HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd

Which companies have the most forward-thinking office space?

Flexible working for employees might soon be a legal requirement, which means business’ physical space might have to change…
Which companies have the most forward-thinking office space?

Which companies have the most forward-thinking office space?


Flexible working for employees might soon be a legal requirement,
which means business’ physical space may have to change…

Gensler is one of the world’s largest architecture firms. It designed the iconic Shanghai Tower and Facebook’s Campus. It has most recently been in the news after it was revealed it was involved in designing flying cities for Uber Elevate – the ride-hail firms aerial ride-sharing initiative.

The US-headquartered firm is also intimately involved in designing office spaces for forward-thinking companies who are embedding flexible working into their normal business approach. With a bill currently moving through Parliament, that would require flexible working to be offered for every job role in the UK – currently employees can request flexible working if they have been at a firm more than six months – more companies might have to think if their physical space is suited to this potentially legally-enshrined way of working.

Even if this bill doesn’t pass, Philippe Paré, a design director at Gensler, predicts that 2022 – due to the increase in project work and the rise of technology – allowing talent to work from anywhere will soon be a business necessity.

To find out more about how firms are changing their physical space to allow for flexible working, which have the most futuristic offices and what working might look like in a decade’s time, HR Grapevine spoke with Colin Burry, a separate design director at Gensler, to get the lowdown.

 

How does office space have to change to allow flexible working?

The biggest challenge for flexible working is human behaviour. Many of us like to be ‘nested’, have a spot to call our own, and have a place to go back to in the office. Getting employees to shift their mindset is the key factor – getting them to become comfortable with the idea that their computer, and the entire office, is their new nest. Suitable technology plays a vital role in supporting this – without it, flexible working simply won’t work. Phone, data, digital, IT – all these elements need to work seamlessly.

It is important to have a diversity of workspace settings as well, in order to provide workers with the choice. So even if they don’t have a ‘personal’ space of their own, they can have a favourite place in the office, or places that are suitable for different types of work they may do.

What are some of the most forward-thinking businesses when it comes to flexible working?

A good example would be Netflix. The firm asked us to create a space to reflect its business culture and values of the future. Office framework offers a great freedom of choice of when and how employees work.

Looking at some key themes however, the idea of individual offices for more senior employees – something which perhaps in the past was considered a status symbol – is increasingly seen as passé and not conducive to how companies want their employees to work today. It creates ideas of rigid hierarchy and can kill collaboration. Forward-thinking companies and employees are adapting to instead having shared spaces that can be booked when needed for private and confidential meetings. As mindsets shift further, this will be more and more common.

What do you predict offices will look like in ten years' time?

Not like the traditional ‘idea’ of an office most of us have in our heads. They’re no longer going to be designed ‘pancake-style’ (central core, with workstations around). Every floor will have different and distinct functions and different ‘characters’ and work experiences. Each area will be designed to support the type of work activities that take place within it. It will look a little bit more like a hotel than an office – more diverse and varied.

What should the base standard physical space that firms should now be offering their workers?

Even if they’re stuck with a traditional or hierarchical physical structure, they should still be providing space more suitable for the next generation of workers who are less comfortable with the idea of hierarchy and any clear, physical manifestations of it in the office. Providing co-working and agile spaces for at least a section of the office will give workers more of a choice and have a positive impact. 

Gensler is one of the world’s largest architecture firms. It designed the iconic Shanghai Tower and Facebook’s Campus. It has most recently been in the news after it was revealed it was involved in designing flying cities for Uber Elevate – the ride-hail firms aerial ride-sharing initiative.

The US-headquartered firm is also intimately involved in designing office spaces for forward-thinking companies who are embedding flexible working into their normal business approach. With a bill currently moving through Parliament, that would require flexible working to be offered for every job role in the UK – currently employees can request flexible working if they have been at a firm more than six months – more companies might have to think if their physical space is suited to this potentially legally-enshrined way of working.

Even if this bill doesn’t pass, Philippe Paré, a design director at Gensler, predicts that 2022 – due to the increase in project work and the rise of technology – allowing talent to work from anywhere will soon be a business necessity.

To find out more about how firms are changing their physical space to allow for flexible working, which have the most futuristic offices and what working might look like in a decade’s time, HR Grapevine spoke with Colin Burry, a separate design director at Gensler, to get the lowdown.

How does office space have to change to allow flexible working?

The biggest challenge for flexible working is human behaviour. Many of us like to be ‘nested’, have a spot to call our own, and have a place to go back to in the office. Getting employees to shift their mindset is the key factor – getting them to become comfortable with the idea that their computer, and the entire office, is their new nest. Suitable technology plays a vital role in supporting this – without it, flexible working simply won’t work. Phone, data, digital, IT – all these elements need to work seamlessly.

It is important to have a diversity of workspace settings as well, in order to provide workers with the choice. So even if they don’t have a ‘personal’ space of their own, they can have a favourite place in the office, or places that are suitable for different types of work they may do.

What are some of the most forward-thinking businesses when it comes to flexible working?

A good example would be Netflix. The firm asked us to create a space to reflect its business culture and values of the future. Office framework offers a great freedom of choice of when and how employees work.

Looking at some key themes however, the idea of individual offices for more senior employees – something which perhaps in the past was considered a status symbol – is increasingly seen as passé and not conducive to how companies want their employees to work today. It creates ideas of rigid hierarchy and can kill collaboration. Forward-thinking companies and employees are adapting to instead having shared spaces that can be booked when needed for private and confidential meetings. As mindsets shift further, this will be more and more common.

What do you predict offices will look like in ten years' time?

Not like the traditional ‘idea’ of an office most of us have in our heads. They’re no longer going to be designed ‘pancake-style’ (central core, with workstations around). Every floor will have different and distinct functions and different ‘characters’ and work experiences. Each area will be designed to support the type of work activities that take place within it. It will look a little bit more like a hotel than an office – more diverse and varied.

What should the base standard physical space that firms should now be offering their workers?

Even if they’re stuck with a traditional or hierarchical physical structure, they should still be providing space more suitable for the next generation of workers who are less comfortable with the idea of hierarchy and any clear, physical manifestations of it in the office. Providing co-working and agile spaces for at least a section of the office will give workers more of a choice and have a positive impact. 


More from this issue
Behind the HRD
Andi Hirons, People Director, The Grand Brighton

Andi Hirons, People Director, The Grand Brighton

HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Cover Feature
Turning the page on HR bias

Turning the page on HR bias

HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Leadership
Taking the lead on mental health

Taking the lead on mental health

HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd