing the need for privacy and fewer distractions. This also helps make the space feel larger its footprint would suggest.

Through interior styling and furnishings the space felt different from the minute you enter; as far removed as possible from old-fashioned ideas of an office.

See the full case study here.

 

Taking your next steps

 

Now you know the difference between a CAT A and CAT B fit-out, you’re probably ready to start planning. Contact us today to find out how Interaction could help you with your upcoming project.

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The five worst office design decisions you want to avoid making.

 

When designing your office, it’s always a good idea to take inspiration from exciting and innovative workspaces – to look at the best of the best and find out what elements might work for you too.

However, it’s just as important to know to avoid. Poor office design doesn’t just look bad, it has an adverse impact on employee wellbeing, reduces creativity and inhibits collaboration. Refrain from making these common design mistakes and you’ll be closer to creating a space that prioritises the health and happiness of your workforce.

To help you dodge any potential pitfalls, we’ve compiled a list of the five worst office design decisions you want to avoid making.

 

#1. A completely open plan office

 

Open plan offices are a response to the cubicles of the 90s and are meant to encourage bonding between employees. However, we now know that an open plan office is often inappropriate. The design can hinder concentration, creativity and productivity due to noise, interruptions, distractions and lack of privacy for all parties. For those who require the capacity to do deep, concentrated work, an open plan office can be highly disruptive.

Incorporating a variety of work settings, paired with an agile working approach, affords employees control over their working environment. The workplace needs to reflect differences in cognitive functioning, to help every person to concentrate, manage distractions, process information and communicate effectively. The ability to choose the level of both sensory and social exposure allows people to move to the most suitable environment for the task in hand, where they can function at their best. Sensory factors in the environment such as colour, sound, texture, lighting, temperature and smell can over or under stimulate people.

For some, being surrounded by noise and other people is essential for optimal functioning to do their best work, whereas others prefer quiet, sheltered areas. Booths, nooks, alcoves as well as neighbourhoods and clusters enable people to choose their level of noise and privacy. A balance between shared, open spaces that facilitate collaboration and smaller, enclosed settings that support focus work is important. Having a range of spaces allows people to manage their own needs and choose the surroundings in which they work best.

A ‘broken plan’ office is a good alternative for those who want the benefits of collaboration and ease of communication, while including greater privacy and fewer distractions. Well-designed broken plan offices will retain the feeling of space but integrate private areas for those who need peace and quiet to work.

#2. Poor lighting

 

Good lighting is like your IT department. When everything is running smoothly you rarely notice it, but when it’s not right it gives everybody a headache.

There is plenty of documented evidence to support how necessary good lighting is to a working environment. Poor light can cause headaches, eye strain and migraines. It can also affect mood, especially during the Winter months where we have shorter days and less daylight.

Decades of research have proven the powerful impact of lighting on health, wellbeing and productivity. 95% of our time is spent indoors on average, meaning good lighting is fundamental to office design. Light is not only needed to meet visual needs, but to sync our circadian rhythm. Sunlight regulates our internal body clock through photoreceptors in the retina, regulating the hormones responsible for our sleep/wake cycle. The balance of serotonin and melatonin can be linked to sleep quality, mood, alertness, appetite, mental health and other health conditions. Disruption due to poor lighting can impact health and wellbeing, increase fatigue and impede stress management. Lighting needs to be bright enough to support and maintain energy levels, mood regulation and sleep quality. At work, this translates to better performance, concentration and alertness, as well as fewer errors and absenteeism. Recent research has helped to develop indoor lighting that mimics the cycle of natural daylight, called bio-dynamic lighting. The artificial lighting changes colour and intensity over the course of the day, allowing the biological effects of natural daylight to be simulated inside.

Good lighting is one of the best ways to ensure a healthier and happier workforce. Incorporate a mixture of natural light and carefully designed lighting within your office, taking both the space and the task at hand into consideration. Don’t forget that your lighting needs to be compliant with emergency lighting guidelines.

#3. Ignoring human wellbeing

 

When agile working and employee wellbeing first became important to office design, designers liked to incorporate elements of play, often at the expense of anything else. There was a time on the early 90s when the offices of trendy companies were borderline indistinguishable from a sixth form common room, or even a toddler’s playgroup, with slides, beanbags and ball pools competing for space with boring stuff like desks.

Now many companies have developed a more mature and nuanced approach to wellbeing and health.  

Effective break rooms allow team members to relax and recharge, to find their creativity and increase their efficiency. A breakout space increases employee engagement by encouraging interpersonal interaction and team bonding[1]. This, in turn, increases employees trust in their environment and managers and improves happiness and efficiency.[2]

Promote physical wellbeing in the workplace by installing multiple areas for team members to move between. The World Green Building Council’s 2014 report Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in the Offices underlines the importance of taking time outrevealing workers who break for 10 minutes out of every 90 worked have 30% more focus, 46% more overall wellbeing and 50% more creativity. 

Of course, health is a key factor in wellbeing. The World Health Organisation recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. With many jobs being primarily desk-based, and the average person sitting for 9.5 hours per day, the detrimental effects of inactivity and sedentary behaviour need to be counterbalanced through more movement in the working day. Active travel, such as cycling, running or walking to work, can have a profound effect on our experience at work, helping us to feel more energised, improve performance, inspire creativity and manage stress better. It can have a significant impact on the happiness and health of the workforce.

The easiest way to form active habits is to make them part of our day. However the most significant barrier to active commutes is often a lack of facilities at work. Having a sufficient number of well maintained, pleasant showers, lockers, drying facilities and secure bicycle storage is crucial to motivate people to move away from driving to and from work.  

#4. Form not following function

 

The adage “Form follows function” was coined by architect Louis Sullivan in 1896, after he determined the shape of the first steel skyscraper by looking at its function rather than adhering to current styles. In the design world the phrase has come to symbolise a disregard of superfluous decoration. Even in the 21st century, it still holds weight, especially in an environment where aesthetics and functional design converge, such as the office. However, sometimes the aesthetic design of the workspace can hinder its functionality.

Intimidating design can lead team members to avoid certain spaces, which is particularly worrying if a space is designed to be used and enjoyed by employees or visitors. A cutting-edge, modern reception area might look sleek but it may not be inviting if the sofas aren’t comfortable. A break room that is not fit for purpose can lead staff to have lunch “al desko”. 

Spatial order and ease of wayfinding reduces the cognitive load needed to understand a space. By creating physical cues in the design such as edges, focal points, borders and paths, the intended use of the space is inferred, navigation is made easier and all spaces are utilised. 

#5. “Too bold” colour schemes

 

Like lighting, a good colour scheme will improve mood, mental clarity and creativity. The opposite is said for colour schemes that are too bold or contain clashing colours. They may be designed to make a strong statement and have an impact on your audience and visitors, but they could negatively affect your team. Bold colour schemes can contribute to mood changes and anxiety, especially when multiple colours are involved in the design. 

Use bold colours in moderation and separately if you’re looking for a strong impactful design. When looking for colours to cultivate creativity in your space, a study from the University of Texas found that blue and green encouraged innovation and promoted a calm working environment. 

Conclusion

 

Understand what contributes to bad office design and you can avoid letting it sneak into your workplace plans. At Interaction, we help organisations every step of the way from workplace strategy to office design services, fit-out and refurbishment to furniture consultancy. We ensure your office is a space in which your team thrives. Get in touch to find out more.

 

Sources

 

[1] de Been, I., Beijer, M., & den Hollander, D. (2015). How to cope with dilemmas in activity-based work environments: Results from user-centred research. In 14th EuroFM Research Symposium (pp.1–10). Glasgow

[2] Engelen, L., Chau, J., Young, S., Mackey, M., Jeyapalan, D., & Bauman, A. (2019). Is activity-based working impacting health, work performance and perceptions? A systematic review. Building Research & Information, 47(4), 468-479. DOI: 10.1080/09613218.2018.1440958

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Creative workspaces – and what makes them so inspiring

 

Office design is not a new concept. Artistic visionaries throughout history have carved out bespoke workspaces that provide them with the inspiration they need to produce their masterpieces.

At Interaction, we believe an ideal workspace should encourage creativity, collaboration and innovation. So why not take inspiration from some of our greatest creators? As the legendary actor Powers Boothe said, “the joy of a creative environment, without any restrictions, is hard to leave.”

Interaction’s Favourite Creative Workspaces

 

1. Jackson Pollock’s barn

 

Pollock’s studio was a barn on his Long Island property. The leader of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Pollock laid out his canvas on the floor to flick and spray paint across it from all angles, wanting to express “energy and motion made visible”. His paints and large brushes were kept on a moveable trolley to be easily at hand and, in time, his studio floor became covered in lines of paint. Now under the conservatorship of Stony Brook University, tours are given during the summer. Visitors can see the original barn floor, still covered in paint, transporting us back into the world of Jackson Pollock and providing a visual reminder of the artist in action.

Photo source: www.gucki.it

 

2. Roald Dahl’s shed

 

Roald Dahl was famous for writing tales from his garden shed. Unlike our clean desk culture today, Dahl’s shed was covered in family photographs, fan letters and other knick-knacks to inspire his work. He specially chose a comfortable armchair with a footstool tied to the legs and a makeshift table to sit across his lap. In the winter he’d climb into a sleeping bag to keep himself warm. He would write for two hours in the morning and another two in the afternoon – but he wouldn’t necessarily start right away. He was known for procrastinating and even demonstrated some of his favourite procrastination techniques on TV in 1979.

Photo source: www.anothermag.com

3. Virginia Woolf’s lodge

 

Woolf’s “writing lodge”, as she called it, was a garden shed in the grounds of her Sussex house. Her desk was normally littered with stacks of papers and manuscripts. Her workspace was said to get so cold during winters that she would be unable to hold her pen, but it looked out across the Downs and Mount Caburn, a view she enjoyed endlessly.

Including aspects of nature within a workspace has been a key office design concept in recent years, helping to purify the air and instil a sense of calm.

 

Photo source: Albert Knapp, Alamy

4. Mark Twain’s billiards room

 

Mark Twain loved billiards. So much so he used his billiards room in his Connecticut home as his office. When editing his manuscript pages, he frequently fanned them out over the green baize and used the billiards balls as paperweights.

Seems like Mark Twain was onto something. Perhaps he inspired the trend for pool tables in offices, which provide a social area where co-workers can relax between projects.

Photo source: Jim Bourg, Reuters

5. Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio

 

O’Keeffe’s studio was based in her house in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Much tidier than a typical artist’s studio, her huge windows looked out over the garden and the cottonwood trees along the Chama river, which she would immortalise in her beautiful paintings.

While we might not all have a view like O’Keeffe’s in our offices, windows bring in natural daylight and enhance productivity and psychological wellbeing, according to research. In fact, a survey in the Harvard Business Review, showed that employees rated natural daylight and views to the outdoors as the number one attribute of the workplace environment, outranking all other perks.

