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The future of workspaces 10 February 2016

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As we look forward to the redevelopment of Bank House to create our most exciting workspace yet, neo, we sat down our Director of Workplace Development, Colin Sinclair to find out how workspaces are evolving too.

It’s no secret that the way we work has been rapidly changing with development of new technologies. Your desktop computer might have been replaced with a laptop; one screen is now many as smartphones, tablets and gadgets become office staples; and travelling to meetings is no longer imperative as we utilise virtual alternatives. And that’s just a few of the examples. But all these changes to how we work are resulting in changes where we work. 

Workspaces are developing

“The way that people work and, indeed, live their lives has changed as technology has changed; the kinds of things that we do every day are now far more technology-orientated. At Bruntwood, we wanted to create a new kind of workspace in response to what our customers were telling us. The new concept has been driven by giving people the ability to collaborate with others, but also finding better ways of working when you need your own private time and private space.”

The development of neo office spaces

“What we’ve done is, rather than just assume you can create a coworking space and people will come and everybody will be happy, we’ve designed a space that enables people to work properly and efficiently. The concept is collaborative workspace by design. We’ve built in the opportunity for people to collide with each other - to meet with each other in the workspace. To help people to do this, the redevelopment will include a lounge and roof terrace where people can either get some quiet time, meet friends, meet colleagues, or meet people in other businesses.”

Neo, ManchesterBut that’s not all the evolved workspace will be offering to its customers. What else can you expect?

  • Networking events to increase your connections;

  • Business support events to build your expertise and;

  • Fitness and well-being classes, just for you.

“The great thing about this is you just might end up finding the perfect graphic designer to work with simply because you’re next to them in the yoga class or you might learn about trademarking and patents because you went to a business support event.”

Working proof of the design

“It was through science parks and the purchase of MSP that we really learnt a lot about this kind of collaborative workspace environment. In this area, it’s known as ‘knowledge exchange’ or ‘knowledge transfer’ and we know now that it happens almost by accidental collision.” So, where once upon a time (mainly in early 90s American movies), people might have congregated by the water dispenser, or when making their daily tea rounds, Bruntwood have now found more and more that people like to have an open plan communal kitchen area. “If you can put people together, they chat. By combining the open plan kitchen, the lounge, the roof terrace, all of those things, you create, by design, a collaborative environment.”

neo reception workspace and roof garden

Creative workspaces aren't just for creative companies

“It’s about trying to get like-minded, forward-thinking businesses together. You don’t have to work for a creative media, digital or tech company to be a creatively minded person,” Colin says. While the idea behind neo has an element of encouraging businesses from creative, tech and IT sectors into the building, it’s also about looking at creatively-minded businesses, too. “There are plenty of examples in the market now where you can get something like a really cool law firm or somebody in recruitment who is recruiting for tech businesses and they’ve got that mind-set – personally, I think mind-set is more important than sector.

Bringing people to the creative workspaces

So, are people requesting creative spaces, or is it more a case of "if you build it, they will come"? Turns out that it could be both. “Large companies are coming to us and saying they want to co-locate next to really vibrant, fast-growing small businesses, but we also get small businesses coming together.” The latter is something Bruntwood has seen first-hand in its ‘Together’ space at West Village’s 127 Portland Street building.  “There are lots of people in small businesses within the West Village who want to cluster together because they can collaborate, work with each other and grow in a single community.

While part of it is demand that we can see in the market, the other part is making people realise they wanted something they didn’t realise they needed before. "Take a look at most devices that Apple bring out; you didn’t know you couldn’t survive without an iPad in your life until iPads were invented. There’s a lot of things we’re looking at in terms of the technology for the workspace that hasn’t been tried yet and currently isn’t out there."

Technology v face-to-face communication

MIF workspace Blackfriars House

“I think it’s really important that people still socially interact; no matter how good anything like Facebook or Twitter gets, human nature is that you want to socially interact. People do business with people they like and it’s difficult to know whether you like someone just from using social media. You’ve actually got to meet them, look them in the eye and chat to them.” That’s where the social interaction part of evolved workspace at Bruntwood is going to be really important. But on the other hand, “people assume if you want a collaborative environment, that’s all you’re going to do, and for anybody to be really productive you need time to think on your own. We want to create space where you can make that private phone call and get into that creative space on your own.” Not only will you be getting face-to-face social interaction, you’ll also have the ability to have that bit of time where you can actually just go and think.

The future of Bruntwood workspaces

“The next project we're looking forward to has to be City House in Leeds, which is perfectly positioned for all kind of business on top of the train station.”  It’s this building that will be the next evolving workspace project, coming fast on the heels of neo. “There will be lots of evolved workspace where there can be a mix of really small, creative businesses, start-ups and SMEs along with bigger, larger corporates.” This is something that will be happening across Bruntwood’s portfolio, even more so as the team starts to think about how people almost use the workspace as an extension to their home.

“We’re looking at a concept based around working from home but without the distractions of working from home. It fits in with the idea of people needing space to think, as well as space to collaborate.” We all know it’s hard to think at home if the dog is barking or the postman is at the door, so we’re looking at bringing that distraction-free space into a number of locations.

But what makes Bruntwood different?

What you tend to get is a property developer who will buy a building and develop space, making all kinds of promises about what you’re going to get afterwards; they might get the design right and the offer, but in most of those cases the person who develops the building doesn’t end up owning it, keeping it, managing it and running it.

“The two big USPs for Bruntwood is that we develop, own and manage our property, so whatever we’re promising at the outset is what we will deliver in the future. The concept of our buildings is built around the community manager role and we’ll be managing that building and it will be a Bruntwood person servicing it.

“The second part of that USP is the experience we’ve built up over 35 years. You learn a lot about what your customers want and how their needs are changing. We’ve got experience that few other people in property have got, not just experience in offices, but also in collaborative workspace environments through our ownership of science parks."

What happens after coworking?

You might come to Bruntwood as a start-up or as an SME, but the option is always there to grow through our portfolio with us. “With a lot people, you might go into a space, but if in the end you want to go from 1 of you, to 2 of you, then 8 of you and into your own office then you’d be leaving behind that community with most people. With Bruntwood, you can grow in the building or in one of our buildings in the neighbourhood.

The great thing about this is that you can stay part of that community that you grew your business with. “You keep that connection through Bruntwood with all of the customers.” If you want to be part of this brand new community, contact us today.

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