11th Feb 2016

There cannot be a conversation on cities without addressing workspaces as that is where we produce ideas, create innovation, and where the journey of new industries start. Despite the prediction that we would would be working less, we still are spending over 70% of our time at working. However, what has changed is how we work and where we work. The 2008 crash played a key role in changing the perception and culture of work. The crash unleashed a voracious appetite for innovation and created a new generation of independent workers. These workers required a new type of office that would cater to the new demands formed by the economic circumstance of the time. People needed flexibility rather than long leases, they needed affordability as they faced economic uncertainty, and most importantly the needed a community of like minded people. These elements catalysed the coworking movement, we opened in 2009 and our second space in New York in 2010. As we did not have a property background it was obvious for us to create spaces that were of a different aesthetic than the usual office. We wanted our spaces to be place of calm and productivity, so we went for natural light, biophilic elements, and open work areas. As coworking started to boom around 2012, we began to receive enquiries from architectural firms, who were looking to design “coworking” offices for their clients. This is when the pivot started. Big organisations wanted to replicate the culture and aesthetic of coworking spaces as they began to see workspaces as an asset rather than just a place of work.

According to Philip Tidd a principal at Gensler “organisations are exploring new ways to attract and retain talent, and there is growing recognition that the physical workplace can be a key tool on this front. A well-designed workplace not only helps retain employees; it enhances productivity and engagement (the latter being the key to unlocking the former). Research shows that disengaged employees are less productive, less satisfied employees (and therefore more likely to seek employment elsewhere). And many unsatisfied employees cite poor working environments as one contributor to their disengagement.”

This workspace research has taught us two things, one is that the built environment has a direct impact on behaviour and wellbeing. The second is that we cannot ignore the benefits of a well designed space as it will lead to economic repercussions. We can take this research one step further to city level, we have the opportunity to create cities that engage people, leading to a reduction in anti social behaviour and a rise in wellbeing and productivity.

Philip Tidd will be speaking at the Conscious Cities Conference on 1 March, where we will be discussing how to create better cities through technology, architecture, and neuroscience. The conference is supported by Arup and Archinect UK. We are co-producing it with Museum of Architecture who are leading educational platform for architects.