The workplace of the future begins with people

Over a period of thousands of years, people’s work lives gradually shifted from working in fields to working in factories. However, only a few generations later, the office building had already become the symbol for work, the workplace and even the progress of the 20th century.

Although this type of work entered the mainstream fairly recently, it has undergone rapid developments over the past 50 years. New building techniques and materials have enabled office buildings and businesses to expand to great sizes and employ hundreds or even thousands of workers in a small area. To achieve this, office buildings had to take into account managerial science, organisational structures and entire corporate cultures.

Nonetheless, the work environment of the office itself has not been able to adapt to the dynamic changes in how work is perceived. Instead of being seen as complex beings that bring more than just their work ethic to the workplace, people have long since been perceived as a resource for work performance that requires optimal spatial organisation. People are not evolutionarily adapted to a world of right angles, sedentary work and constant concentration for 8-hour periods. This is reflected in the constant need to battle declining productivity and low motivation, not to mention the impact on the health and wellbeing of those who spend a significant part of their lives in this kind of environment.

The trends in architecture and workplace design have responded slowly to these changes, but the need for fundamental change has now been “on the table” for a long time. The developer HB Reavis is also aware of its responsibility to provide a certain quality of life in the spaces that it creates. Therefore, as one of the largest providers of workspaces in Europe, it has come up with a new strategy known as Workspace as a Service (WaaS), in which projects are seen as more than just glass, concrete, garages and square metres set aside for tables and chairs. It sees the future of the workplace in coherent zones where networks of people, companies and tech solutions are formed to help create an environment of high performance, while also taking care of the health and wellbeing of employees.

Hardware and software

An analogy involving computers can be used to explain what WaaS has to offer in simple terms. A building is made up of hardware – glass, concrete, steel, stone and everything else that makes buildings both practical and aesthetic. A person is a user. To get the most out of the building (just like with a computer), you need software that combines the right capabilities, thoughts and ideas with the technical capabilities of a piece of hardware. That’s precisely what WaaS does. It adds “software” to a building’s hardware and integrates it with the people, so that together they create one functional unit where user experience comes first.

High quality materials and technology

These are employed to create a sustainable low-energy site, while emphasising the aesthetics of the building and creating a healthy environment. A functional solution ensures a supply of light, heat and good quality air, according to the needs of the specific location. The aim is to supply the best conditions under all circumstances and with the greatest possible cost savings.

Flexible spaces

An interior space can be adapted to fit specific tenants' needs, which are easy to project in the lease agreement.

Aesthetics

This creates a positive relationship with the site, affects people’s wellbeing and underscores the strength of the brand.

Productivity and well-being

People can be productive in many different ways, and therefore, require different types of spaces. A high-quality workplace has quiet zones where employees can concentrate on their work in solitude, team collaboration zones, conditions for networking and a space where they can “zone out” for a bit and “recharge their batteries”.

Interconnectivity

Each zone only works well if it provides workers with enough opportunities for interconnectivity. This could be anything from forming personal and professional relationships on an individual level, an organisational unit or as an entire company, to having different options for high quality food, personal development and relaxation.

Community

Everyone likes to feel as if they belong. A space where communities with different interests can come together and thrive helps to both attract and develop talent. It also promotes a good work-life balance, which has a positive impact on an individual’s feeling of satisfaction.

Innovation

A high-quality office zone allows for the interconnection of business and industry, creating a unique environment for the spawning of new ideas and thoughts.

Without high quality “software”, you end up with a bleak place where employees simply go to “sit” for eight hours. Meanwhile, in the absence of the proper “hardware,” it’s much more difficult to concentrate on one’s work due to unsatisfactory conditions and the need to constantly deal with technical issues. For HB Reavis and the WaaS strategy, it’s very important to combine both of these approaches into one functional unit that goes far beyond the boundaries of a single building. In a zone that plays a part in shaping a city, there are several elements within an area that redefine the site and the general public’s relationship with it. At the same time, the architects should also be able to get a sense of the needs of the people who work there so that they can help give them an overall sense of satisfaction. An example of this occurred in Bratislava in the Nivy Industrial Zone, which has now been transformed into “New Nivy”, where start-ups, innovative companies, freelancers and large corporations have their headquarters located side by side. The WaaS strategy was applied in the Twin City complex, Nivy Tower and in other projects such as Nové Apollo and Mlynské Nivy Košická to create a unique business ecosystem with Nivy Station, which now fulfils important transportation and service functions for the entire New Nivy zone.

