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Lessons from flexible workspaces

The right office space can attract a vibrant young workforce

Even established companies can re-create the environments that let startups thrive.

For years, truly modern workspaces were the sole domain of Californian tech giants such as Google and Facebook. Smaller businesses were resigned to drab serviced offices or onerous, equally uninspiring, fixed leases.
But with more innovative workspaces opening across the capital, London’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are taking advantage of a trend that places aesthetics, community, collaboration and flexibility at the heart of the office. In doing so, they are also moving ahead of many of the capital’s more established businesses.
If you look at the London offices of fast-growth businesses like Move Guides and Eventbrite, you will see that they are shunning traditional offices for flexible working spaces, such as Headspace Group and Second Home. Recently, there’s been talk of the UK capital becoming the biggest market in the world for this type of workspace.
Why do they work so well? From using inspiring architecture and interior design, to fostering interaction between a tenant base that includes anyone from app designers to venture capitalists, these spaces understand the importance of having a working environment that is conducive to creativity, productivity and comfort. Moreover, there are several lessons this developing trend can teach those looking to get the most from their workspace.

Workplaces must adapt for Generation Y

Architect Arthur Gensler talked about “The Workplace Revolution 3.0” – the idea that, from factoring in the increasing use of technology to a greater emphasis on flexibility, businesses must move with the times in order to continue attracting talent. In London, the notable growth that we have seen among startups is fuelling change. Young and fast-growing companies are looking for maximum flexibility, meaning that the traditional model (five-year leases where tenants are expected to spend the money fitting out and redecorating) is increasingly being shunned. The emphasis now is on space providers offering shorter, more flexible lease terms, and a space that is already kitted out to the appropriate level.

Collaboration encourages productivity

One of Marissa Mayer’s first acts as Yahoo chief executive was to discourage working from home, and Steve Jobs was said to obsess over ways to structure the atrium at Pixar’s headquarters to encourage opportune personal encounters.
Why? Because people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. And this doesn’t just have to be down to architecture. Forward thinking space providers can create a collaborative environment by simply generating opportunities for social interaction, whether through hosting a pre-work yoga session or an inspiring lunchtime talk.

The co-working ethos is spreading

Co-working spaces in the past decade have thrived on the back of startup growth. After all, as a fledgling business, money is tight and connections crucial. While many businesses do not want to forsake their privacy and join the co-working contingent, they do want the opportunity to interact with like-minded firms. Sharing a workspace may be an impossibility, but why not look at creating a community with businesses close by? London’s Tech City flourishes due to this very concept, and your business can too.

Design matters

We spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else, so why shouldn’t we care about how our office looks? Many new businesses have a space that accurately reflects their company and its brand values. For a tech startup, that might mean saying goodbye to a windowless basement and hello to a working hub with exposed brickwork, funky artwork and an in-house coffee shop to encourage mingling. What do you want your office to say about you?
Jonny Rosenblatt is managing director of the Headspace Group.

Beat a lack of phone signal

Free
We all know what it’s like to not be able to get a decent phone signal indoors or be cut off halfway through a conversation. To combat this, mobile provider Three has created Three inTouch for its customers. It enables you to call and text whenever you’ve got Wi-Fi, regardless of whether there’s mobile signal – and there are no extra charges included.

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