Sliding into the modern-day office

The Spark

5th September 2017

More and more throughout the city, Londoners are arching their heads upwards. Towards the sky. Towards a plateau of cranes, to a sprouting skyline of new buildings, housing apartments and office space.

Venturing across London town is as much about navigating the clustered streets as taking in the flowering skyline. We absorb the view as it grows over a period of weeks and months and, barring a few exceptions, generally get the exterior aspects correct.

But, as a London agency that has just moved to a brand-new office and kitted out an entirely new space ourselves, it’s what’s on the inside that has suddenly peaked our interest.

We’re pioneers in London, right? So, with such a vast amount of new office space being created, we’ve been wondering what we’re doing with it; how we’re making it different; how we’re innovating the next generation of office design.

Sharing spaces

Many experts believe that we may be moving away from dedicated office space, towards shared space between various companies, with WeWork leading the charge and the likes of Sharedesk and Parisian-based Patchwork also taking advantage of the current buck in the trend. Each offer anything from a desk and meeting room through to an entire floorspace; already kitted out with everything needed for the working day. Perfect for small start-ups, sure, but for medium to large sized companies it could, no would, lead to a cocktail of organisational issues. Despite this, it’s on the up and will become more common, with London starting to get huge investments in the co-working market. Watch this space.

For those larger companies, the office environment itself is a much more important feature.

The weird and wonderful

Comfort, space, function. That is what’s leading the charge for interior office design right now. Employees want a working environment that’s pleasurable on both the eye and derriere, which probably makes this an apt moment to mention that I’m writing this on a beanbag in our new office.

Anyhow, research shows that 76 per cent of office workers believe they do their best work at home, or in a space less like a traditional office. And boy are some companies embracing that. Take 22 Bishopgate for instance: a fresh food market; gym, spa, cycle hub and, oh, the first-ever climbing window. Yes, a climbing window. Employees can scale the interior windows as a method to switch off and take a break. Mortimer House, a “work, rest and play” office space, comes with a meditation room, Pilates studio, gym and a building employee only bar.

Then of course you’ve got your big boys: Google’s new office plan includes a rooftop running track; Innocent has five floors of fake grass; Red Bull has a slide (I know, A SLIDE), and there are a multitude more creative concoctions. But those are the big hitters, with millions to invest on office space and environment. So how does an agency of fifty-plus deliver a working environment that is comfortable, spacious and functional?

What we’ve done

We knew we couldn’t have everything. As much as we wanted a slide, a ball pit room and a free on-site canteen (we really, really wanted that one) we had to be realistic. What we have done is create an environment that still has the underlying functionality of face-to-face communication and structure, but also allows our team to get their creative juices flowing and express themselves in a visual manner.

One thriving debate in the office interior industry right now is of whether to have more open, or private office space. We’ve executed both.

We’ve upped our meeting room space, both in terms of numbers and making them more expressive, relaxed and comfortable. Sure, we still have formal rooms where we sit down at a desk, pull out a pen and notepad or review a presentation, but we’ve sprinkled some freedom within others. Our beanbag rooms allow the team to have informal catch-ups and relax to let their sparks come to life. No phone, computer or TV to work from; just the bean bags and a giant white wall to draw, write and brainstorm. Our recording studio, primarily designed for our Headliner podcast is completely soundproof which, upon entering, completely washes you in echoless relaxation. It’s undoubtedly a unique working space within our office. Again, we have giant whitewalls in there, for our team to visually express themselves.

We have a working breakout bar which allows our team to stand and work, rather than sit all day. Our semi-assigned workstation layout means that day-to-day we can sit with different people and gather varying thoughts and insights from those around us.

And we’ve added more greenery and scenery. Not quite the five floors of fake grass like Innocent, but we’re trying to bring the outside inside and produce a softer environment. We have floor to ceiling windows too, enhancing our state of mind. And if that doesn’t quite do it for some of our team, we have an outside courtyard for fresh air and, on the rare occasion, tanning.

We may only be three weeks into our new office, but what we set out to create is already flourishing into what we’d hoped it would: a clean, comfortable, functional workspace that gets the very best out of our team and enhances their working lives. We’re moving around more, talking to each other a lot more instead of blindly sending out emails and working happy.

We may not have radically changed the office interior industry, but we certainly have for ourselves.

Although we’re still missing an office dog.