 

Photo source: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

6. Pablo Picasso’s villa

 

Picasso created some of his most innovative pieces in his studio at his famous Cannes villa, ‘La Californie’. The expansive space accommodated many of his unfinished works which he could move between depending on his mood. In this large space he could create enormous works of art, including sculptures on folded metal sheets, folded paper and wooden models. While the estate has undergone many renovations under new ownership, the studio has been left untouched – where traces of Picasso’s paint can still be found on the walls.

 

Photo source: Mark Shaw, Villa La Californie, Cannes

7. Mark Zuckerberg’s… desk.

 

You may think that the founder of Facebook would have a private office. But no, Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of an open plan office which he believes enables better communication and collaboration among employees. Always accessible, he sits on the same floor as other Facebook employees with no partitions in sight. Maybe not one of our favourite creative spaces – but an undeniably important insight into the workplace mindset of one of the world’s most powerful men.

The open plan office certainly achieved ubiquity, but many studies show it might not provide the best work environment. Today, we’re fans of the broken plan office, where collaborative spaces sit alongside specific areas that facilitate concentrated work.

Photo source: www.fossbytes.com

 

The Rise of Creative Spaces

 

While time on our own can be highly creative, we miss collaboration and team building – even more so with remote working. Over the past decade there has been a growing movement towards collaborative spaces where people can connect and engage with colleagues.

Frequent workspace design features include creative break-out spaces to encourage informal connections and enable people to relax before working on new ideas.

Some recent creative spaces that we’ve created for our clients include:

  • Rethink Group’s new breakout space which features a pool-table and comfortable furniture to help employees socialise and recharge.
  • An in-house show room at Wild & Wolf’s office to display their high-quality products and provide continuous inspiration for in-house designers
  • A multi-use space for Xledger to promote a culture where “most meetings are conversations”. Where better to have those conversations than in a space with a roof-top bar, putting green and all-weather outdoor TV?

We all work in different ways, so it follows that creating a workplace that suits our work patterns should be a top priority. At Interaction, we know that building the right workspaces to support your team in their creativity allows your budding O’Keeffe’s, Pollocks and possibly Zuckerbergs to thrive.

Find out how we do this here.

 

Did you like this? Watch our webinar on ‘Can Creativity Survive Remote Working’ on our YouTube channel here.

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Webinar

Can Creativity Survive Remote Working?

Watch our webinar where we discuss the impact of COVID-19 on creativity with some of media and marketing’s brightest minds.

We’ll explore the links between human connection and creativity, examine how leadership can create environments that encourage great ideas and offer some practical tips for reigniting your creative spark to emerge from lockdown guns blazing.

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What the world’s leading thinkers can tell us about how and where we work 

 

The idea of designing workplaces to increase the productivity, health and wellbeing of the workforce may seem like a modern innovationbut ever since the enforced end of “sweated” home work by the 1909 Trade Boards Actat best workplaces have been evolving into shared spaces united by a philosophy of social connection and better working conditions as much as increased output.  

However, even before that people have been thinking deeply about the meaning of workever since the first caveperson traded a stick for a slightly longer stick.  

Although philosophers have grappled with some of the humanitys most pressing issues, including the possibility that AI will achieve consciousnessand which crisps taste the best, many, such as Alain de Botton, have taken on the world of work; what it means to us and how we build our lives and sense of self around it.  

In this blog, we’re taking that one stage further to look at the philosophy of great workplace design  and what some of the world’s greatest thinkers have had to say about it.  

The foundations of workspace philosophy

 

The foundation of western philosophy begins with Ancient Greece. No civilisation has produced more world-class thinkers than this cornerstone of the ancient world. Chief among these Greek thinkers was Aristotle, who had a lot to say about the workplace.  

Aristotle made a specific distinction between poiesis and praxis 

Praxis is action that is done for its own sake. Poiesis is work aimed at making something usefulan action with a purpose 

At Interaction we believe people thrive when they they’re in an environment that’s conducive to creating meaningful work, so although we may not have always know the name for it, we’ve been advocates of poiesis from the day of our first project 28 years ago.  

In a similar vein, we also like to remind ourselves not to Confuse Motion for Action.  

With complex, fast-moving projects, it’s important to keep a holistic overview of all the moving parts and ensure that every action we take has maximum effect, whether on value, completion speed or client satisfaction. We use tools like ProCore and Revit to map and communicate the impact of every tiny change in real time to all stakeholders, ensuring we deliver what we call perfection at pace 

Another ancient Greek, Epicurusbelieved the very best way to work was to look for the modest and sustainable pleasure of ataraxia, which is tranquillity and fearlessness, as well as aponia, which means painlessness.  

Every workforce has different concepts of tranquillity and pleasure, which is why we adopt a peoplecentric approach to design. We base our work on the ways that your staff actually use the workplace, as opposed to the ways they ought to use it.  

We increase the aponia of the workspace by removing any niggling pains that it might cause. This can include solutions such as a great tech infrastructure or fresh air systems, through to carefully planned areas for every aspect of an organisations work. 

To improve the ataraxia of your organisation we concentrate on designing destination officesWorkspaces that encourage positivity by making your staff want to come to work every day, even in a highpressure environment. This helps create a culture that inspires fearlessness through collaboration and creativity. We like to build in ‘deep working spaces’, wellness rooms, and use indoor plants to promote biophilia – the philosophical belief that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. 

Defining the self and building community

 

It’s not just the ancient Greeks who had strong views on the workplace. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is one of the most influential and fundamental figures in Western philosophy. Hegel argued that status, in modern society, depends on the public recognition of our skills and achievements within the arena of the workplace. Hegel saw human beings as self-creating through work, applying “intelligent effort” to nature to transform it into something that serves them. Alexandre Kojeve’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel puts it like this:  

The product of work is the worker’s production. It is the realization of his project, of his idea; hence, it is he that is realized in and by this product, and consequently he contemplates himself when he contemplates it…. Therefore, it is by work, and only by work, that man realizes himself objectively as man. 

