s your post-pandemic workplace even worth the commute if it doesn’t have a roof garden, gaming zone and an office dog to welcome you as you arrive at your (plant-filled) desk?
Apparently not, according to staff from London’s top firms. The great office comeback is well under way and companies have been working hard revamping their workplaces.
Think your office is cooler than the rest of London’s? Here’s your competition.
Working from home or homing from work?
After two years Slacking from our sofas, home comforts are a new office essential. Tech firm Cloud Nexus says it redesigned its office “to create the feeling of a home” with corner sofas, games consoles and a Lego zone. PR agency Emerge’s revamped Soho office features Instagrammable living room sofa areas, a farmhouse-style kitchen table, a ‘card wall’ stocked with cards and stamps and even a digital fireplace to maximise cosiness. CEO Emily Austen says she encourages the team to send at least one letter a week, eat lunch together every day and enjoy regular after-work drinks from the office bar.
Austen’s isn’t the only company using foodie treats to sweeten the deal of returning the office. Facebook reportedly offers free pick ‘n’ mix, Hackney creative workspace Eat Work Art has access to its own refill shop where staff can stock up with plastic-free products, and communications consultancy Woodrow is one of dozens of companies offering a free organic breakfast bar for employees each day of the week.
CEO Charlie Tarr personally serves his team a cooked breakfast every fortnight too boost the home-from-home feel.
Office dogs might not be a new phenomenon for some (lucky) Londoners, but insiders say workplace pooches are on the rise. WeWork says the number of furry friends in its London outposts has rocketed since the pandemic.
Luxe Belgravia coworking space 25EP offers dogs a brand new bed and bowl when their owner signs up as a member, with a canine-friendly drinks trolley of water and treats during the working day, while consumer research firm Attest – voted last year’s most dog-friendly workplace – has so many office dogs at its east London office it now has luxury dog beds, dog-treat Advent calendars, an in-house ‘dogtabase’ on its intranet featuring each dog’s picture and behaviour.
Workplace wellness 2.0
Google’s original design for its 11-storey ‘landscraper’ in King’s Cross included a giant climbing wall and a bike ramp running the height of the building so employees could climb or cycle to their desks. These particular plans have now been scrapped – presumably there was little uptake for abseiling home from work – but wellness is still front and centre for the tech giant’s new London campus. The building will reportedly be home to an indoor basketball court, 25-metre swimming pool, massage rooms and 200-metre rooftop running track.
Bosses across the capital say wellness perks such as these this have been crucial to luring workers back to the office. Austen says she installed a meditation sofa and Peloton bike in Emerge’s new offices, Stakester CEO Tom Fairey offers free boxing classes to help staff destress, and insurance firm Domestic & General reportedly handed out Patch Plants as welcome-back-to-the-office gifts.
The firm says it’s invested thousands of pieces of permanent foliage around its workspace and bosses across the capital say plants have been a big factor in boosting workplace wellbeing post-pandemic.
Mindful Chef’s Wandsworth office has a “vertical farm” growing 98 kinds of edible plants from rainbow chard to curly kale, dairy company Oatly’s plant-filled Farringdon HQ was created by designers Kitt to have a “jungle” feel for boosting mental health, while co-working space Fora’s Fitzrovia outpost, Wells Mews, opened last month featuring a mindfulness room, indoor garden and built-in hydroponic towers for staff to pick their own fresh herbs to eat with lunch or take home for dinner.
Bold is better
Designers across the capital say the days of office minimalism are over – now, bosses are looking for workplaces with a bit of personality. Apple’s shiny new six-floor campus at Battersea Power Station is expected to feature lifts in the shape of an iPhone.
Facebook’s meeting rooms are reportedly named after Harry Potter characters, Game of Thrones sites and iconic London landmarks, with dramatic artwork hanging around the building.
Design agency Brinkworth recently revamped media company Defected Records’ Shoreditch office with disco balls, neon lights and an exclusive mural by artist Haris Nukem, while creative agency St Luke’s recently commissioned local artist Lee Baker to cover the walls of its Covent Garden HQ with a bold floral mural.
Let’s take this outside
A full day without leaving the building? No thanks. For London’s office architects, fresh air is hot right now – not just to reduce the spread of Covid but for wellbeing reasons.
Design studio MoreySmith says outdoor terraces are one of the most in-demand features among its clients including ASOS, Dunhill and CBRE, and Google’s new King’s Cross campus will include a landscaped roof garden with a rainwater irrigation system. Developers hope it’ll not only provide a space for Googlers to spend their downtime, but a habitat for bats and birds.
But terraces and roof gardens aren’t just for downtime. Workers at Borough coworking site The Ministry regularly take meetings on its luxury sun terrace, Oatly staff say their rooftop meeting “pod” is great for collaboration, and Woodrow staff say hosting several alfresco meetings a week on its leafy roof terrace in Old Street has boosted productivity and decision-making post-pandemic, even in winter. “I’ve noticed that people are more open to speaking their mind and contributing to the meeting,” says Tarr.
Offices might be looking prettier but behind the scenes, they’re going high-tech. Bloomberg’s ultra-sustainable European HQ in the City features sensors that adjusts the natural airflow through the building according to staffing levels while The Hickman’s office space in Whitechapel even has its own app.
The building’s in-house smartphone platform, sesame, offers features including an online concierge service, contactless access control, a ‘Social Wall’ for communicating with colleagues, and news updates for seeing what’s going on in real-time near to the office.