Modern Office Fit-Out: Redefining Workspaces for the Future
A well-planned and intelligent office fit-out can literally transform a run-of-the-mill workplace into a vibrant, engaging space that fosters team spirit and collaboration.
By incorporating dynamic layouts and smart tech, alongside wellbeing-focused elements such as break-out areas, biophilia and light-suffusing features, designers can create a productive office that boosts staff morale and encourages natural interaction.
In the world of modern office fit-outs, COEL is an industry-leader, offering a full end-to-end service to create innovative spaces that improve productivity and promote happier, healthier lifestyles.
How modern office fit-outs are redefining workspaces for the future
Having to respond to a constantly evolving workforce model, which has undergone seismic change since the pandemic, modern office fit-outs are redefining workspaces for the future. Whilst physical offices remain a necessity as they naturally facilitate teamwork, promote creativity and convey corporate identity, their design and layout need to reflect the changing needs of a business.
To meet the needs of today’s discerning employee, does today’s office require hot desks to accommodate hybrid working? Does it need new forms of technology like VR or benefit from mobile and modular furniture? Flexibility is imperative in modern office fit-out as the one-size-fits-all template has been consigned to the history books.
The Changing Landscape of Work
Working from home became an enforced norm for many of us during lockdown. But long after the memories of endless Joe Wicks workouts had faded, flexible and remote working has continued to be a popular choice, both for employees and employers. Here’s a few interesting facts and figures:
a. According to the Office of National Statistics, 84% of workers in the UK who had to work from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic indicated a desire to continue hybrid working.
b. More than 78% of those who work from home in some capacity maintain that this flexible model grants them an improved work/life balance, whilst over 50% said it was quicker to complete work because of fewer distractions.
c. Worldwide technological leaders Cisco are spearheading hybrid working to promote a happier workforce. A sizeable percentage of employees work remotely, with executive vice-president Francine Katsoudas stating, “Hybrid work allows us to redefine what’s possible by bringing out the very best of work by empowering flexibility, choice and inclusion for both employers and employees alike.”
d. Airbnb proved it is an authentic hybrid workplace, with CEO Brian Chesky announcing that employees could work from anywhere in the world ‘from San Francisco to Nashville’ and their pay wouldn’t change.
Clearly, modern office fit-outs need to be designed with hybrid working policies in mind to accommodate different employment styles. Some of the ways in which fit-outs are adapting to new ways of working include:
- Incorporating adaptable workstations for multiple use.
- Brainstorming areas to motivate collaboration.
- Acoustic booths for undisturbed private conversations.
- Smart tech such as desk booking software.
PROJECT FOCUS: BenchSci
We recently completed an office fit-out for Canada-based biotech innovators, BenchSci. Having welcomed a hybrid working model, they wanted to create a space that fostered collaboration and focused on employee wellbeing to enable wider social interaction. A highly adaptable ‘intellectual hub’ was created, with only 12 fixed desks, multi-use spaced and a ‘social garden’ on the ground floor.
Creating Agile Workspaces
Agile workspaces give employees flexibility in the way they work. Breaking down traditional office barriers, where staff are allocated permanent spots, an agile working environment may feature multiple spaces, including hot desks, relaxed areas with comfy chairs, and sound-proofed booths, encouraging staff to move around the office and work where it suits their specific needs best. This can have a variety of benefits:
a. Employees are given autonomy and flexibility over how and where they work within the office, leading to greater satisfaction, increased engagement and optimum productivity.
b. Agile workspaces can encourage collaboration between colleagues who may not normally come into contact in a traditional office model. Brought together whilst socialising in a breakout space or by chance on adjoining hot desks, conversations and creativity can bubble.
c. Agile workspaces allow employers to maximise space management and save costs.
