There are big changes afoot in the workplace, and we all need to pay attention. Think dynamic spaces, interaction, flexibility, sustainability, ergonomics and community. There are choices for companies both large and small, as well as options for the smaller, period stock we have in Bath. Here are some perspectives from local professionals in the know.
Allan Lloyd, partner at property service company CSquared (csquaredre.co.uk) We are witnessing greater change today in how offices are used than ever before. There is a horrible phrase ‘flight to quality’ but it articulates well the fact occupiers are taking better-quality space, and generally less of it. This is twofold, to encourage staff back to the office but also to attract staff in what is a highly competitive job market. Gone are the post-pandemic gimmicks of breakfasts and beer trollies which were used to encourage people back; employers now want their people back to improve productivity and teamship. To do this they are making their working environments dynamic, more based around interaction, thinking and meeting space than just desking and a tea point. Firms with multiple locations in the region are often consolidating those offices into one hub but making that hub an excellent working environment.
Sustainability/ESG (environmental, social and governance) is at the top of employers’ and employees’ minds. This is generally driven by corporate companies’ Net Zero Carbon obligations, but can be seen in many different ways such as with reference to energy usage, wellbeing, and transport plans. All this will lead to Bath and all regional office centres needing to design the best-quality office space they have ever produced to meet the demand. Poorer, cheaper space that does not invest capital into improving will be left behind and a two-tier market will emerge.
We have a lot of smaller, period stock in Bath, but this does not mean it still can’t be improved – the design team just needs to be slightly more creative, although some of the ESG accreditations are harder to achieve.
The flex market is growing fast because occupiers are struggling to plan 3–5 years ahead, so want the flexibility serviced space offers. In addition, Bath and the region is one of the hotspots for tech/IT start ups with one of the highest rates in the UK and these businesses invariably start in serviced space. Large corporates also like the ability to take big floor plates in large offices with the added bolt-on of some flex space, to allow churn to meet demand as projects come in. Both landlords and occupiers need to adapt or they will be left behind by the competition.
Emma Wharton Love, workplace strategy consultant at office design company Interaction (interaction.uk.com) Since the pandemic, a one-size-fits-all approach to office space with rows of desks just won’t cut it anymore. People have had a taste of working successfully from home, so your workspace now needs to attract people back into the office to do all the things we couldn’t do well during the pandemic. Organisations need to think harder about what they need from their workspaces, which should be a physical manifestation of their company values and culture.
A good workplace ensures there are a range of spaces so that every individual feels comfortable and productive. Companies can use their workplaces to reinforce what they stand for culturally in terms of how they value their people. Providing great office ergonomics and technology, as well as wellbeing spaces and activities, all play their part.
The workplace can be a core contributor to a company’s ESG strategy. Ensuring everyone has access to natural daylight and greenery throughout their working day, for example, has been shown to increase creativity and restores our ability to think after a draining mental activity.
Companies with offices that haven’t been thoughtfully designed and don’t offer a range of work settings to suit different tasks, or which don’t represent their values, will find recruitment and boosting staff productivity more challenging.
Offering a range of work settings that allow for new ways of working presents a huge opportunity for organisations to level up their workplaces and make jobs equally accessible to all – including different age groups, disabilities and neurodiversity. Greater diversity of people brings greater diversity of thought – and therefore better businesses.
Jo Lloyd, Rengen House (rengenhouse.com) Working pattens have changed beyond recognition over the last two years, with people demanding more from their physical working environment and blurring the lines between work, rest and play. Emerging out of Covid restrictions, Bath was ready for a new way of working.
Rengen House offers a solution, providing high-quality, flexible workspace in a professional and sociable environment. Workers have become weary of home-working and crave social interaction. Rengen House is about offering more than just a desk space; it’s a community to co-work, host meetings, events and relax with clients or colleagues. Instead of sterile, corporate spaces, you’ll find high-end furnishings and a home-from-home feel. In line with these changing dynamics, the idea is to provide the most flexible co-working offer in the marketplace. With a range of packages, from pay-as-you-go options to full-time dedicated desks, there is an option to suit all needs. Contracts are rolling monthly and therefore require minimal commitment.
Members come from a wide range of backgrounds and that’s what makes it such an interesting place to work. The common denominator is people who crave social interaction, but in an environment that is professional, comfortable and collaborative. Some members have traditionally commuted away from the city and, faced with working from home, they are seeking a community they can plug into.
The co-working model has been around for a long time, however it tended to be a set up that was used by specific industries such as the creative and tech industries. The big difference now is that the model has a much broader appeal to all kinds of individuals and businesses, from across all industries. There are clear benefits for both employers and staff from both a cost and welfare point of view in adopting a more flexible workplace solution. I believe this transition was already happening pre-pandemic, but undoubtedly Covid-19 has accelerated this movement considerably and reset what we think of as the ‘workplace’.
The House of St John’s (hosj.co.uk) Another recently introduced co-working space in Bath is The House of St John’s, and this is a space very much powered by social purpose. St John’s Foundation ploughed their energies into restoring number 1 Queen Square and, launched this year, the building is now run by the Charity’s Trading Subsidiary, with its profits gifted to St John’s. This Grade I listed building now houses a variety of private offices, dedicated desks, meeting rooms and an event space, high-end fittings and ultra-fast broadband all suit the needs of today’s hybrid working lifestyle.