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Innovative workplace design across the UK and Europe

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The modern workplace has been through a rapid transformation.

And as the war for talent rages on, businesses face the unenviable challenge of aligning the physical office environment with the needs of their employees.

No easy feat.

Especially when you consider that Gen Z will constitute almost 30% of the workforce in the next couple of years; a hungry cohort that not only brings with them fresh ideas but also expects their workplace to be just as exciting and innovative.

That’s if they expect to come into the office at all. When hybrid working is the preferred choice for nearly 80% of employees in the UK alone, it’s never been more critical to make the hours they do spend in the office feel worthwhile, enjoyable and comfortable.

So how are some of the UK and Europe’s leading companies solving a problem like hybrid working?

With innovative workplace design.

So, if you want to inspire your workforce with a space that feels worth coming in for, then look no further. From designing a flexible space with adaptable furniture to more collaborative workspaces that stimulate social interaction, here are some of the most exciting design trends in the UK and Europe right now.

Area Vertex 3 Office Curator LARGE 1

Increasing employee engagement using local influences

Keeping employees engaged in a hybrid working world is a universal challenge.

However, there’s growing evidence to suggest that Dutch workers are struggling at higher levels than most. Research suggests that whilst people in the Netherlands are generally happy in their work - albeit under increased levels of pressure - they also feel less connected to or bonded with their colleagues.

So what does this add up to? Increased levels of disengagement.

Further evidence supports this, with only 66% of Dutch employees actually reporting feeling engaged at work. To put this figure in context, that’s in the bottom 31% compared with other regions. Dig a little deeper and the research reveals Dutch workers had much lower scores than the average in terms of action, decision making and equity.

Despite all this, the Dutch work ethic is strong. This is reflected in the fact that the Dutch economy actually grew by 4.5% in 2022. Add to this the fact that up to 70% of workers in the Netherlands are either planning to or have already ditched working from home, the office workspace is the ideal solution to keep workers happy and engaged - especially when local influence is a crucial part of its design.

Here's how one of the Netherlands' brightest companies has re-engaged its people with local-flavoured, yet innovative, workplace design.

IFS in Den Bosch

As part of a company-wide incentive to improve company culture, IFS needed a brand-new facility that could bring two offices together under one roof.

This welcoming, open-plan environment would need to ensure employee satisfaction and also encourage new talent to join as part of the company’s ambitious growth strategy.

To do so, we worked with IFS to create a consistent but captivating design that helped showcase the company - and the Netherlands - in its best light. This was brought to life by a graffiti artist who created memorable wall art inspired by the culture and surrounding landmarks of Den Bosch.

Bringing the two offices together in such a comfortable and contemporary way helped create a positive culture change, whilst boosting employee engagement and improving office attendance - exactly what IFS set out to achieve.

20230224 fourfront IFS 030

Breaking down communication barriers with physical connections

The tech industry is booming in Hungary.

As of last year, tech startups in the country are now worth a combined enterprise value of €2.4B. To put that figure into context, that’s up from €584M just five years ago. Supported by 4,000 angel investors, over 170 of whom are based in the nation’s capital: Budapest. What’s more, Hungary's corporation taxes - among the EU's lowest - helped Budapest to rank top among 80 EU locations as the best place to launch a business post-Brexit (Startups.co.uk).

But it’s not just startups that are thriving; Global brands like PwC, BT, Lenovo and Vodafone all have a presence in the region. And Budapest’s rapidly growing business landscape spans sectors including automotive, electronics, IT, pharmaceuticals, FMCG and retail.

However, being such a creative technology hub has its challenges. The latest figures revealed that every fourth employee had returned to their workplaces after WFH and a further 28% of Hungarians had partially returned to the office (Statista).

So, for a country that created its own program to bring skilled workers home, how are its top organisations enticing remote workers back into the office?

By rebuilding physical connections.

Here’s how one of our most notable and innovative clients is using workplace design to break down communication barriers in Budapest.

Jaguar Land Rover in Budapest

Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) new technical engineering office would be located along the Váci corridor in Budapest; one of the most vibrant business districts in the Hungarian capital. With that in mind, its design had to be just as dynamic upon delivery.

Combining office space, collaboration rooms, social support space, specialist simulator facilities and employee entertainment amenities, the goal was to empower employee communication via a complete workplace transformation

To do so, we focused on creating improved visual connections between private and social areas, enhancing the feeling of unity between administrative and engineering teams. The result was a contemporary, multi-functional environment that effortlessly bridges the gaps between its open-plan working areas and meeting rooms. JLR further extends its reach throughout the building, with every wall wrapped in glass. This literal transparency reiterates the notion of community, workplace collaboration and connection to the surrounding site and nature.

Blurring the boundaries between visual transparency, clear movement and social spaces broke down the communication barriers between JLR employees, creating a collaborative working environment that’s future-proofed for years to come.