For inspiration, let’s look at some companies that have successfully implemented agile office designs:
a. Lego Group has reinvented its office space to suit its employee needs with the top floor of its London office dedicated to creative work, the middle floor to collaboration and meetings, and the bottom floor to quiet work.
b. Plant-based drinks company Oatly created an agile workspace in its 2020 re-fit of its London office, with less static desk space but far more collaborative areas to fuel creative interaction, plus a rooftop meeting pod for alfresco chats. The sky’s the limit, it seems!
c. WeWork, which has more than 800 buildings in 35 countries, with 60 UK offices including in Cambridge and London, provides flexible co-working spaces with options ranging from dedicated desks to turnkey offices, and perks including hi-speed wi-fi and unlimited coffee.
PROJECT FOCUS: Agile Analog
The space we created for Agile Analog, a growing technology company in Cambridge, had agility and adaptability at its core. The space features optional task-based workstations, such as different size meeting rooms, open plan desking and collaborative tables. To provide added privacy, we included acoustic booths throughout the space that can be easily moved to suit a new configuration.
Technology has a huge role to play in modern office fit-outs, enabling businesses to work efficiently and helping employees stay effortlessly connected wherever they are. Here’s some ideas for smart technology which could benefit your modern office fit-out:
a. Virtual Reality is an effective tool for training and simulations, and can help businesses save on space.
b. Smart lighting systems can cleverly adjust to natural light in an office, making them energy efficient.
c. Video conferencing systems make communication a breeze, reducing the need for in-person meetings, connecting clients and colleagues remotely, which saves on time, travel and hotel costs, and is ultimately better for the planet.
d. Smart sensors, which remotely control doors, windows and temperature levels, can help improve energy efficiency. One step further (and if it’s not too ‘Big Brother’) IoT sensors (indoor motion detecting devices) can collect office usage data to provide insight that could help plan workflows and improve employee productivity.
Office fit-outs harnessing the power of technology
Let’s look at some forward-thinking businesses which have embraced technological advancements in their office designs:
a. Award-winning London office space business The Hickman in Whitechapel is the first building to achieve the prestigious SmartScore ‘Platinum’ rating globally, offering 75,300 square feet of highly tech-enabled and sustainable space. Users have access to smart workplace app sesame™ to book desks and access service and amenities.
b. Northumbria Water Group has been working with Virgin Media O2 on an augmented reality project, which enables its technical experts to use VR headsets to work remotely alongside in-the-field teams. This means complex faults can be resolved swiftly.
c. Accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers has been using VR headsets for meetings since 2017, and once the pandemic hit, accelerated its plans for hybrid working, more than doubling its cache of VR headsets and adding higher grade microphones and video meeting screens.
Employee Wellbeing and Engagement
Modern office fit-outs need to prioritise employee wellbeing and engagement. After all, no one is going to produce their finest work in a soulless, bland interior.
Elements such as ergonomic furniture, biophilic features, abundant natural light, uplifting décor and breakout spaces all create a positive and productive environment where employees thrive.
According to a recent report, modern office fit-outs designed with staff wellbeing in mind lead to employees feeling up to 33% happier at work. And happy employees experience 31% higher productivity.
Prepare to be impressed as we consider a variety of UK companies that have implemented amazing wellness initiatives within their offices:
a. Mindful Chef, creators of healthy recipe boxes based in South East London, have put employee wellness at the top of their agenda. Not only is their office dog-friendly (with four-legged friends shown to reduce our stress levels), but it also features a MasterChef-style kitchen and a green wall that grows nearly 100 edible plants so staff can harvest fresh food whenever desire strikes.
b. In the offices of online electrical retailer AO in Bolton, employees can treat themselves to a range of beauty and relaxation therapies in work time or benefit from a heavily subsidised nail and hair salon. Also on offer are free healthy breakfasts, a pool table, tennis table, a Lego room and themed meeting rooms.
c. Makers of magnificent smoothies Innocent Drinks offer staff a host of wellbeing benefits in their office, including a free onsite gym, yoga club, a weekly drop-in People Clinic for confidential chat and mental health training courses.
d. Expedia’s commitment to staff health and fitness means they offer employees a wellness reimbursement scheme, which can be redeemed against anything from snowshoeing in the mountains to flying trapeze classes!
