Archive: Dec 2016

‘Why offices should be open to the local community’ by PETER CRUSH, published in ’The Future Office’ report

Strolling around 700 Bourke Street in Melbourne, home to National Australia Bank, and visitors could be forgiven for thinking they’re in a shopping centre not an office. The ground-floor “village” has racks for 600 bicycles, a pedestrian forecourt that funnels into a pyramidal central atrium, there’s a rooftop garden and people can even stop for a coffee, access the free wi-fi and rub shoulders with the bank’s 6,000 staff.

Designed by Woods Bagot, the 63,000sqm building heralds what many believe the modern workplaces now needs to be – a place that doesn’t just house staff, but involves the local community.

“Australia is about eight years ahead of the rest of the world,” says Anthony Brown, Sales and Marketing Director at BW: Workplace Experts. “But more and more buildings are now incorporating areas they want the community to embrace.” And, according to Mr Brown and other experts, this dual-use is as much being driven by employers as it is by architects and town planners.

“The new premise is that a building should be part of the community,” says Matthew Blain, design leader and principal at design practice Hassell. “Not only is this because employers want to attract people as potential employees from the local area, but there is a growing sense they should give back to the community they occupy too. In particular, the young have different demands about what they expect buildings to do; they see community participation as an important reason for choosing an employer in the first place.”

“Place making”

Chris Hiatt, director of London real estate developer Landid, says: “There is no distinction between work and life anymore, which means buildings need more public-like amenities.” But the overwhelming reason is to achieve what architects are increasingly calling “place-making”.

According to Colin Macgadie, creative director at building design consultancy BDG: “Employers are wanting to break down the ‘ivory tower’ view of offices. It’s crazy most workspaces stand empty after 6pm through to 8am the following morning. Giving an office area back to the community after hours, or even during the day, keeps a building vibrant, gives it more of a purpose, keeps the neighbourhood exciting.”

Mr Hiatt adds: “Employers no longer know what their day-to-day headcounts are. As buildings are already morphing into places to meet people rather than be home to desks, the view is why shouldn’t the public enjoy this meeting space too?”

With his team he is working on buildings designed specifically to incorporate public space and invite community participation. These include the Charter Building in Uxbridge, west London.

Mr Macgadie has done extensive work with ad agency WPP developing their Ideal Office concept globally. The latest project will redevelop the Rivierstaete building on the banks of the Amstel River in Amsterdam.

Other new developments include the soon-to-open White Collar Factory development in London, which specifically features a mix of office, retail and residential space, plus a new public square to be called Old Street Yard. Created by regeneration company, Derwent London, White Collar Factory comprises 237,000sqft of office space, but there will be 56,000sqft of public campus-style areas.

Derwent’s director Simon Silver says: “This is about creating a new type of office environment. The public space is literally a place people can go. It’s about the office being untethered and more immersive.”

What community means

But the concept of the multi-functional, communal office is developing so fast that the very idea of “community” is itself changing too and is now being extended to include much more than the immediate population.

“We’re also seeing community being used to talk about the inclusion of a firm’s clients, partners and suppliers,” says Mr Macgadie. “In this sense, we’re talking about their sector-specific ‘extended community’.

“In 2015, KPMG opened the KPMG Club in Grosvenor Street, London, a free-to-use place to work. Crucially, it’s not just for KPMG staff, but for clients and suppliers too. It’s not a public community space as such, but it’s a destination place for a wider set of people. I think very quickly, the vernacular of ‘the place’ – a space that is a unique place to go to and work at as well as hang out in – will become normal.”

The question is, of course, whether the trend for private companies to mix with the public will be a permanent fixture or a temporary fad. “Oh, I definitely don’t think it’s the latter,” argues Hassell’s Mr Blain. “Brands are competing for talent, so they want to be nearer the people they serve. It’s not local councils that are insisting public space is provided, it’s developers and employers believing it’s the right thing to do, to plant themselves more with their locality – and to make the environment more pleasant.”

While there will always be the need for parts of buildings to remain off-limits, he says, diversity of purpose is now paramount, concluding: “Buildings were already opening up to suit agile working. Incorporating the public is the natural extension of this, to create a truly strong community that is open to all.”


2016 Round-Up

A Net Promoter Score midway between Budweiser and Apple is not a bad result, but it isn’t Apple either. We are delighted to welcome Rob Frank, our new Customer Experience Director to our board and look forward to providing the best customer experience journey for our clients with his help and expertise.

