Thirdway designs Huckletree’s first London outpost
Thirdway has delivered a co-working space with personality in Soho’s iconic, brutalist Ingestre Court building.
For years we have been building convivial spaces for collaboration, culture and creativity, but the last few months of remote working have made us look again at a neglected activity – the precious ability to focus.
Recent surveys show that most people think they have been productive while working at home, as teams have held together and the expected failures in technology and infrastructure failed to emerge, and although the office community has been missed, people found ways to make up for it. This sense of productivity – real or imagined – is linked to the time saved by not traveling, an ability to choose the best working hours, and often the elimination of interruptions from colleagues.
The feedback about home working certainly emphasises the importance of focus, but it is split down the middle about the best place for it. It stops way short of endorsing the remote workplace as ideal. As many feel it is impossible at home because of domestic distractions, as in the office because of unavoidable interruptions.
We are seeing a renewed interest in individual contribution, competing with the Holy Grail of collaboration and knowledge sharing which previously dominated the design debate.
The data shows that the simple hybrid model is missing a spoke
For example, look at these conflicting comments on the subject picked quickly from a recent survey on home working. “I am better able to focus at home e.g. research, analyse and write up” versus “I think it is easier to get distracted while WFH, I don’t feel as focused”. This is not about space, furniture or privacy. It shows that for some people their home simply cannot provide the mental landscape they need for concentration. It is fine for Zoom meetings and phone calls, but for deep work it does not always cut the mustard.
The data collected over the last few months contains two vital messages for organisations looking into the future. The first is after months of enforced trial and error, we have deeper insight into what is really needed to support focus. The second and more surprising one is a challenge to the common assumption that a remote location, usually home, is a better place for solitary output. For many this is not the case at all. For these people the office can actually be a better place to focus than a home full of distractions.
We will have to weave this into the hybrid workplace that is emerging for many post-Covid futures, which sees an office space as a community hub, and remote locations as preferred places for “deep work”.
The data shows that the simple hybrid model is missing a spoke. There is a significant body of people who actually find the office is better for focus, despite having the facilities and space to work at home. The ambience suits their disposition and their ability to concentrate.
We should include this constituency in our planning, along with the people who cannot work at home for practical reasons. The need for quiet places in the future workplace might have more takers than we first expected.
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