October 2018 Spotlight

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Many of us will be aware of the entity that is the Regus serviced office, while there is also wide recognition of how the northern property group, Bruntwood, have been, for years, creating great flexible office environments and, more recently, creating workplaces akin to wonderful hospitality locations. However, no one can be in any doubt about the rise and impact on commercial office space that the coworking phenomenon WeWork has had. 

WeWork was created in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, with its first location in New York. It was reported that, in 2017, WeWork had a valuation of US$20 billion, with an office space portfolio of over 10,000,000 sq ft. To many, this distributor has had the biggest impact on the world of the workplace, directly or indirectly; from length and flexibility of leases, the increase in the entrepreneurial class and the impact on how clients envisage their own workplaces.

Whilst the impact of Google undoubtedly helped many clients feel they knew what they wanted, we feel that designers often took the statement with a pinch of salt. Designers tell us almost daily that clients are looking for the WeWork look – and now they are taking notice.

Whilst we don’t expect the future coworking landscape to be trouble-free, we are already seeing the use of technology used very effectively to assess footfall and occupancy, something that is certainly not widespread with corporate clients. Whilst for many Coworking progress has been slow, at Mix we feel that we are at a tipping point, where both end user client and the property professionals are taking a keen interest.

WeWork is not alone in asking questions of developers, agents and designers. Over the next pages, you will see the result of interviews with a wonderful variety of coworking operators and designers, asking questions that we hope will give you an insight that you perhaps don’t always get from the usual coworking message. 

 


 

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Work.Life
David Kosky, Co-founder, Work.Life

As the term is so broadly interpreted by many people/companies now, what does coworking mean to you?
For Work.Life coworking is a friendly, personal and productive workspace where businesses of all sizes can come together under one roof. 

Landlords have recognised the revenue benefits of presenting their buildings to the market as coworking space rather than CAT A. Many are implementing their own schemes. Is this a threat?
We are certainly seeing more and more landlords recognising the benefit of having coworking in their buildings. 

Our strategy of taking smaller spaces (sub 15,000 sq ft) with ground floor frontage is designed for landlords looking to animate their buildings without impacting investment values and has proven popular with some of the UK’s largest institutional landlords. 

Whilst more landlords are realising that coworking needs to be in their multi-let buildings in order to attract bigger occupiers, we are seeing most landlords favouring working with certain operators in their building vs setting up their own coworking spaces. 

What I do expect to see more of is landlords looking to agree turnover style leases with operators to benefit from the upside generated from successful coworking space and some of the larger landlords looking to offer more flexible style fully-fitted solutions for businesses that have ‘graduated’ from coworking and are looking for an enterprise solution. 

Coworking is shifting from being work environments for incubation/start-ups to being flex space for established and blue chip companies. How has this influenced your offering?
It hasn’t really. We have been lucky to call the likes of EY, Dr Martens and MTV as members at Work.Life. They all have different reasons for looking to coworking, but the one thing they have in common is that they join us because they want something different from their current head office. 

One thing we have been sure not to do is to overexpose ourselves to larger members. Whilst the enterprise model is attractive, fundamentally we believe there is substantial risk with offering large space on relatively short term agreements and, as a result, never offer more than 30% of our space to any one business. 

Newer coworking environments add value to what is essentially a rented desk. For example, Labs offer technical services and WeWork offer community. What is your USP?
Unfortunately, I think community has become a bit of a buzzword in the coworking market. More and more of the operators out there are delivering space on such a scale that it is lacking soul and the communities they once had. 

Our USP is that, in a world where coworking operators are becoming Starbucks, we are offering a barista style of coworking; purposefully smaller so we can deliver a genuine personal service to our members, and so that they can actually make valuable connections, which will help them grow as a business. How we like to put it: we’re smaller so you can grow bigger. 

Currently, how many locations do you operate in?
We currently have seven locations across London and Reading and a brand new space opening in Manchester this November, our first big city move outside of London, which we are really excited about. By the end of this year we will have over 5,000 members, with plans to increase by 30% next year. 

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
Instead of focusing on trends, we start the design process with a brief on how we want our members to feel when they come into a Work.Life space – which for us is relaxed, welcome and productive. This impacts everything we do, the materials we use, the colours in the space and, most importantly, the layout and the different areas we put into our spaces. 

