The developer, the tenant and the pulling power of commercial workplaces
In the world of commercial property there is a mutually-supportive relationship between tenant and developer, with both parties bound by the idea of attraction: developers are looking to attract tenants, whilst tenants are looking to attract talent.
To keep these worlds in harmony there needs to be an understanding of how physical office space can respond to the specific demands of the time. We have seen how BREEAM and SKA ratings have become part of the built environment vocabulary; these benchmarks have allowed the industry to push forward the environmental agenda. So what’s next?
If we look closer at this idea of attracting the best talent to your organisation, then wellness and creating a healthy working environment will be near the top of the list. To do this well means moving away from gimmicks of informality, like the bean-bag office culture, and thinking about a holistic way of promoting the care of your most valued (and costly) asset – your people. This includes everything from encouraging exercise around the working day to adopting flexible work patterns, incorporating the right facilities and spaces that acknowledge and accommodate the complex merging of life and work. Ultimately, your office should support your staff and be a catalyst for high-performance.
A recent project we have just completed for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) did just this, shaping the physical spaces to fit around the health requirements of its team. All workstations are height-adjustable, which gives the team members choice on how to create the best environment for their specific activity. The team are encouraged to use a feature staircase, accentuated by a living wall, rather than lifts, with the idea of encouraging physical movement proven to improve health and performance.
The traders at CBA also have adjustable LED lighting to create the right working environment. The floorplates have been configured to ensure privacy and discretion, whilst also providing large, open social spaces and catering facilities. Lighting – both natural and artificial – is fundamental to creating healthy spaces, with circadian lighting systems programmed to expose people to the right amount of blue light at the right time of the day to boost energy levels.
We also need to think carefully about issues such as cycling culture within our workplaces. The numbers of staff cycling to work, from junior staff to CEOs, have increased hugely. Cycling facilities are no longer been seen as an afterthought, positioned down in the basement. Workplaces, through design, are actively encouraging cycling: some developments welcome cyclists through the front door meaning they don’t have to enter the building through secondary entrances to the rear of the building.
The Sheppard Robson-designed Fitzroy Place development used fine detailing to encourage cycling and attract tenants. The staff facilities resemble a gym, through care in the design and selection of materials. A higher number of better equipped showers, locker and towel services and vented cupboards remove some of the practical barriers to cycling to work.
We are helping drive the wellness agenda forward, working alongside other specialists to deliver the WELL Building Standard. By moving to a more evidence-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring the performance of building in terms of wellbeing, it allows us to advance as an industry much faster, with across the board changes in how we engage and retain staff.
Whilst wellness will help attract individuals, I think mutually-supportive workplace neighbourhoods will make developments more attractive to potential occupants.
As corporate cultures become more complex, our workplaces become increasingly mercurial. We are currently working on three of the largest pre-let requirements in London and it is clear that corporate workplace has moved away from static rows of task furniture; instead, offices are looking to weave together a range of amenities that blur the boundaries between live, work and play.
This doesn’t mean just putting a café in reception but treating the office as a mutually supportive neighbourhood: a place where a bank can work next to a start-up or somewhere a members’ club can be co-located with a blue-chip. This cooperative energy is transforming large developments from stacks of fixed floorplates to something that is outward-facing and much more aware of the world around it.
This civic quality will mean that workplaces will increasingly become living, breathing parts of a city and certainly London as a global centre. The recently completed Fitzrovia Place weaves together residential, office space and retail to transform an entire urban block in central London. The reception space of the office building – with its attention to detail, craftsmanship and informality – feels more like a hotel lobby than a corporate thoroughfare. This means that it has a social, convivial relationship with the surrounding retail and residential buildings, whilst also creating a dramatic arrival experience to the office spaces. The result is an office development that is stitched within its urban setting to help capture a sense of place and authenticity that resonates with tenants.
Successful offices are formed of understanding the micro and the macro: what details and workplace strategies can I put into place to help create a productive environment that enhances well-being? And how can I look past the boundaries of my office to forge closer connections with the businesses around me, thus joining a business community? Answer these, and your workplace and your business will be healthier for it.
Helen Berresford, Head of ID:SR, Sheppard Robson
t: +44 (0)20 7504 1743