What Google’s new office can teach other firms

Google’s vision of the workplace utopia

You can achieve real flexible working without the tech giant’s budget.

Google received its customary share of attention when it released plans for a new headquarters in California recently. While the workplaces most of us travel to each day may not yet reflect the tech giant’s utopian Mountain View vision, the plans provide a glimpse of some of the ways in which we might be working in the future.
Billed as a “click-together city”, the modular vision for a new Google HQ shows what a move towards flexible workplaces might look like; areas that can be reconfigured continuously in response to the nature of the work and the people carrying it out. With a series of greenhouse-style zones, spanning vast expanses of open space, it’s an idealistic vision of the future.
Google’s plans exemplify the trend for innovative workplaces, but businesses of all shapes and sizes increasingly demand bespoke office concepts that encourage interaction and attract prospective employees in the battle for talent. As innovators by nature, tech firms tend to evolve more quickly than others, but the ideas coming out of them often become trends that are ultimately adopted by other businesses.


The intention behind the flexible working concept – providing areas that are adaptable to the needs of the workforce and the nature of their work – is incredibly important and can be applied by businesses in London. We’re seeing more firms offer a blend of hot-desking and remote working for staff, elements that are more in step with modern lives and which give employees the choice of how, where and when they work.
Of course, technology is the biggest driver of change in working practices, and necessity is the mother of invention: the increasing digitisation of work and ubiquity of technology means that there is less and less requirement for businesses to provide a dedicated desk or workspace for each member of staff. This not only enables a leaner and more versatile working environment, but it reflects how people want to work. Our research shows that people want to bring their own devices to the office and, despite common misconceptions, virtual connectivity is actually a facilitator of wellbeing.


A connected generation means the lines between our work and home lives are blurring more and more and, as a result, we’ll continue to see workplaces focus on providing space for socialising and working collaboratively as part of a campus-style office. But even businesses without the scale, vision and budget of Google can capitalise on the principles of the flexible workspace: break-out areas, such as centralised seating for informal discussions over a coffee, can encourage more versatile ways of working.
While Google’s vision takes this to the most advanced stage, with its campus where work and lifestyle genuinely merge, there are elements which London businesses can take on board as they create or evolve workspaces to become fit for the future.
Richard Kauntze is chief executive of the British Council for Offices (BCO). This year’s BCO annual conference on 20-22 May will explore the past, present and future of our cities, and discuss the impact of new technologies and changing demographics on the way we work and live. bco.org.uk/conference.

The nuclear option

If you’re distracted, have tried everything to regain your focus, and your life can no longer accommodate the hours you waste on the internet, it’s time for a nuclear option. SelfControl is a free app for Mac users that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, email, or anything you like on the internet. You simply set a period of time, add the sites you wish to block, and click Start. Until that time has passed, even if you restart your computer and delete the app, your access to those sites will still be restricted.

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