The workplace for Hegel was a space where people could come together to forge common goals and develop meaningful relationships based on these.  

In the Philosophy of Right he also foresaw the inevitability of modern automation: The abstraction of one man’s production from another’s makes labour more and more mechanical, until finally man is able to step aside and install machines in his place.

These issues are still hyper-relevant, especially in today’s changing workplace, where communities of conscious life can be created online, and new methods of collaboration are perfected every day. Technology has altered the way we work and made us more mobile. This means workplace design has to evolve with the times and help businesses focus on protecting their culture and communityas many employees are connecting virtually.  

Ubuntu, a Zulu term meaning “humanity” provides a useful philosophical framework to approach this problem; it’s often translated as “I am because we are.” 

Desmond Tutu described a person with Ubuntu as being open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are diminished.”  

Nelson Mandela gives a further example:  

Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve? 

It’s vital that businesses understand the power of their culture and community and provide spaces which enhance and develop these to cement the foundations of growth.  

Collaboration leads to success

 

The French sociologist Emil Durkheim noted that we come to a better appreciation of the need to co-operate with others through our participation in the workplace, while the American philosopher John Dewey observed that co-operative problem solving in the workplace provides vital training for the citizens of a healthy democracy.  

What lies at the heart of both of these views is the overwhelming importance of collaboration. Our workspaces are designed specifically for every person who comes together to work in them. We make certain each of our projects is a collaborative process that brings out the very best teamwork in your workforce.  

At Interaction, we pride ourselves on bringing the best talent to work on your workplace design. That’s why we take such inspiration from the best minds in history. Though there is a lot to learn from philosophers throughout the ages, at the heart of all our work is one simple philosophy – great workspaces make for great workplaces.  

 

Interested in our workplace philosophy?  

Contact our Head of Research and Strategy, Deborah Wilder: Deborah.Wilder@interaction.uk.com

 

Written by Nathan Harris, Lead Designer at Interaction.

Email Nathan | LinkedIn Profile

 

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The impact of Choice Architecture on culture 

 

In 2008 Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein shone light on a theory which has been quietly underpinning the advertising industry since its inception.  

Their book Nudge – Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness introduced the concept of Choice Architecture. Presumably prompting many ad execs to break out in cold sweats as Thaler and Sunstein revealed the explicit ways marketers use psychology to part us from our cash.  

Psychologists have known for a long time that telling people how to behave is not effective. Even showing them does not always lead to people adopting specific behaviours.  

Trickier still, decades of psychological research have shown that providing people with information can be effective in changing their attitudesbut this will not always be predictive of behaviour 

Several theories focus on the power of context to explain this discrepancy between attitude and behaviour. In other words, our environment influences our behaviour more than we might think. 

How a workplace impacts culture 

 

Most people instinctively understand that their environment influences their behaviour. The smell of citrus, pine or fresh coffee sells houses. And if a space is already messy we’re far less likely to put things away. However, when it comes to office space, it’s easy to underestimate the many subtle features which can prompt specific behaviours. 

Let’s think about it in a slightly different way. If your offices are rigidly designed with glass spaces for executives and a closed-door policy, you won’t be promoting the open conversations, creativity or collaboration that is likely to occur in a more relaxed and informal environment.  

Equally, if you want to encourage conversations across departments, where you place your coffee and kitchen facilities will help facilitate those chance encounters that start to build relationships and connections.  

If you want to encourage cross-working between different floors, how you connect those floors is important. A lift lobby won’t give you what you need, but a central staircase that brings people into each other’s working space will.  

Team Eleven’s central staircase.

These physical changes to an environment can have a big impact on people’s behaviour 

At Interaction we look at the culture that businesses want to create and then consider the behaviours they need to promote to reach their business objectives. 

This forms part of the workplace strategy that can inform and influence every stage of the design, build and fit-out of the offices we create 

Understanding human behaviour

 

The theory of Choice Architecture is based on three key aspects 

    1. How options are presented.  
    2. How they evoke particular associations (and the benefits that result from a decision) 
    3. Making one option significantly easier to choose than others.  

When it comes to designing behaviours into the workplace, we can subtly use this framework to inspire people to make better choices. For example, when it comes to things like health, collaboration and even creativity. However, there are other methods too  

Nudge theory was explored by Richard Shotton in his fascinating book The Choice Factory. Shotton identified 25 specific traits of human behaviour that influence how people respond to adverts. It’s an interesting read with some crossover to behaviour in the workplace.  

 

The fundamental attribution error 

Shotton describes a classic experiment. Forty trainee Catholic priests were separated into three groups. One group was told they were late for an urgent meeting. Another was told they needed to attend the meeting immediately. The final group was told they had a few minutes to spare. On their way to the meeting, they passed a person in distress.  

Only those who felt like they had time to spare stopped to help.  

The objective of the experiment was not to test the priests willingness to help. It was to demonstrate that context contributed to their behaviour. As Shotton says, “There’s the tendency to overestimate the importance of personality, and underestimate that of context.” 

In the workplace environment, we need to be aware of context and its impact on behaviour. Biophilia and connections with nature, relaxing spaces and carefully thought-through foot flow can create an atmosphere conducive to knowledge-sharing and collaboration. However, a business with a focus on heads-down individual work, or a competitive sales culture, may need a different space. One that is more defined, with focussed lighting and clearly delineated private spaces.  

Hanging biophilia in Xledger’s office.