PROJECT FOCUS: Mishcon de Reya
Leading independent law firm Mishcon de Reya tasked us with creating a luxurious yet practical office space with a particular focus on employee wellbeing. To achieve this, we created a multipurpose wellness room. The wheelchair accessible space can act not only as a mothers’ room, as it includes a fridge to store breast milk and a lock on the door for privacy, but also a plethora of other purposes.
Sustainability and Environmental Considerations
With unprecedented heatwaves and extreme fires breaking out across the globe in 2023, the focus on minimising our carbon footprint has never been more crucial. As such, there is growing need for sustainability in modern office fit-outs as employers seek to create planet-friendly workplaces.
Ways to achieve energy-efficient offices include using LED lighting with PIR sensors, favouring green appliances, going paperless, and utilising upcycled or recycled furniture made from reclaimed materials.
To encourage businesses to be more eco-conscious, the world’s first green building rating system, BREEAM, was introduced to the UK in 1990 by the British Research Establishment (BRE). The rating system is used to assess the performance of a building or construction project from a sustainability and environmental perspective.
A great example of a modern office fit-out which focuses on sustainability is (unsurprisingly) the London HQ of non-profit environmental organisation Friends of the Earth. Almost all the materials used in its fit-out were recycled, reclaimed or recyclable. The lighting is controlled by timers and motion detectors. There’s instant hot water taps and an intelligent air-cooling system that sucks in cooler air overnight.
PROJECT FOCUS: Altium
The design and fit-out we carried out for Altium, a global software company, was centred around sustainability. Our design team recommended the use of sustainable materials for this project and repurposing of unused furniture from the client’s previous offices. This culminated in 50% of the furniture used on this project being reused and the remaining pieces and finishes being made of sustainable materials.
Future Trends in Office Fit-Outs
What’s in store for office fit-outs of the future, you ask? Well one thing’s for sure; advanced technology is set to continue to inspire design.
Research suggests that holographic communication could become commonplace in offices by 2050. It may sound like a fantastical scene from Star Trek’s ‘Holodeck’, but in certain locations, it is now possible for employees to project themselves as lifelike 3D holograms into virtual meetings to mimic a face-to-face chat (utilising all the benefits that holds).
AI will increase in popularity and, from a wellbeing perspective, could be used to analyse employee data and flag up issues with mental health, whilst VR could be utilised to offer relaxation experiences for employees.
Biophilic design, which involves introducing elements of nature into office spaces to boost mood, enhance air quality and aid wellness, is set to continue to boom. We anticipate designers incorporating plants, lush living walls, water features, and natural materials in innovative ways, as well as maximising natural light and beautiful views onto the great outdoors.
COEL regularly collaborates with The Good Plant Company to add uplifting plants and greenery to its modern office fit-outs.
Here’s a few companies we believe are at the forefront of innovative office fit-outs:
a. Accenture, the IT services and consulting experts, with an office in Dublin, already boast a swathe of impressive technology – from video walls for touch-enabled collaboration to immersive rooms with high resolution, 360-degree video content – and has set impressive sustainability goals of reaching net-zero emissions and zero waste by the end of 2025.
b. Online property rental giant Zoopla has one of the most creative office designs we’ve come across, its London Bridge HQ creating a true home-from-home environment for its employees. The office fit-out features a living room, dining room and even a tree house, plus gym services, ping pong coaching and free food.
With the way we all work undergoing such colossal change in the wake of the pandemic and the rise of hybrid working, modern office fit-outs have a vital role to play in redefining workspaces for the future. To retain staff and attract new talent, offices need to be agile workplaces, integrated with the latest technology to facilitate seamless communication wherever employees choose to work. Modern fit-outs also need to offer a positive, uplifting environment where employee wellbeing is nurtured, where staff feel valued and co-workers are motivated to collaborate and innovate.
To know more about your options, click on the link below to contact our team of fit-out specialists.