Colin Allan, managing director at Bracknell-based office design and workplace specialists Morgan Lovell, tells The Business Magazine why now is the time for businesses to think about the office of the future.
“The pandemic has hit the reset button on the workplace,” said Colin Allan. “To an extent, every organisation now has a once-in-a-century opportunity to transform people’s working lives by re-imaging the workplace and attracting them back. It’s an incredibly exciting time.”
The new-look office needs to be more than just a place of work. Businesses should also be looking at creating collaborative and social hubs; a ‘destination’ that people want to visit and be part of.
“Organisations should be thinking about workspaces where people feel they will be missing out if they aren’t there,” Allan recommended.
One of the biggest pandemic-induced changes is the continued move from fixed workstations to more flexible ‘workpoints’, so people aren’t tied to desks and can collaborate in different ways.
Looking at the broader picture, carbon zero will also be a key consideration and will rate highly on the workplace agenda. The recent G7 summit in Cornwall showed how far up the political agenda climate change has moved in recent years. “Around 40% of the carbon generated in the UK comes from the built environment,” Allan noted. “Carbon reduction is becoming a ‘currency’ in building design and before long will become the norm.”
Morgan Lovell is currently putting its design principles into practice with several clients in Reading. The firm is partnering with Alchemy Asset Management for its client Tristan Capital Partners at Campus, Reading International, to transform 1,180,000 sq ft of office space and create one of the most forward-thinking business parks in Reading.
Allan and his team have also recently embarked on projects for mobile telecom company Hutchinson 3G UK’s new headquarters at Green Park, and ConvaTec’s office in the town’s Forbury area.
The financial rationale for re-appraising workspaces is compelling. “A great workplace will improve your bottom line – you’ll be more efficient, more productive and have happier staff,” said Allan. “And if you provide a great employee experience then your customer satisfaction levels will also go up.”
Workspaces also reflect the corporate culture, and what that culture means also needs to be re-examined and re-defined, Allan believes. “Having worked from home for over a year, employees may have forgotten why they chose to work for you – and new recruits may never have experienced their employer’s culture first hand.”
Another driver for change is to take advantage of advances in technology-enabled buildings. As well as increasing productivity, office technology can be used as a recruitment and retention tool for post-Covid-19 businesses, Allan pointed out.
“We’re looking beyond just measuring air quality, heating, cooling and lighting. Buildings and workplaces can create personalised journeys for users. For example, where you park your car if you drive in, the reception knowing that you’ve arrived, who you’re meeting and where, and preparing everything you need for the day. Everything is connected.”
When to transition to the office of the future is a key question right now for businesses and Allan advises clients not to act rashly.
“All organisations are reacting differently and one size doesn’t fit all. Businesses shouldn’t think they need to jump in quickly just to follow what others are doing. After the dramatic changes caused by the pandemic, it’s worth taking time to get it right.”
He predicts significant ‘business change’ programmes being rolled out, where office design will be a key component, as more employees return with concerns about integrating once again with colleagues. “Now, more than ever before, business change-management will be a big driver for workplace design,” he said.
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