We also use the local area to influence our designs, naming our meeting rooms after the local hotspots. We want all our buildings to feel like a Work.Life space but to take different design inspiration from local tastes and trends. 

Describe what you think workplaces will look like in 20 years’ time.
Smaller, all based around agile working, with a focus on understanding how we as humans want to spend our working day. As we can already start to see emerging, the 9-5 will be a thing of the past and workplaces will need to reflect that. Spaces where people can rock up at 11am and hang around until midnight or somewhere they won’t mind coming in and getting their heads down on the weekend. 

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
I hope so! We will always need social interaction and, as such, workplaces will always have a role in bringing people and teams together. Undoubtedly improving tech will allow for far more agile working and you may find companies having smaller offices or satellite offices in coworking spaces that will allow their team to get together as and when they need. 

What is a motto you live by?
The Work.Life motto of course…’Because life’s too short!’ As much as a lot of us don’t like to admit it, most of our lives are spent at work, and life is certainly too short to not enjoy the environment you spend most of your time in. So, why not work somewhere you won’t dread coming into on a Monday morning? 

 


 

Coworking space at Bruntwood's Wilderspool

Bruntwood
Andrew Cooke, Regional Director, Bruntwood

What does coworking mean to you?
Prefixing words with ‘co’ has become very popular recently but at its core ‘co’ means together or in common; and that’s essentially what coworking offers. It’s space where like-minded people can come and share ideas, work together and collaborate. Some people view coworking as pitching up to a busy office, struggling to find a seat and having the hassle of carrying your stuff around with you all the time – but coworking has changed, you can get dedicated desks with all the things you need on hand to run your business. Not everyone wants or needs permanent offices, but also simply can’t run their business from home, and that’s where coworking space can come in and provide the right environment and ecosystem to allow them to get on with what they do best; running their business.

Landlords have recognised the revenue benefits of presenting their buildings to the market as coworking space rather than CAT A. Many are implementing their own schemes. Is this a threat?
A threat to whom? It’s fair to say that some landlords have simply fitted out space and put desks in an open plan office labelling it ‘coworking’ – but that’s never going to work and be true coworking. A good landlord needs to craft the right conditions to build a community around the space to support and nurture resident businesses. A successful landlord views the space as a service and has moved from the old fashioned model of simply installing CAT A and expecting a higher rent in return. It’s as much about the things that go on around the space, as it is about the design itself. Social and professional events programmes and wellbeing activities are the norm for coworking – without that, it’s just office space.

Currently, how many locations do you operate in?
We have 110 buildings in five UK cities and counties – Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham and Cheshire. Seven of these offer coworking spaces.

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
By their nature, trends come and go – but it is well thought-out design that stands the test of time. We’re developing lots of communal and collaborative space in our buildings, literally tearing down walls to ensure, where possible, cross-pollination of our customers’ businesses. The space needs to be full of purpose too – we’ve got receptions and office space with art exhibitions, like the digital wall at Neo, curated by Brendan Dawes and the students at Manchester School of Art. We’re also seeing the importance of biophilia in the design of our space – connecting our customers with sunlight, fresh air and plants, especially in our more urban locations. The link between body and mind has never been greater and businesses are starting to recognise how key this is to workplace productivity, which is why we are installing so many gyms, yoga rooms, meditation spaces and general wellbeing facilities across the portfolio.

Describe what you think workplaces will look like in 20 years’ time.
The last five years has seen office space change significantly, so the possibilities are incredible. We thought that, as technology advanced and made it possible to work from home, offices could slowly become redundant. People don’t necessarily want to work in their back rooms at home, even if they can – they want to be in vibrant thriving environments that stimulate creativity. I really don’t see that changing. As the fight for talent increases, so too will the need for businesses to put themselves in buildings that offer the facilities and amenities that enable them to attract and retain the best people. Workplaces will become more and more tech-enabled but, rather than gimmicks for tech’s sake, offices will have tech that captures data, which can be used to the benefit of user experience.

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
Yes, that would be extreme. Office space will change in its shape and form, but we’re seeing a definite human need for social interaction at the heart of the coworking revolution. The introduction of AI and big data means jobs will change and with that the needs of the office space will change, but ultimately business will still require interaction in some form or another. What we, as landlords, need to do is prove the value of that to the customers we attract, through the services and communities we curate.

