On the 18th of January 2021, the International Underwriting Association of London (IUA) invited us to present a webinar on a current topic that brings the future closer.
Our experience through the pandemic has shown that remote working in the London market is possible. A few organisations are even considering a permanent move to remote working. Still, the vast majority expect a hybrid working model allowing flexible office and remote working for many of their staff, when Covid-19 restrictions are eventually lifted.
In this webinar, r10 partnered with LTS Architects to share thoughts on returning to the office post-Covid, leveraging learnings and optimising space for efficient and effective ways of working. The operational and project management approach of Helen Dines from r10, and the architectural and design expertise of Anna Woodeson from LTS Architects considered the reasons for people to be in the office, design solutions to make best use of space to meet business and personal requirements as well as an overview of how to approach redesigning your workspace.
1. Why, who and when will we return to the office?
Part of the London Market’s success is the collective ability to work together to get best outcomes for clients. Colleagues are typically extrovert to optimise success in this environment, and they may not thrive working in isolation.
Aside from the mental health benefits, there are some work types which research shows are simply more effective when done face to face.
- Collaboration – for example, relationship building, agile IT projects, client-facing meetings, and complex trading negotiations.
- Learning – for example, coaching and shadowing, and group training.
- Deadlines – for example, tenders and RFPs, year-end events, court or processing.
- Review – for example, appraisals, complex wordings and contracts and presentations.
Additionally, people have their reasons for needing to work together again:
- Identity – to feel part of the team and organisation and maintain a sense of purpose.
- Employment – to recruit the best talent, employers need to offer flexibility in working environments.
- Innovation – the excitement of sparking new ideas often happens in unstructured conversations with others – the ‘water cooler moment’ or in the London market, often walking between offices.
- Networking – building new relationships is much easier face-to-face.
- Wellness – people enjoy working with others, and for many working from home has not improved their work/life balance.
Suppose we focus on providing workspace to facilitate these activities. In that case, an assessment is required of when these activities will take place, reflecting cycles and seasonality across all business functions and teams, as well as daily and weekly requirements supporting personal and client needs.
2. What is an office?
London market organisations have a long tradition of occupying iconic buildings with comfortable and attractive interior designs. However, as our reasons for going to the office have changed, we need to be more specific and challenging about our design expectations operationally and organisationally. Your office represents your company’s culture, so Google slides and beanbags may not be the answer, but many innovative design solutions will enable flexibility in your workspace.
3. Where and how we should return to the office?
To meet people and business requirements, organisations should use all of their available working space, including remote working and regional or back-office hubs, which can provide many of the benefits of working in a shared space without the downsides of a lengthy commute.
These local offices are often less constrained by shared tenancies or landlord requirements, so give a greater opportunity for creativity and flexibility in layout plans.
4. What does the office need post-2020?
Variety and Flexibility
- Access and Circulation – horizontal and vertical circulation, access and egress.
- Team “neighbourhoods” – flexible hot-desking arrangements specific to individual teams/specialisms that can shrink and expand according to need.
- Communal workspace – facilities for meetings, breakouts, welfare and printing etc.
Using features such as noise-reducing curtains and swivel partitions allows space to be multi-functional and reconfigured swiftly and easily.
Liminal space is the ‘spaces between spaces’ and can facilitate casual, informal encounters that spark collaboration and innovation. Creative design of staircases, corridors and lobby space can optimise this opportunity.
Technology and Infrastructure
While we can’t be certain of future workspace requirements, hardware and software technology, as well as infrastructure capabilities, will inevitably need to support flexible working.
With so many factors to consider, approaching a new workspace design should be tackled as a project with proactive requirements gathering, design and change management. Working with architects and designers against a detailed operational brief will give more solution options and a more agile project approach enables you to pilot these to ensure best solutions for your organisation without the risk of costly mistakes.
r10 and LTS Architects are here to help you make your workspace future-ready. Reach out to us for a discussion.