JLR Area Office Curator SMALL 6

Empowering employees to work smarter - not harder

Work-life balance has always been important in Italy.

This is reflected in the fact that the country scores well above average (9.4) in the Better Life Index. In part, this is down to the working hours of most jobs. Across the board, the maximum working week is set at 40 hours (overtime must not exceed 48). But at most companies, employees will likely work less than 36 hour.

But that doesn't mean employees are looking to sit at home. Far from it, in fact.

Interestingly, Italy is among the countries with the lowest percentage of employees working from home. Even back in 2021, just 8.3% of people WFH for at least half of their working days.

So what’s going on?

It’s simple: the leading Italian workplaces are taking a hybrid approach and encouraging ‘smart working’.

Ahead of the curve for a number of years, the Italian government introduced smart working way back in 2017. And they did so with the aim of promoting work-life balance, reducing traffic congestion and increasing productivity.

But the organisations that are attracting and retaining top talent are creating spaces that blur the lines between work and home. Essentially, you don't have to stay at home to find the sweet spot between work and home life; the office can be a destination where you actually want to spend those 36 hours in. And there are a growing number of innovative businesses in Italy that are leading the pack.

Vertex in Rome

With plans to expand its operations in an increasingly hybrid-working world, Vertex worked with the team at Area to design an innovative new space in the centre of Rome.

This new workspace needed to accommodate a variety of work styles that would encourage the Italian team to regularly and willingly attend the office. To do so, our design had to be human-centric in its focus - geared towards wellbeing and inclusion.

To encourage smart working, the final office layout comprises a range of drop-in Zoom and one-to-one rooms, flexible live meeting zones and library spaces (for quiet working). These state-of-the-art spaces conveniently surround a central breakout area that acts as the heart of the office.

Despite its laser focus on people, the new workplace also had one eye on the footprint its talent would leave behind too. So in order to be more sustainable, the design team made a conscious effort to locally source new furniture. This kept the project in line with AREA’s other Vertex collaborations and helped the site achieve its Fitwel rating; the world’s leading healthy building certification. Smarter for people, and the planet too.

Area Vertex 3 Office Curator SMALL 8

Fostering creative thinking with imaginative design

Think of the creative industry and it’s easy to conjure up images of colourful offices with characterful interiors; art-adorned walls, playful neon lighting and plush interiors to stimulate the more creative instincts of its occupants.

But this isn’t just style over substance.

We already know that quiet spaces with reduced noise levels are good for more concentrated tasks and ‘deep working’, but there are other factors at play when it comes to stimulating the right hemisphere of our brains. In fact, research has shown that the environment we inhabit can have an enormous impact on how creative we feel.

For example, one study found that dim lighting helps us feel less constrained and free to explore new ideas. Furthermore, another study revealed that creativity levels actually increased by as much as 15% when natural biophilic design elements are incorporated into the workplace. So an office design furnished with rich foliage can be just as stimulating for the creative cortex as strolling around those luscious, green outdoor spaces.

But what happens when the creative industry shifts towards a hybrid or even WFH model?

Beyond the fact that your employee’s private space might not be as catered for creativity as the physical workspace environment, there are also other limitations to remote working. For example, research indicates that whilst video conferencing is effective for choosing which ideas to pursue, it can also inhibit the production of ‘good creative’.

So what's the solution?

For many organisations in the UK, it’s simple: captivate its creatives with a space that’s too good not to come in for.

iTech Media in London

Nestled amidst the bustling streets of Camden, iTech Media's new workplace is a captivating haven where creativity thrives.

Working with the team at Area, the leading digital marketing company has created an innovative office design that fosters both formal and informal interactions. Capable of accommodating up to 150 people, this enchanting environment is designed to capture the attention and imagination of anyone entering the space. It includes a vibrant collaboration area, yoga studio, bar, stage and various breakout spaces. These are illuminated with striking neon lights, installed to evoke a sense of wonder and limitless potential - perfect for those lightbulb moments.

But that’s just a small part of this deliberate design; one that has the brief of stimulating creative ideation in mind. For example, the chosen colour palette prominently features blues and oranges, infusing the environment with energy, creativity and freedom. That’s also why a lot of the interior can be broken apart and rearranged. For example, the staging area can serve multiple purposes and can be used as a collaborative workspace to brainstorm and exchange ideas. Inspiration can strike from just about anywhere, and this is one space that can stimulate a thousand ideas.

Area i Tech Media 2nd Edit Office Curator SMALL 2

Looking for a more innovative workplace experience for employees?

From flexible workspaces and sustainability to employee well-being and workplace strategy, our FREE guide ‘Designing & Delivering Inspiring Workplaces Across Europe’ has everything you need to know in order to create the ideal solution for your people now - and for many years to come.

Download our FREE guide

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