 


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Areaworks
Panny Lawrence, Co-Founder and CEO, Areaworks

What does coworking mean to you?
Coworking to us is a great way for like-minded people to come together and support each other, whether they are in the same industry or not. The flexibility it offers means that workers can choose to work when they are most productive and not fall into the 9-5 model of working. 

Areaworks offers an open, supportive environment and a collaborative approach, with community at the heart of all we do. Our personal and welcoming touch is different from the more impersonal and inaccessible central London workspaces. 

Landlords have recognised the revenue benefits of presenting their buildings to the market as coworking space rather than CAT A. Many are implementing their own schemes. Is this a threat?
No, we do not see this as a threat. Coworking is more than offering a shared work space; it is a lifestyle experience. Providers in this ever changing and highly competitive sector need to take ownership of strong product and service differentiators to stay ahead of the game. We are obsessively diligent in looking out for ways to maximise our profits per square foot through high-added-value type of auxiliary services to ensure our business model remains healthy and sustainable. 

Newer coworking environments add value to what is essentially a rented desk. For example Labs offer technical services and WeWork offer community. What is your USP?
Areaworks aims to create a community within the local area. We always take great pride in improving the neighbourhoods and communities we operate in and helping them flourish. 

Many workspaces talk about the lifestyle benefits of belonging to a coworking community, but we believe in nurturing the physical and mental wellbeing aspects of work/life balance in ways that are visible and noticeable for our members. The team has a personal, friendly approach and this results in a strong community feel at our locations. We offer yoga classes, a partnership with the Gym Group, free tea, coffee and printing services, amongst other things. We also offer 24-hour access on request for those night owls who feel most productive during the evening. 

Currently, how many locations do you operate in?
We currently have two open locations in the UK – Manor House and Hoxton – and will be opening our third space in Colindale in the coming months. In addition to this, we have two other buildings that we are looking to open in London in early 2019. We also plan to expand the Areaworks brand in high-growth markets such as China and Korea. 

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
Areaworks is designed to celebrate the old and new of the local area, with original features teamed with colourful, quirky furniture. Each space is adapted to reflect the local area and the local people’s needs – we don’t just copy and paste the design from one location to the other. When we renovate spaces, we highlight the building’s individual history. It’s not just a workspace – it’s a whole lifestyle experience. Hence, an Areaworks space is always designed to have three things: a sense of openness, a feeling of community and touches of playful inspiration. 

Describe what you think workplaces will look like in 20 years’ time.
There is already a move towards flexible working, not only for SMEs and entrepreneurs but by the global corporations too. It benefits both employees and employers who find that their team are more productive and motivated if allowed to work in the best way to suit them. With this in mind, we think that coworking spaces will become even more important as more and more people and companies choose to offer greater flexibility. 

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
We don’t think so, no. People are not solitary by nature on the whole and so will always seek out the company of others. Coworking offers a great environment for networking, bouncing ideas off each other and just feeling generally supported in addition to allowing workers to separate their work from their home life. 

What is a motto you live by?
Embrace change: if you don’t evolve over time, you won’t be able to stay ahead of the competition. Success is a long, hard road, not a quick win! You soon learn that the success you achieve is because the people around you believe in you for being you – don’t try to be Richard Branson. 

 


 

Avenue HQ_2

Avenue HQ
Adam Lowe, Marketing Lead, Avenue HQ

What does coworking mean to you?
Coworking to us is a concept that allows businesses and individuals to work with more freedom and flexibility, in purpose-built spaces that enable this. Coworking is often seen as just providing a few flexible-working desks to individuals and plying them with free tea and coffee – to us, it is so much more. Coworking for us incorporates the provision of plenty of spaces (both working and breakout spaces) for companies of all sizes, as well as creating both a business and social hub for our members. Coworking is the antithesis of traditional workplaces – always seeking to innovate, and always learning how to make the space as positive as possible for its members.

Coworking is shifting from being work environments for incubation/start-ups to being flex space for established and blue chip companies. How has this influenced your offering?
This has had a huge influence on us; Avenue HQ was started not to service a select group of start-ups or to be an incubator, but instead to provide high-quality workspaces to companies of all sizes – no matter the sector and no matter what size. A large proportion of our members are established businesses who are looking both for the freedom of a flexible workspace and the improvements to workplace wellbeing and productivity that brings. Our mission is to help companies realise that this is not only the future of working, but also the present – if you haven’t yet embraced the benefits of coworking, then you’re already behind. 

