Creating Spaces Without Walls

New design solutions for the modern office

One of the significant challenges in office design is to create the right balance between aesthetics and the need for a highly practical and functional workspace.

In every office, there’s a prerequisite to create different zones – desk areas, breakout zones, formal meeting rooms, public reception spaces - and the traditional way to do this has been through the use of walls and partitions to divide up and compartmentalise different areas.

However, recent developments by flooring manufacturers have now opened up new opportunities - to create spaces without walls, by using carpet and flooring colours, finishes and textures that seamlessly transition between the different areas of an office. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it may be the perfect solution to make the best use of your office space.

Standardisation has fostered innovation

Traditionally, flooring manufacturers viewed carpet and vinyl as apples and pears; two different surfaces, with two different uses, always separated by an abrupt trim. Recently manufacturers have wised up - why not create the option of having both carpet and vinyl surfaces in a standard 500 x 500mm tile.

Sounds pretty simple, but for office designers, it’s quite revolutionary, and opens up the opportunity to design spaces without the need for partitioned walls, in a way that wasn’t possible before.

And here’s the even better news - because all flooring surfaces can now coalesce around a standardised tile, your designer can create innovative combinations of colour, finish and texture at standard prices. In other words, you can get an imaginative and practical floor design, without additional costs to your flooring budget.    

How it works

The design concept of creating spaces without walls is to combine different flooring finishes and textures that transition seamlessly from one office area to the next. Workstation areas can be separately zoned, with walkways and thoroughfares demarcated.

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HCPproject.png

For the transition to more formal meeting areas, colour and texture can be used to create a different feel for the zone and, within meeting rooms, different colour tiles can be combined to create a distinct feeling from the rest of the office.

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When partitioning is being used for more private areas, these zones can be accentuated by floor colour. For hallways and office walls, a colour mixture can be used to make them feel more extensive and luxurious.

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HCP Project

If you would like to find out more about how creating spaces without walls could work in your office, please contact the Cityspace team on info@cityspacemanagement.co.uk.

Your three most important office decisions for 2019

It’s the beginning of the year, and a time to think ahead on the office decisions you may need to make in 2019. To help you better plan how to make your office an efficient, happy and productive environment, we’ve compiled a list of the three most essential office decisions management teams should be thinking about in the coming year.

#1 Can I fit more people into my existing office space?

The short answer is yes. You can always squeeze more people in, subject of course to any restrictions on occupational density imposed by your fire officer or landlord, or limitations on building infrastructure. However, if you want to increase your headcount without your staff starting to feel like sardines, you need to do it in the right way.

The best way to successfully increase headcount in an office is not by looking for specific gaps in your existing space where you could fit additional people in, but by thinking about the whole office space and how to use it more effectively.

This involves considering the way individuals and teams work and collaborate, or by making more intelligent use of meeting areas. For example, formal meeting rooms which are used infrequently take up a lot of floor area, space that could be used much more effectively by moving to smaller, informal meeting sites, and freeing up space for extra desks.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The key to success is, therefore, to think about your office holistically, and make sure that the practical way you’re using the space is keeping pace with your growing headcount. If you need to increase your headcount, the team at Cityspace is here to help. All we need is your existing office floor plan, and we’re happy to meet and come up with the most practical and cost-efficient solutions for your particular circumstances.

#2 Can I change my office layout?

At the heart of every successful office is a productive workforce, in a motivational environment, designed in a way that fits the culture of the company. So a critical factor in driving this success is an office layout that brings the best out of your teams and makes the most efficient use of your office space.

The best way to increase productivity is to look at both the layout and the way that people work. For design planning, it’s looking at things like the suitability of the workstation environment, whether this workstation layout is conducive to collaboration with others, and whether both formal and informal meeting spaces are laid out and utilised most efficiently.

Regarding the way people work, more and more of our clients have been looking to increase the flexibility and productivity of their workplace through Activity Based Working (ABW). This approach explores office design in line with work culture and practices and suggests ways to improve your workspace to increase efficiency and staff wellbeing.

#3 Should I consider a new office space?

