The rise of .com companies such as Google has upped the game of workspaces and even the buildings that house them. These companies have introduced new ways of working and also changed the places where that work happens. Taking Google as an example, when it looks at a new city in which to open an office, it picks exciting, upcoming architects to create stand-out buildings that challenge perceptions about what can be achieved.
In the case of Google’s New York HQ, the 3,000 employees are riding around the 2.9 million square foot building on scooters; while in other offices around the globe they are using slides instead of stairs and some even have a round of golf on their indoor putting green. As a Google spokesperson told the New York Times: “Designers of Google offices have one goal – create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world.” This is evident in plans for the new London HQ in Kings Cross which comes complete with climbing wall, indoor football pitch and rooftop swimming pool. It may sound like a leisure centre but it is designed to “encourage casual collisions of the workforce” according to Google.
Some of these concepts are unrealistic for many companies but Google New York welcomes dogs just like us at artisan, so some innovative ideas are filtering down. Certainly breakout areas or pods for meetings and hot desks caught on, although co-working spaces have now over taken that trend as people really like the idea of a space to call their own. Higher desks are also becoming increasingly popular so people stand for their meetings rather than sit. Not only does standing for more of the day offer health benefits, it also makes for quicker and more productive meetings. Melissa Dahl of New York Magazine wrote that standing can reduce meeting time by 34%. Office gyms are now common place and the works canteen has changed to become a healthier environment in which to eat as well as a social meeting place. Businesses are seeing the benefits of healthier, happier staff.
We are currently working with one of our clients to bring their brand to life in one of their office spaces. It has a very distinct identity which demands showcasing in such an environment. The scene will be set as visitors or staff take to the stairs – instantly enforcing the brand message. A break-out pod is getting special treatment while pillars in the office will carry empowering messages making staff feel important and valued within the company structure. We will be showing a selection of pictures soon!
It is encouraging to see companies realising the importance of the work environment on their staff.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Foster and Partners are taking the work environment to a new level for one of their clients. The architecture practice is looking at every element of its client’s new office building to create a totally connected workplace. Each aspect is examined to assess whether or not it does the job or could be made to contribute more. An overhead metal grid enables rooms to be easily added thus changing workplace layouts as the company evolves. Spongy floor tiles resembling Yoga mats help with sound absorption while more than 8,000 smart bulbs from Ketra are programmed to change colour, and brightness based on the season and time of day. It makes artificial lighting more hospitable.
Connectivity certainly seems to be the latest trend. Last year we posted a tweet about a “digital smart desk” that promised to improve the health and wellbeing for those using it. It is set to be launched next year. OpenDesk has been granted £25,000 from Innovate UK to create the desk which can be customised to the user and includes a built-in computer “motherboard” which connects with portable devices “eliminating the need for desktop technology altogether” say OpenDesk. It will run on open source software and will connect to the cloud.
The desk will also include LED notification lights, wireless charging and motion sensors which will be used for features normally associated with computers. The new desks, which are upgradable and customisable, will cost around £300 and launch late in 2016. At artisan, we are already making space for them.