Currently, how many locations do you operate in?
Avenue HQ currently operates in two locations – in Liverpool and Leeds. Our Liverpool site opened in June 2017, and Leeds opened in September 2018. We are always on the lookout for new locations and communities to bring our offering to.

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
The designs of our spaces are influenced by the buildings we are in, as we always seek unique locations to bring our offering to. Our new Leeds space is based in a historic, Grade II listed building in the heart of the city – a stark contrast to our ultra-modern Liverpool space, a sculpture of black granite and glass. Our design is influenced by this, but we attempt to retain a familiar feel across our spaces; industrial, colourful and with art adorning the walls. 

Given that workplaces are now extremely influenced by our domestic environment – do you think this is an aesthetic or something deeper, as exemplified by WeWork’s ‘Welive’ initiative?
We see it as definitely something deeper than just an aesthetic – we encourage our members to treat the spaces as their home from home. You spend a majority of your time at work, and therefore want the space to feel as familiar and comfortable as possible. By encouraging this familiarity and affinity with the workspace, members often find their wellbeing and productivity increase – we’ve seen a remarkable response from our own members in this regard. It would be cynical for companies to portray the domestic environment in a superficial way; instead, we see a real awareness from workspaces that, to get the best out of members, we need to foster a sense of ownership and domesticity. 

Describe what you think workplaces will look like in 20 years’ time.
With communication made effortless through advances in technology, traditional 9-5 workplaces are increasingly redundant. What we are already beginning to see is an increase in flexible working – with more people working from home or from local coworking hubs. 

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
We think that would be extreme to say – there will always be a value in a shared workspace and an office space, as a community hub. A core reason for joining a coworking space is to avoid the isolation of working at home and to be a part of a professional and social community. Though inventions such as Skype and Slack make communication as easy as possible, there is still value in working face-to-face with colleagues. 

We do feel, however, that traditional workplaces will continue to evolve to match the flexible workspace model – allowing more coworking, more flexibility and placing emphasis on workplace wellbeing through social events and more open spaces. Big corporations are starting to do this – as shown by the number of FTSE100 companies already utilising coworking spaces.

What is a motto you live by?
Written all over the walls of our spaces is the motto ‘a work-life without limits’, which we see all of our members embracing. No two working days should be identical – and our workspaces are hubs of activity, with lively communities, events and social gatherings happening regularly, ensuring that each day is different.

 


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Central Working
Líosa Bruder, Marketing Lead, Kinnersely Kent Design 

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
Rather than being trend-led, the design of Central Working Victoria was led by meticulous observation of members’ behaviour when using their spaces. What was found was that real human connection made a positive impact on members’ experiences, and so the layout of the space has been designed with this in mind. Whilst perhaps unconventional, the space was tailored to include plenty of social breakout areas, unexpected niches and also some quieter hideaways. This approach influences how members navigate and share the space, creating more than one way to get from A to B and plenty of opportunities for chance encounters. 

How do you judge which aesthetic/ architectural trends will be well received, and which will disappear as fads?
Each new Central Working design takes reference from the existing clubs. Based on the same principles, a new design is always a careful development, tailored to the specifics of a location and the preferences of its potential members. Current trends are only built into a design scheme if it is felt that they will be beneficial to members and foster collaboration and connection. We have found that newer design trends are well received if they are purposeful and improve any element of the members’ day-to-day work. 

Describe the different area designations (ie, cellular/touchdown) in your workplace and how you managed to satisfy the design needs for all of them.
The space needs to counter for all kind of members’ work and a variety of privacy. Different people work in different ways and the design has to reflect this. The transition between these spaces is fluid and is not always clearly defined. Members have the flexibility to use the space most suited to their work needs and change it up whenever necessary. The basic work areas are private offices, member desks and shared drop-in desks. Areas like meeting rooms, breakout lounges, social spaces, breakout niches, phone booths and event spaces are shared areas and encourage collaboration and social interaction. Each space is designed with the behaviour of members in mind and to allow the level of privacy required for certain tasks. 

Given that workplaces are now extremely influenced by our domestic environment – do you think this is an aesthetic or something deeper, as exemplified by WeWork’s ‘Welive’ initiative?
The line between work life and private life is becoming more fluid and this is also reflected in the aesthetics of workplace design. Society’s current understanding of the workplace will continue to be challenged dramatically over the next decade by digitalisation and artificial intelligence. Soon we will no longer need static desks to sit in front of a computer for a typical 9-5 job and this will transform workplaces to much more social and domestic looking environments. However, humans will have stronger need for areas of retreat and hence the need for separation between private living space and shared social space will become more defined again. 