A “symbiosis” of people, buildings and the entire zone is beneficial for everyone

People, businesses and buildings need each other, and one lacks substance without the other. Together, they can form a complex functional mechanism that is capable of bringing something valuable to all of society. Like with any relationship, the “co-existence” of people and buildings can only work as long as each side gives it all they’ve got.

The better a company’s working conditions are, the better the productivity and health for the people who are cooped up inside a given space will be. More talented job candidates will then become interested in the company and individual performance will improve, which will certainly translate into good economic results. Even today, we can see that the buildings that create an environment for success are attracting other prestigious and ambitious companies, meaning more revenue for the developer and the growth of more businesses across the whole city. This effect can be multiplied for an entire urban area, such as in the case of New Nivy.

In order for such a symbiosis to be created, the WaaS strategy brings a new perspective on productivity to the workplace and combines it with data and a human approach.

A space suitable for different types of productivity

When setting up an office space, companies should not only ask themselves what percentage of the office should be open space and how each individual department should be arranged. This is because productivity takes many forms, and each of these forms should be able to find its own application.

Concentration

Low work productivity means significant financial loss. It is therefore understandable that many studies and surveys are devoted to disturbances and stressful factors in the workplace. In general, the results of these studies agree that most people are not happy unless they have a workspace that is both visually and acoustically separated, allowing them to work alone and undisturbed. Almost every respondent that participated in the full range of surveys reported various disturbances as a reason for a decline in their productivity.

A person who is unable to fully devote themselves to their work will not achieve satisfactory results and will instead grow frustrated and become stressed. If this persists for a long period of time, it could result in a deterioration of the employee’s health or even lead to their departure. On a larger scale, this can make it difficult for businesses to attract and retain high-quality personnel who are well aware of their outstanding performance demands.

Collaboration

Having the option to “cut oneself off” from colleagues can help with individual concentration – but without teamwork and coordination in larger organisational units, a company cannot function. The solution to this issue begins with choosing the appropriate layout. Our basic principle is to locate individual components in a way so that employees are able to collaborate as easily as possible, yet they can also adapt the type of space to their workload and eliminate the impact of disturbances. This is a task that requires perfect knowledge and the collection of data about how the company and its management work, as well as knowledge from other fields such as sociology and ergonomics. For individuals to be able to collaborate effectively, it is also necessary to create suitable meeting spaces with sufficient capacity, but in places where these groups will not disturb non-participants.

Relaxation

Just as top athletes can’t get by without an adequate recovery period, even office workers aren’t able to constantly deliver their peak performance unless they have the option to “zone out” for a few moments during the day. Without this, their brains simply will not allow for proper concentration. Leisure zones where they can have a nice undisturbed chat, prepare their own lunch or simply get away from everything for a couple of moments are a highly valued “commodity” for most skilled workers. It’s also a sign that the company cares about its employees and is trying to keep them happy, which has been confirmed by the survey data.

Data and humanity should come into play at the same time

Data is an important source of knowledge for improving the functionalities of a company and the people working there. But satisfaction and productivity cannot only be determined through numbers. WaaS comes with services that not only take into account how the workplace is supposed to work and how it should look, but also how the workers come into contact with it.

A space that reflects the internal needs of a company

The principles of creating a superior workplace are easy enough to understand, but can be a bit more difficult to implement. A company is a complex system that is deeply rooted in its own space, so it’s difficult to just “pick it up and move it elsewhere” without disrupting all of the company’s operations. However, moving to a new space also creates an opportunity to improve the company’s operations from the ground up, so long as the management is willing to answer important questions about how the new space can help further its development. This means there are many obstacles, but also many opportunities.

