Workspace Design Show

26 – 27 February 2025 | Business Design Centre, London

Speakers Q&A: How do you see flexibility being implemented in offices to maximise the use of real estate and improve the employee experience?

Paula Rowntree, Head of Workplace Design at Lloyds Banking Group

At a personal level I am curious about how we can blend more retail design thinking in our office space; retail is constantly reinventing itself and designs for low cost/modular/flexible environments.  If I know nothing I know that change is a constant in today’s world so bringing more of this retail way of thinking/designing is something I am exploring.

Scott Rominger, Creative Director at WeWork

Work trends continue to evolve as businesses put their right foot forward and employees figure out what they need and want from the office going into 2023. As a result, companies must embrace flexibility on all levels to adapt to new demand, and spaces must be reconfigurable as this demand evolves. At WeWork, flexibility is at the core of our business – particularly in our design approach, where we adapt and enhance our spaces depending on our members’ varying needs. For example, in large offices, we used to provide 10% lounge space and now we are seeing the need for 50-60%collaboration and lounge space.

We’re also seeing increased demand for dedicated, focused areas. What’s become clear is that as the criteria for the modern office evolves, flexible design solutions that can be adjusted in a few weeks rather than in a few months will be table stakes’ for any operator as we head into 2023.

Natasha Hewlett, Senior Project Designer at Peldon Rose

By creating flexible workspaces, employers can cater to a diversity of needs whilst maximising the real estate. We are seeing more multi-purpose spaces being designed, for example social areas that can be adapted into town hall spaces. Two very useable zones utilising the same amount of real estate by considering the flexibility of the furniture, as well as the technology and AV solutions.

The ability to ‘plug and play’-that is to work from chargeable devices comfortably in your desired location – is so important when creating multi function spaces. If the furniture can flip, fold and move out of the way with ease and AV can be adapted easily then employers can maximise real estate whilst giving their employees the workspaces they need. 

Steve Brewer, Founding Partner at Burtt-Jones & Brewer

Multi-tenanted buildings will need to offer more to legacy and prospective tenants, it’s no longer good enough to just offer great showers, upscale changing spaces, plenty of lockers and bicycle parking. With many high rise office buildings occupied by businesses from various sectors, demands are becoming multiple and diverse, extending far beyond what would originally have been considered core business needs. New developments have been adding communal gyms, bike parking, showers etc for years. It is now about experience, not just facility. The demand is for spaces that need to flex more, where an entire area of site, floor or group of floors are assigned as a shared space for tenants to flex and grow. For example, this could be a short or mid term project rooms with dedicated workspaces for tenants looking to incubate new business ideas, or a dedicated, informal environment for external tenants to mix and collaborate with building users, curated with a specific agenda to engage in creative workshops and sessions to directly and indirectly foster innovation. The key being to enhance the experience, not just the facility. These new spaces should be viewed as collateral to the tenant offer, as a void to fill, providing value as a service, not as an overhead and operational cost.

In terms of how to improve the experience within individual workspaces, employees are being given a new level of personal autonomy. The Covid experience has enabled them to have a voice in the discussion about what the workspace becomes and how it should be shaped, taylorism if you like.  Where small enhancements can be made to better an individual’s needs and wellbeing at a fundamental level, such as direct control of lighting, comfort at the desk or work setting.

Tina Norden, Partner at Conran & Partners

Flexibility in the workplace is very important but also very hard to get right. Whilst most offices are driving towards flexible workspace, most employees actually like having their own desk, with their team and their things around them.

If flexible desks are key, bringing in personal touches like a trolley for personal items that can be stored and brought along, can help to still create that sense of place.

Flexibility is also important on a closer level, bringing variety into the desk set up.

The height of the desk and chair, using a chair or not, how the computer is set up and even lighting moods – allowing the team to customise these will give flexibility and will promote satisfaction and wellbeing.

Lewis Barker, Director, Workplace Services EMEA at ServiceNow

I see prescribed team days in offices. Certain events can be hosted in physical spaces as default – a prescribed matrix of what happens in office vs at home vs 3rd space. Working hours won’t exist – use the space at all times, if that what works for the individual.