Describe what you think workplaces will look like in 20 years’ time.
In our opinion there won’t be one typical workplace ‘look’. The office workplace as we know it today will no longer exist, with many typical functions having been automated or replaced by AI. Workplace will instead be built around human interaction, empathy and a flow of creativity. The requirements of the work will shape the surroundings and the space. events with leading brands, investors and industry experts, which are fundamental to the attraction of a coworking community membership. 

What is a motto you live by?
Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth. 

 


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Rocketspace
Simon Marett, Director, LOM architecture and design

What does coworking mean to you?
We understand a ‘coworking space’ to be a workplace environment that encourages and facilitates interaction, collaboration and creativity, by disrupting established, traditional ways of working and workplace cultures and by promoting flexible, innovative, inspiring working spaces, facilities and events. Rather than an office floor with departments who have boundaries, a coworking space is a flexible working community. 

Unlike a traditionally procured work environment, coworking spaces are created to generate revenue and as a result densities are key. What density do you achieve?
Speculatively developed office buildings are often designed to accommodate maximum one person per 10 sq m over a floorplate. We have delivered coworking spaces with potential densities of up one person per five sq m. So a first step in the development of proposals for new coworking space is to assess the feasibility of the project in the proposed location and to review whether physical changes, or the development of new fire escape strategies, can improve a building’s occupancy limit to deliver a scheme that meets statutory compliance requirements. 

Landlords have recognised the revenue benefits of presenting their buildings to the market as coworking space rather than CAT A. Many are implementing their own schemes. Is this a threat?
LOM has developed concepts and delivered new coworking spaces for both landlords and occupiers, so we have a unique perspective from both sides. We find that coworking spaces created by occupiers for their own teams seek to achieve the benefits of, but are not set up to directly compete with, outsourced coworking spaces. 

Coworking is shifting from being work environments for incubation/start-ups to being flex space for established and blue chip companies. How has this influenced your thinking?
Our clients describe the process of managing coworking space for start-ups, some of whom grow to become ‘Unicorn’ companies, as ‘playing Tetris’ with space. The development of scalable, modular designs that can accommodate short-term change and long-term flexibility has been a key requirement to our coworking project briefs. 

Newer coworking environments add value to what is essentially a rented desk. For example, Labs offer technical services and WeWork offer community. What is your USP?
Central to the ‘offer’ of our coworking spaces for NatWest ESpark, Rocketspace and similar coworking environments is the added value provided by networking events, pier-to-pier review sessions, guest presentations, ‘Ted Talks’, ‘Dragons Den’ and ‘Speed Dating’ events with leading brands, investors and industry experts, which are fundamental to the attraction of a coworking community membership. 

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
Our design solution for each project is driven by our client’s specific brief. This will have been developed from an underlying strategy, to which we often contribute. In that context the end-result for each project is unique and bespoke. ‘Look & feel’ influences come from the context, the site, from our client’s brand and core values, and from trends in hospitality, workplace and domestic design. We also find that the commercial furniture, finishes, lighting, acoustics and technology industries influence design trends, with on-going investment in product development and marketing. 

How do you judge which aesthetic/ architectural trends will be well received, and which will disappear as fads?
The key to us is that core design development is not arbitrary – it is based on an underlying strategy. Following this principal, no strategic element of the underlying core design can be ‘faddy’. Flexibility to this architectural approach to design is applied to less permanent ‘look & feel’ elements – furniture, lighting and surface finishes and graphics – which can be changed over time to reflect changing design trends. 

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
A key objective to the coworking spaces we deliver is to facilitate deliberate and unplanned interactions and to encourage collaboration. Working from home presents a barrier to these core coworking benefits. In that context, it is difficult to imagine how office spaces could become completely redundant. 

 


 

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The Nest
Christopher Crawford, Associate, Gensler

What does coworking mean to you?
Coworking can essentially be seen as a mind-set of flexible and nimble working. This can range from membership to a free-address café space through to a dedicated desk space within an open plan area through to enclosed serviced office space. The main thread that runs through all its permutations is the sense of belonging to something larger. The opportunity to collaborate and socialise with like-minded people is a big draw for today’s workforce. We’ve also found that some of the larger media clients want to have ‘coworking areas’ within their own spaces, which are ‘neutral’ territory, where different brands or departments can work flexibly in the same space. This increases both collaborative and social connections whilst breaking down silos. 

