The Workplace - December 2018

The Workplace - Guy HaywardFor many years I have been saying that work needs to be a place that challenges and inspires. On average we spend 90,000 hours of our life there, which means that in a typical week we spend more time at work than at home. So how important are the design and cosmetic appearance of the space we find ourselves working in?

I ask this not because of the trend for fun – and often gimmicky – office design, but because of our people’s need to feel they are working in open, clean and spacious communities. While a cosmetically beautiful office remains near the bottom of what is important for people when selecting their new employer – or when keeping their current teams together – it should wholeheartedly complement our approach to how we look after our people and the culture we aim to create.

The ‘Skills and Employment Survey 2017’, released this month, highlighted the continuing stagnation of productivity in the UK. It questioned the role of workplace design as a cause of low productivity, and suggested that, conversely, it can encourage creatively, health, wellbeing and engagement.

Maybe a visually stimulating office does indeed encourage innovation and provide a creative working environment. Auto Trader magazine has real Mini cars parked on its walls; LEGO’s offices feature archways in the shape of the toy company’s Minifigures; and employees of entertainment business Mind Candy can meet in a treehouse – so these three businesses certainly think visual stimulation works.

This year’s World Mental Health Day shone a spotlight on the importance of creating ‘retreat space’, which I found thought-provoking. We are already making that change. Having rooms bustling full of people because of Xboxes and table tennis tables may be exciting, and may work for some people. But what about room(s) for those who just need some downtime, quiet or even a nap? I’m in favour of the ‘fun stuff’, but sometimes that ‘no phone call’ room can make a big difference. We certainly believe it can.

In a world where the modern workplace is seeking to change the age demographic inside most offices, here’s an interesting statistic: 27% of 45-54-year-olds believe that quiet spaces will increase their productivity at work.

There’s another interesting twist. Property information company Zoopla recently made it onto the Business Insider website’s ‘10 coolest offices list’, because the company believed it should put as much care into what its office looked like as people give to their own homes. Zoopla built an office of themed areas including a living room, dining room, library and even a treehouse.

Take a look at the offices of accommodation firm Airbnb, file-hosting service Dropbox, charity events company Pallotta Teamworks and fashion brand Urban Outfitters. While they have spent a small fortune on office design – an outlay that isn’t possible for most firms – there must be messages for us all on the role that their office layout and space play in contributing to business performance and culture.

Guy Hayward – redefining the modern workplace CEO, Goodman Masson

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