Purpose of the workplace

Hannah Floyd

Director & Co Owner at Pi SQ – FF&E Consultants

On Tuesday 8th December I attended a webinar hosted by Cushman & Wakefield – Purpose of place – History and future of the office

I found it very fascinating. It’s no secret I am heavily interested in these discussions, particularly when they are backed up with extensive research.

So, I thought I would share a few of my ‘takeaways’ from the hour-long discussion.

The event began with the point that the conversation is no longer ‘how much space shall I lease’ for the tenant, it is now much more complicated than that. Cushman & Wakefield have run a series of interesting reports aptly named ‘Pandemic to performance’ – the latest two reports focussed on four key questions that are floating around about the office;

  1. Why did the office exist in the first place and what can we learn for our future spaces?
  2. How does the ‘in-office’ work in comparison to remote working? Concerning productivity, wellbeing, and so on.
  3. What role does the office play in a post-COVID world?
  4. How will the office change in the future with it now needing to play a completely different role?

In answer to the first question, we looked at the four purposes of the office (as pictured below). One of the reasons initially has and will always be control – the idea of having everyone in the same place, including managers, which subsequently leads to increased productivity, innovation and knowledge sharing. The passing around of information and learning from our peers which, let’s face it, has to be a physical interaction. Have you experienced how difficult it is to learn at home on a zoom/teams/google meets with all of the distractions around us? I certainly have.

Lastly, in modern times the social/cultural aspect – the office is there to provide wellbeing, a positive culture, a sense of teamwork and a place where we actually want to be, to socialise as well as innovate and create.

Many of these four reasons have derived out of the industrial era which ruled our economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today it is the knowledge economy that is driving our growth.

This is where the creative class workers locate, so it is a means of production and crucial to our economic growth. It is also widely known that the industrial and knowledge economies use space very differently. We still witness this in 2020 in the difference of how a typical say, professional services business would use their space in comparison to a creative agency. However, there are some real changemakers out there such as PWC in Birmingham with their creative and innovative space not usually conducive to that of a professional services firm.

With this we see lower utilisation of the traditional office to a shift of activity-based spaces. The hospitality sector is heavily influencing workplace with a greater emphasis on amenities, services, and employee experience. This is an incredibly interesting moment in time because these changes are now more important than ever to reimburse everything we are missing with remote working/working from home.

For my final thought, the opportunity is now for businesses to use the office to enforce positive culture and wellbeing to really drive the retention and attraction of staff. To have a great focus on inspiring space and maximise their productivity. Zoom fatigue and burnout whilst working from home is very much in our lives which in turn affects our productivity, purpose and most importantly, our wellness.

I am leaving you with a slide that I think sums up the discussion perfectly!

Thanks for reading – please do get in touch if you would like to discuss further!