How can a detail oriented waiting area transform your office reception?

A reception space with a neglected waiting area is as ineffective as it is senseless. 

By definition, a reception area is designed to receive, be it clients, business partners, prospects or visitors, it is the gate to your office and the reflection of your business.

Now, let's imagine you enter a spacious reception area with a sleek reception desk, striking lighting features, maybe even a bit of branding in the shape of a logo carved in the desk. You're a little early for your meeting with the sales director, no problem, you never finished that Business Insider article you were reading on the tube, you'll just take a seat and — oh wait.

Marketing agency Gravitate office, Vancouver, Washington

Uncomfortable seating, worn-out upholstery, or no seating whatsoever, the waiting area in commercial properties is often neglected when the budget is tight. Yet, the reception area is likely to be your client's first interaction with your office space - in other words:  not caring for your waiting area is bound to yield terrible first impressions, which will, in turn, yield terrible business. Not what you want.

So how can you make a great first impression?

The waiting area is part and parcel of every reception space. By providing a quiet, comfortable space, you're giving your clients the opportunity to appreciate your business (don't worry, a bit of judgement is good for business growth,) and your affinity for design, a.k.a., how closely you're paying attention to detail.

Google Amsterdam's office. Architect: DDOCK

Answer the following. Is your business detail-oriented? Do you care for your clients and do you want them to know that you care? Are you looking to set yourself apart from the crowd? Chances are, you answered yes to all above questions, and the good news is: it all starts with a swanky reception area, complete with a functional waiting area.

Ergonomic, durable furniture items that have met BIFMA standards, built-in VS. modular seating, bespoke designer furniture... From modern ottomans and soft seating to lounge chairs and low tables, decisions might prove difficult, so here's an inspiring selection to get you started.

Zimmerman Advertising, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Architects: Gensler 
Adobe London office in The White Collar Factory. 

Low-Teknion-dna-Lounge-Seating.jpg
DNA seating, by Teknion

Opening photo: Headquarters schlaich bergermann und partner, Stuttgart, Germany. Architects: Ippolito Fleitz Group. Photography: Zooey Braun

Tenants want cycle provision at work. Are landlords listening?

When will developers jump on the bandwagon and embrace a cycle-centric approach to office development? 

With its cycle superhighways, Crossrail for Bikes and Cycle to Work schemes, London wants -- and seems to be trying hard -- to become the next Copenhagen. Following a trend that is far from confined to Europe (New York has Bikes in Buildings, while Singapore has been profiting from the Travel Smart Grant since 2014), the successive mayors' wishes for a safe bike-friendly capital have given rise to incentives such as the Cycle to Work scheme. But once commuters have made the journey to the office, the question remains -- what are they supposed to do with their bikes (and sweaty selves)? 

Ambitious as they are, London's cycling growth targets and incentives remain stifled by a surprising lack of insight from office landlords and developers who refuse to include or retrofit offices with cycle provision. 

When thinking about these much-coveted workplace facilities, a famous Fields of Dreams quote-turned-motto comes to mind: "Build it, and he will come." In this case, however, it seems the words need jumbling up a bit, for he the cyclist has come, but it has not yet been built. 

When will developers jump on the bandwagon and embrace a cycle-centric approach to office development? Perhaps some numbers will help put things into perspective.

Cyclists riding on London's superhighway
Bikes account for 24% of rush-hour traffic in London. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Research points to missed opportunities

In 2017, British Land found that, among 1,000 workers, 87% want public transport links close to their offices, a figure that rises to 97% in London. An even more pertinent figure shows that 39% of all employees want somewhere to park their bike at work  50% among millennials. 

And because cycling, much like the Central Line at rush hour, but with added health benefits, makes you transpire, it comes as no surprise that 53% of the surveyed employees want showers and lockers in situ.

Perhaps the most crucial find of all, however, echoes our earlier Fields of Dreams reference: 38% of British office workers would consider commuting by bike if their workplace offered better facilities.  

