Great office design can transform creativity levels, but the most inventive ideas will always come outside the box – and that box is your office.
It’s long been established that creativity and productivity levels spike when you introduce elements of the outside world to your work environment. So, when it came time to begin designing our next workplace, we decided to take that concept one step further and leave the office entirely.
The motivation for doing so was two-fold; true, we sought the creative power of venturing outside of our normal environment, but perhaps more importantly, our team set out to experience alternative workspaces.
“There are many, many successful workplaces in the world that have nothing to do with offices, whatsoever,” says Lorna Killick, Head of People and Workplaces (and an integral part of our Office Move Team).
From a hospital to a motorcycle factory, here are some of the places we went to get inspired before designing our new office – and what we learned while we were there.
While not exactly a non-traditional workspace, JTP Architects have recently done exactly what we’re doing: they’ve moved office. And their workspace isn’t the only thing that’s changed – their company culture has changed too. JTP Architects’ new office is free from single-use plastic and without paper cups or bags.
They’ve also converted to a completely mobile working environment, despite an initial response of 78% of people saying they did not want a desk share setup. How did they do it?
“They have rules,” says Nic Pryke, our Creative Director. “But they’re rules that most people have bought into. There will always be people who will resist change, and those people just have to come on board or leave.”
Triumph doesn’t make most of their motorbikes in England, but the British factory does offer tours, affording the general public a look at the complicated manufacturing process behind each bike.
Visitors walk through the factory with a guide, seeing everything from mechanical parts to the man responsible for hand-painting every coach line. And that immersive look at the build process sticks with bike enthusiasts and novices alike.
One of the driving factors of the design brief for our new office is the client/visitor experience. The linear nature of an assembly line allows for a clear visual of a creative process in its entirety. That kind of visual impact creates a lasting emotional connection between a company or brand and its visitors or clients.
“I’m quite keen that clients can walk around our new office, and afterwards know what we do and know what would happen if they worked with us,” adds Pryke.
Despite housing a completely linear process, the Triumph Motorcycle Factory was an incredibly adaptable space. In our current offices, true mobility is limited by cables. But, as Killick notes, “in factories, all the cabling hangs down from the ceiling, so you can just clip in, or unclip and wheel off somewhere else. We were specifically interested in how we might apply that to our space.”
Galeria Melissa is a shoe store located in London’s Covent Garden. The futuristic space feels more like a contemporary art gallery than a shoe shop and, beyond the more traditional exterior, there is almost no trace of the original townhouse. Featuring cubic built spaces adorned with digital projections and LED screens, the space feels clinical and can change on a dime.
The store’s kinetic displays provide the ultimate example of modern client-facing space. The entrance of the shop changes constantly, altering visitor experience with whatever is featured on the screens and projected on the walls.
Being able to continually brand and re-brand our new office is another crucial part of our brief. As Pryke explains, “our front entrance needs to do a few things, it needs to grab people’s attention from the street, but it also needs to be different every time someone visits the space.”
Facebook’s office was what most people would consider a traditional office space, apart from one thing: the amenities. Facebook’s investment in employee wellbeing is obvious, from vending machines full of free electronics, to the bars and boutique sweet shops that adorn every floor. And that kind of internal investment is coming to be expected by younger generations of talent.
The convenience of catered meals and gratuitous materials feels luxurious, but it’s also a signifier of just how much time employees are expected to spend in the office. Facebook can afford to spend on services to impress new talent, but the result is a large amount of wasted space.
Ice cream shops and doughnut cafes stand empty for the majority of the day, in areas that could otherwise be used for added workspace or flex space. But there is something to be said for giving people absolutely everything they could possibly need at work.
“The thing I loved about Facebook,” says Pryke, “was that they had what they call The Analogue Workshop. It was full of materials to create with: tables, cutting mats, guillotines, paper and cardboard… I’d love to have something like that in our workplace.”
Hospitals are one of the world’s most flexible workplaces, because they have to be. Efficiency is quite literally a matter of life and death, resulting in almost every feature being completely mobile.
Hospital rooms change to suit patients – outlets are halfway up the wall for easy access, beds are on wheels, tables are on wheels, even the wall-mounted televisions can be adjusted. Rooms can be built around their occupants, but they can also be completely emptied.
“I was thinking,” recalls Killick, “that the room is really just a blank box that is then built up with whatever bits you need – a bed or a drip holder.” Imagine applying the same concept to a meeting room.
Suddenly, traditional work patterns are shifted as a standardised space becomes dynamic. Rather than sit across a table from someone, employees would have the ability to configure the meeting space to their specific task. “It would change the dynamic of a meeting, because you’d have to do a creative task at the start,” Pryke remarks.
Each workplace we visited was vastly different from the next, but there were common factors across all five of them. Every space relied on freedom to create, whether it arose from every provided resource possible, or a hyper-flexible open floor layout.
“People want the tools they need to do well, they want to be brilliant at work,” says Pryke. But if you don’t leave your workplace from time to time, ground-breaking ideas will pass by even the most brilliant.
“How do you break out of that? Go and look at other things,” advises Pryke. “Even if you don’t know quite why you’re doing it.”