Coworking is shifting from being work environments for incubation/start-ups to being flex space for established and blue chip companies. How has this influenced your offering?
The Nest is coworking space designed to create a network of freelancers within the media industry, ranging from visual effects artists, post-production, editors or even make-up artists. Smaller teams from larger media companies using the space only add to the offering. This symbiosis means that the larger companies are close to the less-restricted, cutting-edge creativity and the smaller companies/freelancers get the opportunity to see the structure and client-base of the larger company. Whilst there may be an element of competition, the intention is to have multiple layers of expertise within the coworking space where a given client could source additional services on the same project rather than appoint one company to produce everything end-to-end.

Newer coworking environments add value to what is essentially a rented desk. For example Labs offer technical services and WeWork offer community. What is your USP?
The Nest is a hub or focal point for the burgeoning media community within the area. This, coupled with technical spaces required for media production, such as studio space, enclosed editing suites, a voice recording booth and screening area, make The Nest a one-stop-shop for clients.

Currently, how many locations do you operate in?
The Nest is currently in one location, in Wapping, but there are plans for future expansion to other locations.

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
The materiality and aesthetic of The Nest was deeply rooted in the historical vernacular of the local area and the existing materials within the space – brick, concrete ceiling, scaffolding planks to form joinery and flooring, as just some examples. The biggest trends to influence the design of the space were around working patterns and the needs of today’s workforce. It was key to provide a wide variety of work settings with more traditional desk modules as well as high touchdown benches, collaboration spaces, meeting booths, phone rooms and varying sized meeting rooms. This is coupled with the open editing areas, enclosed editing suites, voice recording booth and screening area.

Given that workplaces are now extremely influenced by our domestic environment, do you think this is an aesthetic or something deeper, as exemplified by WeWork’s ‘WeLive’ initiative?
It’s not about aesthetics. It’s recognising the impacts of spaces on people; it’s about experience. The lines and boundaries between live, work and play are blurring. People no longer see their profession as something contained between the four walls of their office in the hours between 9-5. With this comes the need to create environments that appeal to a sense of comfort and familiarity. Providing a wider range of work settings – some with a more residential feel – enables people to spend more time at the workplace without feeling as though they’re in an uninspiring and corporate environment. We now design spaces with people in mind and create spaces that make people want to spend more time at the office, even in a social capacity.

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
Despite the rise of digital connectivity, the importance placed upon face-to-face contact is extremely important. A well-designed workplace is always going to bring people together and enable unplanned, serendipitous encounters. These sort of chance encounters won’t happen virtually and that is precisely the draw for coworking spaces as we see them today.

 


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Office Space In Town
Niki Fuchs, Managing Director, Office Space In Town

What does coworking mean to you?
Office Space in Town (OSiT) is a serviced office provider. We don’t specifically offer coworking facilities, but our clients are welcome to work in any of the many high-design communal areas in our buildings. We offer a private member style ‘access all areas’ service to clients that enables them to access all of our business centres. 

Newer coworking environments add value to what is essentially a rented desk. For example Labs offers technical services and WeWork offers community. What is your USP?
Workspace today is about service, not square footage. We believe that the lines are blurring between workspaces, hospitality and service. We offer our clients much more than just a desk – we are a commercial business run with family values and our clients and staff are part of that family. Our buildings also incorporate restaurants, rooftop bars, cafés, gyms, beauty salons and even serviced bedrooms, such as The Cabins in our nautical-themed centre at Monument. Our staff work tirelessly to offer social events that also give our clients an opportunity to support our annual charity appeal. We are uncompromising about providing exceptional quality spaces. Unhappy with the service offered by third party cleaning companies, we even started our own cleaning business to ensure that our clients and their guests enjoy an environment that is always spotless. 

Currently, how many locations do you operate in?
We currently operate six central London locations: Monument, Euston, Waterloo, St. Paul’s and Mayfair, as well as five others outside of London. We have recently acquired a new building in London’s midtown, which will bring our London total to seven. 

Thanks to further funding secured last year from one of the UK’s wealthiest family offices, we are actively looking to expand our portfolio by acquiring four further central London office buildings. 