Demand for cycle provision is rising but few modern offices are designed to meet them:

 

  • One in 10 offices offer absolutely no cycle provision, according to research commissioned by the British Council for Offices and carried out by Remit Consulting
  • Although 83% of UK workplaces offer some form of bicycle parking, less than half is actually covered and secure
  • 45% of surveyed offices do not have those basic yet crucial facilities otherwise known as showers. 
in-office bike racks
bike parking inside the office
The Leadenhall Building includes parking spaces for over 400 bikes with 24/7 access

So, why should landlords and developers promote bike-friendly offices?

Wellbeing in the workplace has become a bit of a buzzword in office culture, and with good reason: it is where office design is headed. Sustainable, adaptive, and increasingly hyggelig (thank the Danish for the increasing number of workplaces to feature homely touches), the modern office now has to cater to cyclists, too. Why? 

The following list of perks can be split between three beneficiaries: the employee, the employer, and the person in charge of the building (i.e. you, the office landlord or commercial developer.) Although we could skip to this last category, presenting the full picture is of paramount importance to understanding the need for cycle provision at work. 

1. Perks for employees 

Financially speaking, when an employee gets a bike through a scheme, they don't have to pay VAT, Income Tax or Employees National Insurance on the cost of said bike. 
As for health benefits, there exist countless studies and extensive academic literature on the link between cycling and health. From type-two diabetes, through coronary heart disease, to several forms of cancer, research shows that cycling (and physical activity as a whole) can help cut diseases and reduce cancer risks. 

Cycling has also been proven to reduce stress, alleviate depression, improve sleep patterns. But you probably already knew all that, so let's move onto our second category. 

London office with cycle-in ramp for bike commuters
in-office bike storage facilities
Clockwise from top: London's first cycle-in office at Alphabeta Building, by Studio RHE. 7 Clarges Street, Mayfair, by Squire & Partners
wayfinding inside office for workers who cycle to work

2. Perks for employers 

When employees get a bike through the cycle to work scheme, employers can save on National Insurance contributions. This can incur savings of up to 13.8%. Cycling to work is also associated with lower absenteeism rates, which, naturally, boosts overall productivity. And because a cycle scheme, like other salary sacrifice incentives, yields a non-cash reward, it can help employers attract, as much as retain talent. 

Financial benefits aside, the Cycle To Work scheme is an attractive feature for the sustainability aficionados. The average worker who devolves (or evolves?) from four to two wheels would reduce their carbon footprint by 6% and save 0.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

bike storage at 2 Forbury Place, London
2 Forbury Place in London features bike parking facilities coupled with service station amenities and ample locker space

3. Perks for landlords and developers 

Including cycle provision from Day One is, of course, much easier than retrofitting an existing office building with the likes of bike parking, lockers, showers and so forth.  Such building standards do, however, attract tenants, and perhaps that is the biggest advantage landlords and developers should tap into. 

Just like a product succeeds because its creators have identified a gap in the market, a successful office building has to meet present demands and expectations for the future. This means that a cycle-centric strategy can increase the letting potential of your office space. 

Perhaps prophetically, Workplace Parking Levies have recently been approved in  Cambridge, Nottingham, and possibly Manchester soon. Nottingham City Council is currently leading the way with firms charged over £400 a year in an attempt to tackle air pollution and reduce congestion in big UK cities. 

What may seem like a constraint might in fact be an interesting opportunity for landlords who, by reducing the number of cars in their office buildings, could repurpose the newfound space into, oh I don't know, shower and changing facilities? 

How exactly does one tackle this transformation and what are the factors to consider when developing a bike-friendly office? 

Hygge at work – it starts with the landlord!

coworking space with a hygge vibe

 

Somewhere between cosy and sustainable, hygge at work can be fostered by office landlords as early in the process as a Cat A fit out.

What is hygge?