For any businesses approaching a lease expiry in 2019, a fundamental decision is whether to stay put and remodel or consider a new office space elsewhere. Before you commit to the significant expense of relocation, it may be worthwhile reviewing how your existing office space is being used.

Photo by  Fred Mouniguet  on  Unsplash

It’s worth remembering that most businesses will have occupied their current space for 5 or 10 years. While the original office design may have been perfect when you first moved in, there have been considerable advances in technology - such as smartphones, follow me printing and cloud-based file storage - all of which have impacted the way that people now work. This, in turn, creates an opportunity to rethink how you could re-use your existing space more effectively.

To help you make the right decision on how best to remodel your existing space, we can provide you with three occupational scenarios:

  1. A short-term plan offering a simple layout with minimum changes and expenditure;

  2. A maximum efficiency plan that uses space more efficiently without changing working practices and culture, and;

  3. A blue-sky thinking solution of how you could work in your current space, applying the latest thinking in office design and without any budget constraints.

If you’ve decided to move, it’s essential when evaluating potential new premises to assess whether the space suits your company’s organisational structure and working style, has flexibility for the future, and allows for any envisaged expansion. Crucially, it would be best if you also took into account the financial aspects of the building, to gauge any long-term costs associated with premises under consideration, to avoid any unpleasant (and costly) surprises down the track.

At Cityspace, we’re getting an increasing number of inquiries from clients asking us to research potential sites and costs. Using our database of over 10,000 property records, we can identify upstream opportunities of people who may be moving but have not yet told their landlord or agent. In addition to these off-market opportunities, we also have close relationships with property surveyors, who can provide details of current properties available for let or sale. To find out more, please get in touch with the Cityspace team at info@cityspacemanagement.co.uk.

How Activity Based Working can work for you

Activity Based Working (ABW) is a transformational business strategy, that takes into account where, when and how people work. First introduced in the 1970s, the concept of ABW was further developed in the Netherlands in the 1990s. Today, more and more companies are now looking at ABW as a means of getting greater productivity out of both their offices and their teams.

While the underlying concept of ABW is simple, there are implementation challenges that need to be considered. Rather than operating from the assumption that an individual will undertake all their work in one setting like a fixed desk, you create an environment which offers a variety of configurations depending on the task, such as workstations, collaboration areas, meeting spaces, or areas for quiet concentration. ABW also extends to outside the office, giving staff the flexibility to work from home or another remote location.

ATPI Group Project

ATPI Group Project

Rising rents have put pressure on companies like never before. For a business, your office expenses are likely only to be exceeded by the cost of salaries. And nowadays with the floor space taken up by a litter bin in Central London costing up to £200 per square foot each month, ABW provides the opportunity to use your office asset better and to work smarter in your existing space.

Times have changed, and so have the ways that we now work, with technology completely changing the need for everyone to come into the same workplace, at the same time. Businesses today are increasingly realising that technology has created an opportunity to rethink the relationship between the office environment and how to increase workplace productivity and effectiveness. This is why ABW offers much more to office design than merely providing a solution to space saving.

Photo by LYCS LYCS on Unsplash

A one size approach does not fit all

The starting point for effective ABW is to examine everything from a people perspective. It’s an evidence-based approach, which first of all analyses and understands factors such as your organisation’s size, culture, objectives, ways of working, and leadership and management style.

What’s important to recognise at the outset, is that ABW is both a workplace and a business strategy, and is best suited to an environment where decision making is inclusive at all levels of the organisation. It requires a degree of freedom and autonomy that is not typical in  organisations that practice more traditional management techniques. ABW can therefore only be truly successful when it has the full backing of the management team, and all the people aspects have been fully considered to win the hearts and minds of staff.

At its best, ABW should bring people together and enhance work activity. However, not every business may be ready for all aspects of ABW. For instance, the flexibility offered by desk sharing may or may not be the best solution in every case, and there may be a lack of flexible access to technology across all parts of the organisation.

In many instances, the optimum solution is achieved through a combination of traditional working methods and ABW, looking at the most productive way individuals work, creating an office layout that encourages collaboration and makes the best use of both formal and informal meeting spaces.

