Peter Evans, Managing Director of Third Space Solutions, looks at how businesses can utilise their available office space to help maximise its returns by catering to the ‘third space’ and attracting the modern, progressive worker…
Strolling into the majority of offices and taking a cursory look around, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they haven’t evolved much over the years.
At first impression, the setup still includes a desk and a chair, with traditional stationary very much in evidence and the workforce predominantly sat at a designated spot, often typing away or answering deskbound phones.
Looking beyond the initial sweep of your gaze though, the reality is the workplace has changed dramatically in the last quarter of a century. The clearest evidence of this is with technology. Desktop CPUs have developed from overbearing, desk hogging monstrosities to sleek, streamlined and often portable instruments.
This technological evolution is only set to get more advanced, with workplace capabilities progressing apace. But while technology’s advancement is inexorable, one of the aspects that has been slower to change is the attitude around what constitutes the traditional workplace setup.
In the late 1990’s – at Asda HQ in Leeds – I encountered a stand-up meeting table for the first time. It was a boardroom table, with no chairs – something extremely novel for the time. Asking about it, it was explained to me that the concept was to keep meetings short and everybody focused, cutting out unnecessary small talk or the temptation to talk for an overly long period of time.
Asda, in that regard, was taking a very progressive approach when compared to other corporate entities, which were very much clinging to the traditional boardroom arrangement. Changes to that approach have been gradual, but in recent years the pace of change has picked up considerably.
Looking at current trends around open plan, one of the key drivers for agile meeting spaces is to encourage a similar outcome from that outlined at Asda – i.e. improved productivity – while open plan offices, along with privacy phone booths, meeting pods and breakout areas, offer more flexibility for the worker.
The idea of an open plan, agile meeting space is not simply an aesthetic embellishment, projecting a cool or trendy image to demonstrate how progressive and cutting edge your company is. It’s a concept that offers different spaces that the team can utilise to achieve maximum results, whatever the task at hand.
The standard office setup isn’t fit for purpose in the modern world. With so many distractions at our finger tips thanks to smartphones, laptops and tablets, moving into a more flexible space allows employees to thrive in an environment suited to a particular assignment.
Meeting pods for example, provide a setting for intimate consultations between colleagues or with clients, encouraging a ‘speed networking’ approach, getting things done and reaching the point of the matter; while being incorporated into an open plan office discourages idle chatter – a potential side effect of an enclosed meeting room.
A breakout room offers similar functionality, allowing colleagues to collaborate without disturbing the wider workforce, while also affording greater privacy than meeting pods if more sensitive issues need to be discussed.
The traditional office concept often meant you needed to stay at your desk to remain connected, with your phone line plugged in to both take calls and use the internet, while also being the power or charging point for computers and laptops.
Today though, Wi-Fi, cloud computing and smartphones have made this redundant, while integrating wireless changing into workspace solutions means mobile devices can automatically charge at point of contact. Hopping from a set desk to a pod, breakout area or lounge environment doesn’t mean the unplugging of many cables – simply carry your laptop with you and set it down, with no need to worry about dwindling battery life.
The flexibility of open plan, agile solutions allows businesses to meet the requirements of transient, short-term need, dependent on the ebb and flow of the workforce – both daily and in the longer term. Office areas can be assigned to specific projects or activities according to immediate requirements, be that ongoing projects, short-term projects, specific teams, or individual preferences; whatever suits a particular workplace.
Returns generated by this approach, in terms of ROI, can be factored in a variety of ways. While not immediately monetary (in so much as adding definitively attributable numbers to the bottom line) it provides a multitude of benefits, which certainly drive the business forward.
With productivity amplified, project deadlines are more easily achieved and output increases, while staff wellbeing is improved by catering for a wider array of individual working preferences.
While the aim isn’t to merely project an image of a progressive workspace – it’s still certainly an added benefit. A modern working environment helps to attract the modern worker, helping a business to entice – and retain – the right talent.
The ‘workplace experience’, much like the ‘customer experience’ is becoming an increasingly attractive draw. While the terms ‘millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’ may seem like buzzwords, they do define a particular demographic with a particular set of expectations. Utilising functionality and agility allows you to cater for a generation with a different outlook.
Agile workspaces are the office of the future. You only need to look at the pace of change elsewhere to appreciate that it’s no mere passing fad – they offer a competitive advantage which businesses are increasingly keen to embrace.
The agile approach that’s required or desired from individual businesses will be unique. The very concept of agility allows for that uniqueness, with specific office environments suiting specific needs. It’s this flexibility that makes the agile workspace of the future such an all-encompassing prospect. Modern progressive businesses need to ensure they’re on-board if they want to keep up with both the pace of change and the competition.
Peter Evans is Managing Director of Third Space Solutions, a start-up business driven by experienced founders, that’s powered by technology; incorporating integrated technological solutions as part of its lounge and meeting space designs, which includes the latest in wireless charging. Catering for practically any sector, its solutions are ideal for office spaces, retailers, coffee shops and more.