For all we know, you may have lived in a cave for the past year and missed out on the ‘hygge’ craze. That’s okay, welcome to 2019. Let’s fill you in real quick.  First introduced by the Danes, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) can be translated as a blend of “cosiness”, “comfort” and “contentment” all at once. Mindfulness meets carpe diem – hygge is gentle a reminder to slow down and savour the little things, but also a quest for health and wellbeing. It is about a sustainable way of being. And with over 2.5m #hygge Instagram posts shared this year, the popularity of hygge in the U.K. is everything but a coincidence.

Open-plan office with subtle hints of hygge at work
With its muted lighting, acoustic walls and lowered ceilings, the Zendesk San Francisco office was inspired by the Danish concept of “hygge”

Hygge at work  

Initially, the hygge concept belonged to the home. Think crackling fire, woollen throws, a steaming cup of tea, sitting in harmony amidst a rustic Scandinavian interior. Although it may have started as a response to the long and cold Danish winters, hygge doesn’t need cold weather to thrive, though. Nor does it require warm blankets, for it is not material. It is a state of mind.

Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things


The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking

In late 2016, “hygge” was shortlisted as the Oxford word of the year — proof that the Danish definition of happiness has well percolated Western culture, and, incidentally, transcended the home to cosy up with the workplace.

It may seem contradictory at first — how can an office be cosy and relaxing if employees are to remain productive and efficient? It is doubtful that health and safety regulations will ever include a clause for aromatherapy candles and fireplaces at the office. There is, however, a place for hygge at work, and the journey to wellbeing in the workplace starts earlier in the process than you might think.

A resource for employers and landlords alike

The hygge craze may have already entered the workplace scene, but its full potential remains an untapped resource for landlords and property developers who like to think outside the box while staying on trend. While several how-to resources exist to encourage employers and employees to embrace hygge in the workplace, very little has been said to foster hygge from the very beginning of the office design cycle.

Indeed, the comforting health-imbued influence of hygge can be brought into the office well before the hunt for tenants begins. It may even help. So how can landlords and property agents make the workplace hygge-ready at the stage of a Cat A office fit out, while still offering a flexible environment ready for personnalisation?

How can the Danish state of mind be fostered in a Cat A fit out?

Think light and warmth

Cat A fit out with warm timber flooring
Cat A office fit out with an industrial yet warm feel

While flexibility and a “blank canvas” look are key in  Cat A fit outs, knowing your audience can often help you stand out. And with wellbeing in the workplace being in the forefront of office trends, you might want to take a stand and position yourself as an advocate of wellbeing, or hygge at work, from the get-go.

Needless to say, this should be done in subtle ways. Think warm textures, wooden flooring. energy-saving lighting, sustainably sourced materials that will appeal to the green customer. Location and natural lighting are also worth taking into consideration.

Tap into the cycle-to-work scheme

The Alphabeta cycle-in office in London has a ramp for bike commuters
Bike commuters can cycle into the Alphabeta office and ride to basement and bike storage via a ramp

End-of-trip facilities are becoming more and more important to the modern-day tenant. Very much in line with the Danish reminder to live healthily, cycling is a crucial part of the London commute. And although the numbers remain static, reports show that more commuters would cycle to work if they were provided with adequate end-of-trip facilities.

Incorporating bike storage, locker rooms and shower facilities in the common area of the office building will not only hygge-up the workplace, it will also attract tenants willing to pay higher rent for a more sustainable lifestyle.

Pave the way for hyggelig common areas

momondo office inner courtyard for socialising

Work-life balance is key to Danish culture and an essential element to hygge. While employers can promote a more relaxed company culture by offering wellness incentives and creating socialising spaces, landlords can pave the way for a hyggelig office by focusing on the common areas of said workplace.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office will know – most interactions happen in shared spaces. In other words, landlords who go above and beyond to cater to those shared spaces show a clear understanding of the Millennials’ need for interaction and collaboration. If office reception areas, lift lobbies and washrooms all reflect this understanding at the early stage of a Cat A fit out, offices may well command higher rent and landlords will find it easier to attract (and retain) tenants.

‘Workplace Wellbeing Special’ – 10 steps for a happy office in 2019

 

Wellbeing is becoming a buzzword in the workplace industry, and with reason – it is an essential component of the modern office and a real focus point for most businesses in 2019!