Projects under £2M is a key market for our workplace experts. 60% of our work fell into this category in 2016, we have made this market a key priority for next year and look forward to completing many more projects in 2017.

Our workplace experts are a growing team and we are speedily filling our new HQ, 5 Old Bailey. There’s still enough room to house our workplace experts, but we might have to go agile sooner than thought.

15,600 bacon sandwiches were consumed on our sites this year, however, there has been higher than normal requests for muesli yoghurt bites this year so watch this space for 2017!

Almost 18 years and emerging from our stroppy teenage years – if you haven’t already seen our office, please come for a tour and enjoy a glass of bubbles to celebrate our day of birth.

This year we are half and half in terms of projects carried out for occupiers and real estate investors, a balance we expect to maintain next year.

We clocked up our largest win to date for a £35M HQ building in the Thames Valley, our newly formed major projects team have now truly got going.

This year we have played bridesmaid to 3 major awards and while we patiently caught the bouquet one too many times, we hope to reverse this trend next year.

Huge thank you to all our clients for making 2016 such a great year and we look forward to even better 2017!


Designing offices with personality

If there’s one thing you won’t have failed to have noticed, it’s that offices and office space is evolving. A growing body of evidence now links fantastic work environments to fantastic improvements in productivity too, with all the happiness and wellbeing benefits that come with it.

Quite rightly, there has been significant progress in the planning and design of more agile and flexible working spaces. Firms like Google, with its campus, play-based approach to work, is heralded as having reinvigorated the work environment by shifting the focus on how it gets the best results from its brightest people.

This is a subject that fascinates us at BW: Workplace Experts, so we commissioned Lily Bernheimer and her team at Space Works Consulting to produce a white paper on our behalf to interrogate personality, productivity and work.

The acceptance of the relationship between space and work is to be applauded. But does this mean research into space should stop? We don’t think so. In fact, we believe the default Google approach isn’t always appropriate. Workspace is actually much more complex than being just about the building. It has to be about the relationship it has to the people that occupy it and, as we all know, people are different.

As we enter the so-called fourth industrial revolution, when workplaces need to understand different people’s “personal algorithms”, it’s our view that buildings must meet the different psychological needs of workers within them. In short, offices need to have a two-way relationship, but with lots of different personality types.

Typically, human resources tools, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, have divided workers by different personality traits, the big five being open, conscientious, extrovert, agreeable and neurotic. But it’s well known this doesn’t tend to account for personality development or growth. As such, we believe current personality productivity research is an outdated framework to look at productivity. Under this spotlight, traits such as conscientiousness or agreeableness are still analysed as “inputs”, which are then correlated with outputs like job satisfaction and earnings.

We feel this no longer applies in today’s workplace. That’s why we’ve begun to use a model – the Enneagram – that instead establishes the behaviour and the type of thinking patterns people fall into. The Enneagram Institute is leading this research and has identified nine “types” – the reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger and peacemaker.

So why is this so important. Well, because the Enneagram model identifies unique patterns of traits, motives and values, we believe it has the potential to transform the next phase of workplace science. Knowing that investigators experience the world differently to helpers, for instance, is dramatically important. Investigators seek privacy to recharge and analyse. Open-plan, break-out-based office space would be a completely stressful place for investigators to work in. By comparison, reformers, who are dedicated and committed, and motivated by a set of high internal standards, need a working environment that will inspire them to be more creative and relieve more stress.

We believe the Enneagram model provides new insights and new ways to challenge the accepted view that personality traits are “inputs” in the productivity machine.

What we believe is that office space needs to be far more personal. It needs to support different personality types in a way that fosters their strengths for maximum output. The fourth industrial revolution will require an iterative approach to office design, one that is responsive to workers’ patterns and contributions. The future workspace should at least be sensitive to the complex combination of personality patterns in terms of layout, seating allocation, and the balance of open and sheltered space.

Ultimately perhaps, understanding the future office is about understanding what the purpose of a building really is – an asset to be invested in, to help get the maximum return from the people in it.

We believe office design that is more reflective of its people can have a bigger impact on productivity and performance than other areas human resources directors typically focus on first, such as training and development. To ignore how your office impacts people is to ignore both of most organisations’ biggest assets and cost centres. A building can so easily become an asset that isn’t performing, but if thought about with its occupants’ productivity in mind too, both can be managed so they’re working at the top of their game.

BW: Workplace Experts are committed to delivering defect-free fit-out and refurbishment projects, driven by innovation and characterised by transparency, personality and fit-out expertise.