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
Unlike most serviced office providers, who operate leasehold models, we own the freehold for our buildings. This has enabled us to invest heavily in the designs to produce outstanding workspaces, incorporating tech capability that anticipates future innovations. We like to put our own twist on our buildings – our interiors are designed to unique themes, from Alice in Wonderland at our Waterloo building to the Great Gatsby in Mayfair, and the high-end luxury of Sunseeker yachts at Monument. We want people who work in our buildings to feel inspired by their surroundings every day. 

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
There is no doubt that the advent of technology has raised questions about the need for physical workspace but, as research suggests, just as technology has liberated us to go solo, it can also bring us together. Gensler’s Workplace Performance Index concluded that good office design could boost employee productivity by 20%. 

Describe what you think workplaces will look like in 20 years’ time.
With communication made effortless through advances in technology, traditional 9-5 workplaces are increasingly redundant. What we are already beginning to see is an increase in flexible working – with more people working from home or from local coworking hubs. 

The office is crucial in developing the interpersonal communications that arise from a collaborative, productive working environment. As such, a shared physical workspace can answer a serious problem that arises from the progression of technology and the gig economy – how to foster a company culture, vision and productivity. Simply, we can never replace the body language, social nuances and ideas-generation of face-to-face interactions. 

What is a motto you live by?
Do what you do and do it exceptionally well – consistently. Quality of product and service that goes beyond customer expectations is at the heart of recurring revenue. 

 


 

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The Office Group
Charlie Green, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, The Office Group

Landlords have recognised the revenue benefits of presenting their buildings to the market as coworking space rather than CAT A. Many are implementing their own schemes. Is this a threat?
Coworking is really the clearest expression of the change in demand for space and the shift in expectations. It’s the environment where the changes are most obvious, those changes being around addressing the needs of the occupier before the needs of the landlord. What we’re seeing in the market is the influence of coworking over the entire real estate market. All landlords, whether to FTSE 100 companies or start-ups, are having to address how they provide space, the level of engagement with occupiers, the level of service and the quality of design.

Coworking is shifting from being work environments for incubation/start-ups to being flex space for established and blue-chip companies. How has this influenced your offering?
I don’t think we’ve changed our environments to suit more established companies. We’re changing our environments to evolve, adapt, respond to the changing behaviour and needs in the workplace – and that is affecting everyone. For sure, more corporates are becoming aware that they can work in a different way, in their own space and by using more coworking and flexible space as part of their portfolio make-up, so the overall demand is increasing, but not dictating change in how we provide space more than any other influences.

How many locations do you currently operate in?
We have 44 locations, with 41 in London, two in the UK and one in Germany. We’re aiming to grow in all of the locations we’re currently in and exploring other international areas.

Which trends influenced the design of your space?
It feels dangerous to be led by trends. The cost of fit-out is incredibly high, so to go for an aesthetic that is current, inevitably means it will be off-trend in a short to medium period of time. You also have to avoid being too predictable and obvious with the styling. We have a strong in-house team but work on every project with different architects to ensure we have a fresh, innovative approach every time.

How do you judge which aesthetic/architectural trends will be well received – and which will disappear as fads?
We have to respond to the architecture that we’re presented with, both in terms of each specific building, but also the immediate location. Where we can find original character, that will tend to dictate the narrative for each building and, consequently, each is designed individually. That makes it harder work to find the interest for each space, but ultimately that drives a more creative process with what we hope will be brilliant and original spaces every time. There are certain constants, such as generosity of space, natural light and trying to provide a range of facilities – and these will never be fads.

Describe the different area designations (i.e cellular/social/touchdown) in your workplace and how you managed to satisfy the design needs for all of them.
The most important element to provide to the occupier is choice. We have to create spaces that give people the opportunity to address how different people work in different ways.For everyone, that work will change from day to day, whether needing privacy, quiet space or the stimulation of being around other people. The balance of mixing the private with the open is a challenge that’s different with each building, but one we spend a significant amount of time on. It’s further challenged by the fact that the buildings are full of so many different companies and so many cultures. We don’t always get it right, and I think the key is design it, build it and be prepared to change it.

Given the accessibility we have to the internet from home, would it be extreme to say that office spaces will soon become completely redundant?
We’ll always need the office. It’s a basic human need to be around other people, and the collaborative benefits of working in the same environment as others is profound. The office will never be redundant, it will just adapt and evolve and will not look or function like the offices you work in today.