The workplace is not always a well-oiled machine, but studies have shown a clear correlation between wellbeing in the workplace and increased productivity. In other words, the way to a company’s success is a happy office.

Now, this is all well and good for business owners looking to boost profits, but what about landlords and property managers? Do the cogs start turning even before the lease is signed?

The answer is yes. And wellbeing in the workplace is no accident. Just a carefully constructed puzzle where everyone in the industry – from the designer, through the landlord, to the end-user – plays a role.

All it takes a pinch of modern thinking, a great deal of commitment, and about 10 elements to get right.

1. Naturally lit

You can’t always break a hole through the wall to let the sunshine in, but think about ways you can optimise your office layout so as to take maximum advantage of natural light.

A 2014 study from the Northwestern University of Chicago (one of many,) shows that daylight in the office boosts health and morale. As a result, employees with windows in the workplace report higher wellbeing.

Where possible, workstations should be located within 20 to 25 feet of side windows. Any further than that and daylight almost vanishes. And if your office space, or parts of it, is lacking windows, you can always opt for integrated lighting systems like Ketra to mimic natural light. 

RTKL London office. © Photobanks Ltd. / Jonathan Banks

2. Adaptive

Gone are the days of the sedentary office. Flexibility is key in today’s work environment. Employees like standing desks. They like having control over the layout of their workstations.

So how can the workplace adapt to its users’ needs? Modular furniture is a place to start: breakout furniture that doubles up as an informal meeting space, portable furniture and reconfigurable systems to facilitate the process if a company changes location.

The office layout can be adaptive as well. Big hangar-like offices, for example, can benefit from mobile partition screens to be used according to the users’ needs. Demountable partitions or folding walls are the perfect way to temporarily break up the space, or open it up for a large conference.

The more flexible the office is, the easier to implement changes it is. Anticipation is the watchword of the modern office.

Tree House modular furniture. Designer: Dymitr Malcew

3. Finely tuned

Bad acoustics are a by-product of busy open-plan offices. Unsurprisingly, noise is distracting and harmful to productivity.

What can you do?

Using sound absorbing materials in the workplace can provide significant acoustic relief; solutions vary from partitions and acoustic baffles to absorbent furniture and flooring. You can also go for decorative wall-mounted acoustic panels that come in every shape or form imaginable.

Beyond functionality, many decorative acoustic panels are designed with flexibility in mind: modular units, wall tiles in varying colours, shapes and sizes, and if the walls in your office are too busy, you can always opt for ceiling-mounted baffles a freestanding unit to double up as a divider.

Gaia acoustic panels. Designed by Stone Designs for Blå Station

4. Branded

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a good office branding is the opportunity to tell your story.

But strong branding can also make a real difference to a company’s image. It is the face of a business. It makes it recognisable to clients and employees. And it boosts wellbeing in the workplace by making for an inspiring work environment where employees feel an emotional connection with their surroundings.

Glass manifestation inside Tuango’s Montreal office. Designer: Anna Sophie Goneau

So much more than slapping a logo on a wall, strong office branding should reflect the corporate culture of the company and portray its values and identity.

A well-thought-out branding strategy also helps organisations stand out from the crowd and, if used in key spaces like the reception area, it can help make a great first impression upon clients and prospects.

5. Close to nature

Wellbeing in the workplace would hardly exist without the fresh use of greenery. Being close to nature has proven to have a positive impact on our mood, and with 35% of our total waking hours spent at work, a positive mindset sure is important.

So, what can you do to add greenery to your office? A simple living wall in the workplace can improve air quality and acoustic levels as well as promote a sustainable image that will speak to your green customer. If a living wall sounds too big an investment, evenly spread-out planters will help too.

Another way to bring the office closer to nature is by growing vegetables in the breakout area. Outlandish as it may seem, innovative products like Herbert make this very possible and effective.