 

Social proof 

If you see a group of people standing around a tree and looking up, you will crane your neck to see what they’re looking at. This is just the same when you’re in a supermarket and you reach for the marketleading brand. We naturally do what we see or know others do.  

This is demonstrated in a workplace environment. We mirror the behaviours of others around us. If we see that people get rewarded for behaving in a certain way, we are likely to adopt the behaviour ourselves 

We can consider this when designing out sedentary behaviour. Whether it’s group Pilates sessions, set paths for walking meetings, cleverly situated tea points or simply a leadership culture of walking the floors and always taking the stairs.  

In his 1979 book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, psychologist James Gibson outlines Affordance Theory. This is the idea that clues in our environment suggest possibilities for action, and these clues change with the intentions and capabilities of those within that environment. 

For instance a small set of stairs will form an impenetrable barrier to a crawling child at their base, but will provide a seat for a tired child or a way to get to the floor above for an adult.  

From this we can understand that the same aspect of the environment provides different “affordances” to different people.  

In the workplace this translates to having multi-use objects and areas with clear wayfinding design elements. These might take the form of paths or edges to help users subconsciously see all possible uses of the space.  

Some other factors to consider include:  

  • Sit/stand desks can (of course) encourage less sitting. 
  • Desks placed on carpet islands nudge people not to walk on the carpet, keeping a COVID-safe distance from the desk.  
  • Limiting the number of rubbish disposal points on a floor means people have to get up and move to throw waste away. 
  • Less printers mean people walk more (and don’t print without thinking) 
  • Standing areas can encourage standing meetings, which have been proven to be shorter in duration and often more efficient.  

 

Distinctiveness 

As human beings we are hardwired to notice what is unusual. We will quickly spot a person with a pink Mohican on a train full of suited commuters. While we might easily be able to see this application in advertising, how does it apply to the workplace?  

brand personality is conveyed externally through marketingEqually, how the brand lives is reflected across a business’s workspace – both by aligning with the external brand for the sake of visitors, and by cementing the employee brand to those who work in the building.  

Often, it’s tiny touches that really bring a brand’s spaces to life, from furniture and furnishings to the art on the walls and the naming of the meeting rooms. In order to build a strong, well-integrated culture, it’s vital that business ensure brands consistency across their space, giving those that use the space a collective sense of a distinctive identity.  

 

Habit 

A lot has been written about the acceleration of change in the workplace. And 2021 will see this continue as a hot topic.  

In recent years, there has been a changed understanding of the office and its purpose. The importance of community, belonging, flexibility and dynamic arrangements have all been heightened. This year has highlighted even more what we value most about the office – what the workplace does best; collaboration and culture.  

Our working days have been shaped by a new work environment with different environmental nudges; the lure of a comfy chair, the short walk to the fridge, the perceived ease of sending another email rather than walking to someone’s desk or making a call. 

When we return to the office it’s possible our unconscious habits will have adjusted, so the workplace may have to adjust accordingly.  

On a fundamental level, people are creatures of routine. We easily adopt the same morning routine. Sleeping on the same side of the bed. Stepping into our trousers with the same leg every time. 

2020 has forced us to change our habits. And it’s been eye-opening to see how quickly people can adapt to new situations. We know that change is a constant. And if we want to keep changing and adapting, we’re going to have to learn to break our habits and navigate through disruption.  

However, disruption isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it might be vital for the long-term success of a business.  

Harvard Business Review article Change for Change’s Sake put this clearly: 

“A company periodically needs to shake itself up, regardless of the competitive landscape. Even if the external environment is not changing in ways that demand a response, the internal environment probably is. The human dynamics within an organization are constantly shifting — and require the organization to change along with them.  

“Over time, informal networks mirror the formal structure, which is how silos develop. Restructuring gets people to start forming new networks, making the organization as a whole more creative. It also disrupts all the routines in an organization that collectively stifle innovation and adaptability.” 

 

Positive disruption 

Disruption is of course difficult – it breaks habits. Habits which generally allow us to free up space in our brain to make decisions. We rely on mental shortcuts, called judgmental heuristics, to ease our cognitive load, enabling us to make quick decisions with little conscious effort. But we know that just doing the ‘same old’ is dangerous when it comes to business. 

Nudges in the physical environment can exploit or reprogram these judgmental heuristics to guide the desired behavioural outcome. These nudges can help a company manoeuvre through times of disruption while creating new ways of working, tackling challenges and unspoken norms.  

We can use nudge theory in workplace design to reflect our changing habits and needs.  

Spaces can be evolved by creating designs that enable desired behavioural changes  more focus on facilitating togetherness and social behaviours or, more measurably, higher staff retentionfewer sick days or better Glassdoor scores. 

A space to thrive

 

At Interaction wbelieve everyone should have a space in which they can thrive.  

This leads us to enable some of the world’s best work by creating the world’s best workspaces, built to encourage positive behaviours at every level.  

If you’d like to change the way your company works, get in touch today.  

 

Written by Charlie Moss, Relationship Manager at Interaction.

Email Charlie | LinkedIn Profile

 

 

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We are more sedentary than ever

 

As we find ourselves in the midst of another lockdown, most of us have returned to working exclusively from home. With no commute and no other reason to leave the house, other than for essentials and exercise, many are moving from bed to desk, perhaps going a whole day without venturing further than the fridge. We are more sedentary than ever before. Sitting at a screen has been the sole method of working, relaxing and socialising for months on end – the “zoom fatigue” has been real. As a result, we are sitting more and moving less.

