How to choose your new office space

Not many people anticipated we would end 2020 with a sprinkling of good news, but the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine being passed by the MHRA was the early Christmas cheer lots of businesses needed, says Rob Valentine, director of Birmingham at Bruntwood Works.

The additional vaccines that have since been approved and the ongoing roll out are showing the light at the end of the pandemic.

As well as providing hope for the future, it’s also allowing decision makers to start planning their future with an added level of certainty – something that’s been missing for the year.

One thing we can have total confidence in, is that the workplace has changed forever. After so many weeks at home, it would be alien for people to return to uniform working environments, or to revert back to old professional habits.

While home working hasn’t suited everyone, many have adapted quickly and now profess to be more productive working from spaces that match their individual personalities and cognitive needs, rather than ‘on-brand’ offices which, instead, reflect purely corporate values. So, as businesses consider what their future habitat looks like, being able to meet this changed need must be front and centre of thinking.

The pandemic has forced us to reflect on what’s important, and that applies to choosing a working environment, too. Less of a brand ‘front’, workspaces must now centre on people – enabling connections, driving ambition and enhancing collaboration. Furthermore, they must act as a hub; no longer a 9-5 space for a full team, work environments must be flexible around the changing needs of a team, able to scale up and down, and above all else, be adaptable to personal preferences. Providing an improved work/life balance and offering the right spaces for the right tasks will better engage employees who’ll know you’ve chosen a workspace that’s designed to help them be at their best.

Technology has enabled lots of industries and a huge proportion of the economy to continue functioning throughout the lockdown and will into 2021. But what’s been missing is those chance encounters that spark new ideas; the things you overhear, the reactions you witness, the last-minute meetings you get invited to attend. Offices that facilitate communities and shared working and leisure spaces play an often unrecognised role in creativity and strategic thinking. Re-enabling this for workers that relish bouncing off their colleagues will ensure businesses can craft brighter futures after a dark period.

Furthermore, the changed pace of life has accelerated the drive for new facilities to be in-built to workplaces. Sleep pods, quiet study areas, cinema rooms, fitness studios complemented by showers and changing facilities, and spaces to host pop-up events, will be increasingly popular features that also play a crucial role in improving health and wellbeing – something which has to be prioritised by employers. There is no wriggle room on that.

Our Birmingham office spaces now benefit from the learnings of 2020, combining all the great parts about home working with the crucial parts of a workplace which enable employees to thrive.

For example, we’ve completed a £1.3m transformation of the historic Cornwall Buildings, upgrading the interior of the grade II-listed space to balance its Victorian heritage with a striking contrast of contemporary interiors, modern art and cutting-edge design. Including break-out areas, hot desks and a ‘lounge’ for freelancers, start-ups and mobile workers, the Cornwall Buildings is now a community asset which acts as a home-from-home for businesses and their employees.

And because we know that no two businesses are the same, we allow full tailoring of our offices, enabling teams to put a personal stamp on their space – even down to choosing their own wallpaper. They’re so bespoke to a user’s needs, complete with all the other perks and comforts we’ve got used to while WFH since March, that users feel like they’ve come home to the office.

The lockdown has forced us to overcome many deep-rooted inefficiencies in the way that we previously worked, so if there is one positive to come out of the pandemic, it’ll be the way it plays a role in the future design, development and adaptation of workspace environments. Whenever you choose to bring your team back to the office, carefully consider its contribution to your wider business strategy, and opt for one that makes coming to work everyday a pleasure. People can’t do their best if they’re not in the best space. Luckily for you, there’s a wealth of that on your doorstep.