How we can help

Successful ABW begins with finding the solution that is best for you, and at Cityspace we’ve worked with many businesses, both big and small, to create the optimum ABW environment.

We know all about offices, and we also know that offices are all about people, and can, therefore, guide you through the research, planning, and implementation required to create an ABW workspace that helps your people collaborate, share knowledge, and maximise your productivity and growth.

To find out more about how to make ABW work for you, please email us  at info@cityspacemanagement.co.uk.

In today’s market, it pays to think ahead...

After the summer break, it’s now back to business, and for businesses approaching an expiry on their office lease, thinking ahead can pay dividends in today’s market.

Despite continued economic uncertainty, occupier sentiment seems to be mounting, with office take-up across central London at its highest level post the EU referendum. This strong occupier activity has been a feature of the London office market in the first half of this year, with BNP Paribas saying that take-up of space was 26% ahead of the same period last year. This has been especially evident in offices below 5,000 sq.ft, with deals up 21% on H1 2017. 

In the City, healthy demand has continued the downward pressure on available space. Vacancy levels in the City are now significantly below their 10 year average, and JLL highlights that any new build supply is being quickly absorbed by the market.

The picture is similar in the West End, with BNP Paribas pointing to the combination of strong demand and a restricted development pipeline resulting in supply falling to its lowest level since Q1 2016. According to Colliers International, West End vacancy rates have dipped below 5% for the first time since the start of 2017, and new or refurbished availability is fast approaching a record low, having fallen by over 60% in the past 12 months.

Both Midtown and the Southbank have also experienced buoyant demand, with vacancy rates here also well below 10 year averages. The Southbank has especially been feeling the squeeze, with vacancy rates reaching record low levels of 2.59%, the lowest of any London sub-market, according to BNP Paribas.

So what does this mean for tenants approaching a lease expiry? Well, tightening supply means it now pays to activate property searches earlier than previously in order to secure your preferred space. Nowadays, we recommend to our clients looking for spaces under 5,000 sq.ft to start their decision-making process at least 6 months before lease expiry. For properties between 5,000-15,000 sq.ft we recommend starting up to one year beforehand and, for bigger properties, an 18 month time frame is recommended in order to provide the widest choice available.

Incisive Media Project

Incisive Media Project

At Cityspace, we’re getting an increasing number of enquiries from clients asking us to undertake research on potential sites and costs. Using our extensive property database, we’re able to very quickly provide clients with a range of choices, looking at both on and off-market opportunities. And for new opportunities that we identify, our initial Evaluation Report can help clients with their decision making by giving them a clear view of potential costs and time-frame.

If you’re approaching a lease expiry, our advice in today's market is to think ahead in order to open up the widest possible options. If you would like us to help you assess your office options, please do get in touch.

There’s much more to a tea point than tea

There was a time when the kitchen area was tucked away in some corner of the office, often closed off by a door. Just a simple, functional cubbyhole for making a cup of coffee or brewing a pot of tea. A secondary space, cut off from the main office function.

But then things started to change. As kitchen areas started to get a little less functional and a little more staff friendly, people began spending time in them. The humble kitchen area started to come into its own, moving from just a beverage and lunchtime venue, to an all-day breakout space for colleagues.

Today, the modern office design of kitchen areas has come a long way. It’s no longer an afterthought, pushed to the periphery - in fact it’s more front and centre than it’s ever been before. In our designs, we encourage clients to think of their kitchen area as an important in-between space in the working environment, a place of relaxation and informality, but also a place of conversation and cross-fertilisation of ideas. And the more you bring it into the centre of your office, the more central it will become to office life.

Wolverine Europe

New Kitchen Project

In terms of design, we encourage clients to think about the expectations of their staff and the social atmosphere they want to create. The meteoric rise of barista culture has set the standard for how the modern office kitchen should now look - more like a coffee shop, and less like the purely functional kitchens of the olden days. And while beverages are important and so is the kit to make them, what is of most importance is the meeting, conversation and relationship building that takes place in the space.

Every office needs a kitchen area. And employers are increasingly recognising what their employees have long known - there’s much more to a tea point than just a cup of tea.