Sedentary lifestyles: the key facts

 

  • 1 in 4 are physically inactive (WHO2018). 
  • 4th leading risk factor for mortality (WHO, 2018). 
  • 29% of all sickness absences in 2018/19 were accounted for by musculoskeletal conditions (Health & Safety Executive). 
  • 80% of adults are estimated to experience low back pain in their lifetime (Rubin, 2007).
  • 32x per day you need to alternate between sitting and standing to mitigate the effects of prolonged sitting (Vernikos et al., 1996).

 

The risks

 

It is estimated that four in five people have experienced musculoskeletal problems since the shift to WFH. Results from our survey in March 2020 revealed that 36% did not have a good ergonomic set up at home. In addition to poor posture, sitting for long periods of time puts stress on the spinal muscles and discs, reducing their protective resistance and increasing the risk of chronic back and neck problems that an estimated 1 in 5 will experience per year (Rubin, 2007). By going from sitting to standing, the body is exposed to gravity which helps to engage spinal muscles and to slow muscle and bone atrophy as a function of ageing.

Known as the ‘silent killer’ and coined ‘the new smoking,’ research has shown that physical inactivity puts us at a higher risk of developing a multitude of long-term health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. It’s also responsible for slowing metabolism, increasing blood pressure and accelerating the deterioration of muscles and bones.

The quick fix: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

 

We’re not saying the key to mitigate the risks is by doing rigorous, high intensity exercise. A 30 min HIIT session isn’t going to balance out the effects of sitting at your laptop for 8 hours. It’s the small, everyday movements which break up periods of prolonged sitting that protect our bodies from the risk factors of being sedentary, otherwise known as NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). NEAT metabolises the bulk of our energy during the day aside from when we’re sleeping, eating or exercising.  

 

Getting up once in a while for just a few minutes engages our muscles, bones and ligaments, as well as stimulating our blood flow and metabolism – responsible for regulating blood pressure and sugar levels. Research has shown that we should aim to alternate between sitting and standing at least 32 times a day to protect against the effects of being sedentary (Vernikos et al., 1996). The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines report recommends breaking up long periods of sitting time with activity for just 1 to 2 minutes to keep the metabolic processes in the body functioning healthily. Moving more also helps to boost self-esteem, mood and energy levels, crucial in a time when it’s more important than ever to take care of our health. 

NEAT habits

 

The best way to reduce sedentary periods at work is to make being active and moving a part of the job. Design should facilitate and promote everyday movements such as standing up from the desk, using the stairs and having to move to use the facilities. Agile working affords control over our working environment, and having a variety of settings such as collaboration and quiet focus areas encourages people to move around their workplace. The result is a healthier, happier and energised workforce.

 

Examples of NEAT include; climbing the stairs, opening a door, gardening, standing up, cleaning, cooking.

 

NEAT while WFH; 

  • Use a small glass so that you have to get up more often to refill it 
  • Set a reminder in your calendar or phone to move every 30 mins 
  • Stand up or walk during telephone calls or meetings  
  • Alternate between sitting and standing desks (tip: improvise by using the kitchen counter or ironing board as a desk) 
  • Go for a walk at lunch time (if you’re in Bristol, why not try this walk?)

 

NEAT in the office; 

  • Park further away from the office or get off the bus at an earlier stop 
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift  
  • Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing or calling 
  • Use the bathroom on a different floor 
  • Agile working – switch workstations throughout the day 
  • Eat lunch away from the desk 

 

To conclude…

 

By raising awareness around the risks of sedentary lifestyles we can all make a conscious effort to break up prolonged periods of sitting at our desks. Which activity will you incorporate into your day? Let us know on social: Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook

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2020 made many businesses re-evaluate their workplace strategy: we certainly have been busier than ever advising and consulting with clients.

 

Although the changes brought about by the sustained onslaught of COVID-19 have affected every business differently, there are few that won’t benefit from taking this second lockdown as an opportunity in which to think carefully about the way they approach their culture, their ways of working and their workplace strategy.  

Now is the time to think carefully about what you want for the future, whatever it holds.  

In my end of year blog, we looked back on the lessons learnt during 2020.  

Here we delve into some of the key things that businesses will be considering in 2021 and beyond, all of which push us to think in new ways about workplace strategy and design. 

Alternative spaces

 

Understandably, many businesses are looking for alternative ways to shape the space they need. Some are looking to keep the same square footage but reduce they days they use it – possibly sharing space every with another business utilising it on different days.

Some may work remotely for the majority of a month but come together for a week of intensive collaboration. This creates great opportunity for multi-use developments which could combine workspace with hotel accommodationleisure and hospitality for a fully immersive experience.

Freedom and flexibility will be key for many businesses, meaning landlords are focused on alternative solutions to traditional longterm leases with associated longterm liabilities and endofterm dilapidation costs.  The flexible office providers who offer shorter leases and more adaptable spaces will continue to be in a strong position

Larger businesses (typically with a capitalcity focusare looking at workspace hub and spoke strategieswhere a potentially smaller main office is the hubwith a dispersed team working from smaller satellite offices or their own homes, coming together to meet and collaborate. 

This model will bode well for regional cities and larger towns where there will be a shift from London to more distributed hubs.  

In the shortterm, employers are asking when our workspace opens back up, what will it take to encourage employees back in? But there is a longerterm strategy to consider.  Businesses are asking themselves some tough questions:  

    • Do my people have the right environment to work from home?  
    • How do we safeguard and grow our company culture when we’re seeing each other face to face less?  
    • Can my team be creative and productive if we only come together occasionally? 
    • Is there a need for smaller hubs where people can collaborate effectively?  
    • Do I want a long-term lease where I’m responsible for everything but where I have security?  
    • Do I want a shorter lease, probably at a higher cost, but less liability?  
    • Are there alternative ways of working where I can rent out space as a service rather than being tied to premises?  