Skyscanner’s office in Budapest. Architect: Madilancos Studio

6. Sustainable

From wind turbines and CO2 monitors to foam flushing toilets and treadmill desks, office buildings around the world are raising the bar for sustainability and innovation.

Billed as the most sustainable office building in the world  – a good standard to match, we thought – The Edge (pictured below) boasts a sophisticated design which, coupled with the use of innovative technologies, resulted in an astonishing 98.36% BREEAM score.

Home to Deloitte’s headquarters, the office building harvests rainwater to flush toilets and water its gardens. It also gives staff full control over temperature and light, both regulable via a smartphone app.

What’s more, The Edge also produces its own energy through the use of 800 solar panels and its roof boasts a floor-to-floor scanner that detects when rooms are not being used, thus helping reduce electricity consumption.

If you hadn’t guessed it, sustainably viable offices are not only good for morale, they’re also good for business. Oh, and the environment, too.

The Edge, Amsterdam. Photograph: Ronald Tilleman/PLP architecture

7. Healthy

We’ve talked about the importance of bringing the outside in. We’ve also seen how sustainable office design contributes to the general wellbeing of employees. But a happy office goes beyond green and eco-friendly – it must also promote a healthy way of working.

Developers can make a big impact here; it all starts with the relevant facilities. How about a gym at the office? If you include a gym, you will have to include showers. And locker rooms. And what about the increasing number of workers who cycle to work every day? They might need bike storage facilities indoors.

Smaller offices could negotiate memberships with local gyms or personal trainers. They can also join forces with other companies to chase a better deal with a larger fitness supplier.

Thumbtack San Francisco HQ. Boor Bridges Architecture

8. Wired

The modern office needs technology to thrive. This can translate in the use of automation systems that allow users to control lighting, HVAC and even outdoor shutters for optimum lighting conditions.

High technology also shines through the integration of personalised lighting systems that challenge the one-light-for-all principle. In this instance, employees can control the overhead lighting in their immediate environment. All they would need for this is, you guessed it, a smartphone.

In large offices, gathering location data of all employees can help you determine which areas are more used than others. This information can be gathered through the use of tiny devices called beacons, and shared with the lighting department to help you run a ‘greener’ office.

For everyone’s comfort, office furniture must be wired too. Plug-and-play workstations are trending in offices with limited space. Meeting rooms are equipped with built-in outlets. You get the gist.

After all, millenials don’t have time to run out of power!

Estimote beacons

9. Filled with art

Art is a conversation starter. Made to engage with those who notice it, it is an intellectual asset that fosters interaction and critical thinking.

According to a 2013 research by the British Council for Offices, 61% of workers agree that artwork inspires them to think and work more creatively.

Corporate art is more than a socialising tool, however. It is also a strategic device that offers businesses financial benefits and marketing opportunities.

12 Harmonics by Keith Tyson in Deutsche Bank London. Photograph: Deutsche Bank

10. Fun!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In recent years, this old proverb has weaved its way into the work culture where the importance of downtime has not only been recognised but also promoted.

More and more concerned with wellbeing in the workplace, companies are incorporating ‘fun’ in the office. Game rooms, ping pong tables and slides in lieu of stairs are no strangers to the work environment as forward-looking offices are slowly turning into carefully balanced playgrounds.

Unsurprisingly, breakout areas are also a key part of the fun. More than a simple room where staff can take five, breakout spaces are becoming fully integrated little hubs designed to foster creativity and collaboration while offering a space away from the screen. From relaxed, shared workspaces to impromptu meeting points, dedicated breakout spaces can also double as scenes for catered lunches, thus allowing companies to save on venue hire. Quite a few perks for one space!

Ticketmaster’s London office. TSK Group

Bonus: Future-proof

A ‘Workplace Wellbeing Special’ would be incomplete without the mention or two about the future. While catering to the employees’ present needs, a successful office space must also be able to anticipate their future needs. This means dynamic space planning, leaving room to grow and embrace change.

Embedding flexibility in the workspace is key. As previously mentioned, this can refer to adaptive furniture but it is also a reminder that people move too. And they should be encouraged to work in different settings.