Top tips for finding and creating the perfect working environment

Olly Olsen, Co-CEO of The Office Group, provider of flexible design-led office space, talks about what to consider when searching for an office and how the right working environment can help boost productivity.

The right office environment has always been recognised as important for business success. But how can companies ensure they choose the best space for their needs and create a working environment that has a positive impact on their business?

Flexibility: In today’s business world it can often be difficult to predict space requirements in 12 months’ time let alone five years’ time. This is particularly the case for entrepreneurs and SMEs but not exclusive to them. Office space that is flexible, where for example it is easy and cost-effective to expand and downsize if required, can therefore be a major attraction.

Unfortunately, many commercial properties are only available on three, five or even ten-year leases with long notice periods and major financial penalties for breaking them. As a flexible office provider we have noticed an increasing demand from our tenants, on average one to 50 in size, for simple 12-month leases that we are happy to provide.

Longer, traditional leases tend to be more complex and include more onerous tenant obligations and penalties, something we have been conscious to cut down. Therefore if you are going down that route, make sure you seek proper legal advice.

Location: Several factors need to be considered when choosing a location. For example, is it easily accessible to both you, your staff and visitors? Is it an area of town that best represents your business? The answers to these questions will influence how close you might need to be to rail stations or airports for example.

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Taking a more collaborative approach, perhaps by creating a small working group with a cross-section of employees from across your business, might help you to ensure all opinions are taken into consideration when choosing the location that is best.

Building facilities: We all recognise that people spend a lot of time in their working environment and therefore today’s office needs to be far more than a desk with a computer and phone. That’s why we consider office space in cubic metres to take into account the extra and intangible benefits that our tenants and members receive, from personal training sessions with an ex-Cage fighter at one of our ‘Work It’ gyms to making new business connections – or indeed new friends – in the kitchen or lounge areas.   

If we examine what people want from their working environment, it is a good idea to look at the preferences and values of the millennial generation – defined as those born between 1980 and 1995 – who will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025 according to a study by Deloitte. Deloitte’s report found that working collaboratively was regarded as one of the most important factors in the workplace by employees in this age range.

In terms of the office environment, we think this has evolved as people become far more flexible in the way that they work. Technology allows far more movement within a building, allowing people to work in alternative areas such as cafes, bars, kitchens, lounge areas and other informal meeting places, in addition to more formal environments such as offices and meeting rooms.

It is also worth thinking about what networking advantages your building might offer. For example, in our buildings, we look to facilitate both the community feel and networking. This is done in a number of ways from business speed-dating events that introduce companies and prompt discussions about how they might work together, to companies being featured in our internal members’ magazine “The Fold”.

Soon we will be even more digital, with our community app creating more networking and collaboration opportunities for our members. Other events such as barbecues and Christmas parties help businesses meet on a more informal basis. Being part of this kind of network from the building you’re in is a valuable bonus and one you can’t put a price on.

Life-work balance and wellbeing are also important to millennials, according to an attitude survey conducted by PWC. As a result, there has been rapid growth in the popularity of office buildings with facilities such as gyms, roof terraces and bicycle storage.

As an avid cyclist, I particularly appreciate how important it is for fellow cyclists to have somewhere safe to park their pride-and-joy followed by a power shower to gear up for the day ahead. These might seem like luxuries, but they can be significant in attracting and retaining the best talent.

Design preferences: Inspiring design can have a positive impact on people’s mood and performance. It also conveys a strong message to clients and potential employees. We love to watch happy people come to work in our offices and we want them to feel proud of where they work.

>Related: Five common growing pains for small businesses

There is the obvious: offices that provide plenty of natural light and high ceilings boost productivity. A study from Northwestern University in Chicago found that workers exposed to natural light during the day slept an average of 46 minutes more per night, making them more focused, alert and productive during the day; while a study by Joan Meyers-Levy and Rui Zhu found that high ceilings helped people think more freely.

But, we believe that the design of our buildings should both inspire and motivate those who work in them. We spend a lot of time and thought applying a unique design and personality to each building, which in turn gives off a certain and very deliberate “vibe”. The choice you have to make is the style that best represents and suits your business. 

Comfort: Many studies have shown that ergonomic furniture design and layout boosts productivity and, therefore, the office you chose should be yours and not restricted in the way you can arrange desks or have furniture.

An office allowing desks to be arranged to suit your needs with comfortable/ ergonomic furniture that limits issues such as backache is well worth pursuing, reducing the number of employee sick days. Temperature is also a crucial factor. Research has shown that the optimum temperature for people to work is around 21 to 22 C with productivity dropping off sharply below 16 C and above 25 C.

Service and Support: First impressions really last and that is why you need to consider the additional services that your building offers. Are you and your guests greeted in a professional and courteous manner by the front of house? Are the meeting rooms clean and rest rooms hygienic?  Not only do these things provide a sense of professionalism, but also a sense of pride amongst your staff.

With so much to consider, it is no surprise that businesses – and particularly the 99% of UK companies that fit into the category of small businesses – are increasingly turning towards flexible office providers, such as The Office Group, to create the working environment for them.

A recent report by Deloitte found that London’s serviced office market has grown by 67% over the last 10 years, highlighting a growing trend for occupiers to let specialists focus on creating great office space while they focus on creating great businesses.

Further reading: Turn the office coffee culture into a revenue stream

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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Office Space