The reality is that businesses need to spend time considering these questions. Because we’re not just talking about space. We’re talking about the culture the leaders will be creating.  

If you’re committing to an office lease for five years or more – and you get it wrong – the challenge could be costly and take time to resolve.  

Culture is the thing that keeps your business going. It is the people and the interactions between them that make most businesses work effectively.  

If you make long-term decisions that don’t consider all the evidence, or if you don’t consider what’s particularly unique about your situation, then your culture will be eroded – and it might not be noticed until it’s too late.   

It’s not about Instagram; it’s about wellbeing. 

 

Of course, many workplaces are designed to look amazing, but 2021 will continue to highlight that there are many important factors beyond aesthetics.  

The impact of the coronavirus on our collective mental health has yet to be mapped out, but we’ve never been more aware of the need to protect our wellbeing and state of mind.  

Top talent will gravitate towards those companies that take their holistic wellbeing seriously, providing them with employee experiences that prioritise mental and physical health both in the workplace and when working from home. 

Make your office a destination

 

A shift has occurred in the relationship between organisations and their people

Employees feel they should be able choose whether to come to the office or not. That igoing to change but needs to be managed to ensure the best outcome for both parties As a business leader you have to create the opportunity, and the needfor them to come into your workspace. There is absolutely no point in people spending the time and money to commute to work only to have them sit in a corner working away.

As soon as people enter your workplace, there should be a sense of welcome, energy and communityOf course, they need to feel it’s a safe place to do great work.  Equally, they need to come into the space and feel like it’s a great place to be. Somewhere they can make connections, enjoy the social frameworkget great work done together, have a better coffee than they would have at home 

Or as Brittney Van Matre,Nike’s director of workplace strategy and operations puts it: “a kickass headquarters with a lot of amenities and a super slick experience” or “a really unique experience that you can’t get anywhere else.” We’ve always said that the office has to be a destination, and this is more important now than ever before.  

When lockdown lifts, your office has to be somewhere people want to go to talk and meet. It is a key factor in attracting and retaining staff.  

As we enter 2021, we need our people to be engaged, energised and focussedWe’ll need creativity and collaboration to ensure we can tackle the challenges ahead.  

We need to come together as individuals around the common purposes that unite us.  

Understanding where and how we work together will be defining factors in how we build on the learnings of the last year and thrive in the year ahead.  

Get it right – with the best people in a space that inspires greater collective outcome – and in the next post-COVID economic cyclethe opportunities for success will be great. 

 

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Workplace design for the modern employee can be complex…

 

…and how an office space is designed can greatly influence staff productivity, wellbeing and motivation.

The Modern Office

 

For most people, the workplace is their second home. It’s where the majority of the week and one third of our lives is spent, so it’s unsurprising that employees have come to expect more than a desk and chair from their everyday workplace experience.

Workplace design has become a major USP for people-centric employers as they strive to recruit and retain their industry’s most talented individuals and unlock significant productivity gains. Standout offices regularly make national news, with companies like Google, Lego and Airbnb garnering widespread attention for their creative designs including napping pods, state-of-the-art gyms and play areas that wouldn’t look out of place in a nursery.

However, despite the novelty of on-site slides, complementary cafes, picnic areas and game zones, what do employees really want from a work environment and how far does the ideal workplace transcend beyond the office’s four walls?

Comfort is key

 

People perform at their best when they are comfortable.  This knowledge is already being acted upon as the design of UK workspaces mirrors popular non-working environments, such as cafes, lounges and kitchen table settings.

Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, organisations are also creating new spaces that cater to different working styles in order to strike a balance between effective and efficient working. It is, in effect, recognising the increasingly personalised experience that today’s technologies offer. By offering a blend of different spaces, workers are given the opportunity to pick an area that matches their mood or the type of project they’re working on. Brainstorms and team catch-ups are best over a coffee in more relaxed and creative settings, but for detailed work and quiet study a more private and calm space is required. Empowering people to move around the office and work in a way that suits them – as opposed to feeling tied to their desks – breeds trust, productivity and creativity; three values that are integral to business success.

A 2017 report by JLL – Workplace, Powered by Human Experience – revealed that the average business uses 48% of its space for dedicated workplace seats, with the other 52% set aside for alternative working areas. Not so long ago, the majority of offices’ breakout spaces would have been a kitchen area or meeting room rather than a dedicated and carefully curated space – a clear demonstration of the modern workplace undergoing significant change for the better.

 

Flex appeal

Workplace design is evolving and in today’s fast-paced digital society, these changes are driven by the adoption of new technologies. Just as our homes are becoming more tech-enabled, so too is the workplace.  Now that employees are adept at using smartphones, tablets and other intuitive and collaborative technologies on a day-to-day basis, they expect workplace solutions that are equally user-friendly and are shunning traditional enterprise-led software in place of more familiar programmes such as FaceTime, Dropbox and even WhatsApp.

Employers that embrace this consumerisation of the workplace express a willingness for employees to work flexibly, which will be met with heightened efficiency and an all-round more engaged workforce. Research by YouGov has revealed that 89% of British employees consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity, so the ability to tap into work remotely, from any location and at any time of day without compromising efficiency is an attractive prospect for the modern worker.

But where does increased workplace mobility leave the future of office design and how can employers create a working environment that people want to spend time in?

A key consideration is to support a wide range of devices and how they are used. Increasingly, people favour using portable technologies such as notepads and tablets, so the need to dedicate large amounts of floor space to formal desking and fixed desktops is diminishing dramatically.

A range of meeting rooms with intuitive collaboration and meeting technologies now often has more relevance than formal boardrooms or individual offices and centralised, well-equipped, open areas with comfortable seating and creative design cater for transient workers and those working collaboratively.

Providing a range of working environments is important for staff wellbeing and productivity. Having that choice of how and where to work allows individuals and teams to work according to their mood, style and circumstance. Here is a shot of a rocket shaped meeting pod we installed for Rocketmakers, acting as a central part of their office space encouraging collaboration.

As the boundaries between home and work merge, it becomes even more important to recognise the need for relaxation and sociability too – providing spaces for company culture to thrive and people to come together to forge valuable personal and professional connections.  Whether it’s on-site cafes,  a range of chill-out or tech free zones, areas for lunchtime activities or outdoor spaces for quiet reflection – diversity is an important component of the modern workplace.

Greater personalisation can be expected too as more smart building technologies are rolled out. Not only can these technologies take centralised control of core functions such as heating and lighting to improve environmental sustainability, they can also offer a more bespoke experience for users. Thanks to improved connectivity, Big Data and the Internet of Things, smart building technologies can verify employee identity, allocate parking spaces, provide building entry by recognising a car registration and even assign work settings based on tasks and personal heat, lighting and acoustic preferences.

A strategically designed office that is planned with the modern employee in mind offers an entire workforce — remote or otherwise — the optimum environment to build connections with colleagues, host clients with pride and choose the workplace experience that is right for them. In turn, this improves employee satisfaction and demonstrates a commitment to future proofing the workplace for maximum commercial success.

Has something you’ve read here sparked an interest? Do you want to find out more about how we could help you improve your employee experience through office design? Why not get in touch? For more information about office design have a flick through some of our other insights here.

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Pro-working; an effective solution beyond co-working 


We have all witnessed the emergence and remaining dominance of co-working workplaces globally, but where do we go from there? We touched on co-working in a previous Insight article, and discussed the pros and cons. It was concluded that co-working with a balanced and considered office design is beneficial for businesses who thrive on internal and external collaboration, in particular tech companies.

Co-working is not the be all and end all, and a one-size-fits-all approach cannot work with the multiplicity of small businesses that exist in a diverse range of industries. As a result, unique solutions are occurring that take the principles of co-working, and tailor them to suit a different kind of business. The term Pro-working, or ‘Professional-Working’ addresses some of the issues with co-working, and its emergence is an important addition to how businesses can function.

What is pro-working? 

 

A new set of standards for a unique way of working has materialised, but what is pro-working? Pro-working addresses some of the issues that can occur from co-working. Co-working is set up to house informal startups, with an open and specific focus on collaboration, networking and knowledge sharing. This approach works for many, but the problem occurs when a business also needs privacy, a sense of identity, and a space appropriate for client facing opportunities. Pro-working provides a solution for businesses such as these, enabling occupiers to have everything taken care of, to focus on only the most important aspects of the business. 

Pro-working takes aspects of the hospitality industry and applies them to the working environment, by providing a high-end service including concierges, a dedicated team to look after calls and greet clients, mailing rooms and private meeting spaces. With many business owners now looking for the highest quality space that they can find to attract and retain talent, increase productivity, and ultimately find an ideal space for their business to grow, pro-working is an attractive proposition. To demonstrate this, we look at a real-world example of pro-working in action. 

Taking pro-working to the next level 

Interaction recently designed and built a 13,000 sq ft space in Bath for Clarendon Business Centres that takes pro-working to the next level. Julian Cooper (pictured above), Managing Director of Clarendon Business Centres discusses working with Interaction to create an inspirational pro-working hub:

 

Q: What prompted your decision to bring a pro-working space to Bath, and generally?

 

A: My team and I had been looking for a sizeable and suitable space in Bath for a number of years; somewhere that was central but also large enough to accommodate different sized office spaces, breakout and meeting areas. When we came across Cambridge House, it ticked every box and had the potential for us, with the help of Interaction, to transform it into a luxurious working environment in an area that is a thriving hub for growing businesses. 

 

Q: Why is pro-working an effective solution beyond co-working?

 

A: Co-workers and pro-workers both look to collaborate, network, exchange skills and knowledge share. Pro-working adds value by providing a surrounding that will ensure clients get the best first impression of your working environment, and have no uncertainty about the integrity and competency of your business. Providing an inspirational working environment for businesses will not only attract and retain the best staff but often results in higher morale. With the selection of different sized offices, productivity is higher as you are guaranteed privacy. By elevating these facilities, we’re giving businesses quality foundations to help them grow and continue to be successful. At Clarendon we provide flexible working and offer our clients the flexibility to use us on a daily, weekly or monthly rate basis. 

 

Q: What do you see for the future of pro-working?

A: I certainly see more companies having higher expectations when they look at office space. The UK is the leading global serviced office sector, with the largest and most mature market, accounting for over a third (36%) of the worldwide serviced office footprint. The main contributing factors that have made pro-working as successful as it is comes down to office space that is, in a prime and accessible location, high-quality and stylish interior, friendly and professional front of house staff and a safe and secure working environment with onsite facilities such as showers and breakout areas. 

All office workers expect to have IT facilities and spacious offices, but it is the extra details that raises this to another level, and these factors certainly contribute to the rise and continuing prevalence of pro-working. 

 

Conclusion  

 

Pro-working fills a gap that allows small businesses to thrive in a professional and high-end environment, but it will not be for everyone. This will not be the end of co-working, the two will continue to coexist to serve distinct purposes. Pro-working will become increasingly popular, as this model offers a more professional and corporate environment compared to traditional serviced offices or co-working spaces, and aids in helping small to medium businesses thrive. 

 

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