As part of the WaaS concept, HB Reavis offers its clients the services of the Origameo Division, which focuses on designing and implementing customised workplaces. This division covers the entire process, from data collection and analysis to strategy creation and the execution of the entire design (fit-out). A new space also requires organisational changes and a lot of communication. Origameo is able to deal with employees’ questions and suggestions regarding these changes and can help tackle the initial uncertainty within the company. But it doesn’t end there. Origameo also helps clients evaluate the success of the entire relocation and suggests further steps for improvement. The outcome is a tailor-made workspace that reflects the desired culture and incorporates the requirements of management and employees. A new space not only means a new start, but another strong competitive advantage.

Flexibility

However, not every company is at the stage where there’s justification for large, new, custom spaces. In particular, the first few years of a company’s operations tend to be unpredictable and moving every few months would be uneconomical, not to mention exhausting. Qubes eliminates this need. It offers clients modular spaces that combine the flexibility of coworking with the advantages of a fully serviced business centre. Then, if a client grows, they can simply lease another “cube” with all of the infrastructure they need to be affiliated with their current space.

Propagation of ideas

We know from history that the most profound ideas were always born at the crossroads of trade routes and cultures. This is exactly what a business needs to develop, to improve and to change lives. It needs a space where companies of all sizes are working in different sectors and people with different talents can meet and interact. Usually a small stimulus, such as a high-quality event, is sufficient to bring all of these components together in one place. This will trigger a chain reaction of meetings and collaborations that will then bring forth new work opportunities and achievements. HubHub is just the kind of place for these events to happen. It’s not only a space where a freelancer can gain a foothold in an industry, but also an address for growing start-ups. At the same time, it’s a community that supports each member and helps develop their skills.

Friendly technologies

The functionalities of buildings and workplaces should be as easy and intuitive as possible for users and at the same time should address their common needs in a very targeted way so that they can engage in activities with more added value than venting, searching for a conference room or having to make a maintenance call.

Symbiosy is a technology that creates the ideal conditions for people while getting the most out of the building’s potential. On average, workers spend an hour every week dealing with unnecessary tasks associated with running an office. With Symbiosis, it’s like having an extra person on the team who takes care of everyone’s comfort and helps eliminate the dozens of minor and unproductive tasks that are needlessly robbing them of their time and fraying their nerves every single day.

A better and higher quality of life

Everyone brings their personal life into work, and how well a person is doing in their private life also affects their work performance. Therefore, why shouldn’t a person’s working life have a positive influence on their life outside the office? This is where More steps in. In addition to dealing with the day-to-day operations within a building and the comfort of its tenants, it also endeavours to help employees solve various common life concerns while they’re at work. Thus, employees don’t have to worry about sacrificing their entire lunch break or free time to send a parcel, take their clothes to the dry cleaner’s or to get their car washed. Shared city bikes once again make it easier to get to a meeting or to go to lunch. But with the More package by HB Reavis, clients get even more. By providing various cultural, health and gastronomic events, it helps people in the workplace fill their free time and become integrated into the local area and surrounding communities.

Five o’clock shouldn’t mean everyone has to rush home. If employees have enough opportunities to enjoy their life in the workplace, the workplace will then begin to symbolise a place that they can look forward to visiting every day and a place where they can feel good about themselves. This will also be reflected in their desire to go to work and their physical and mental health. As a result, a slightly bigger investment in a high-quality space will mean a big return on your investment in the long run.

A high-quality workplace improves lives

Pleasant and imaginatively furnished company spaces are not just a matter of making a good impression. The main reason is to provide better concentration, more enjoyment at work and overall better performance for the people who spend several hours there every day.

Good results create an atmosphere of enthusiasm and satisfaction in a team, and this effect gradually starts to build up over time. In this kind of environment, people feel more balanced and confident. The most beneficial thing for a company and its employees is that a positive mental state of mind contributes to stronger physical health and shorter absences, as well as lower healthcare costs and an overall higher employee retention rate.

In order to make people feel good in a workplace and to maximise the positive synergy effects, some basic requirements should be met.

Environmental culture

In urban planning, the key principle is to design an environment that is both functional and aesthetic, so that the standard of living and satisfaction increase while things such as crime decrease. The same is, of course, true on a much smaller scale in an office environment. An office that is well-designed and fitted out with superior materials and equipment enables people to perform their jobs better, without any distractions and with a greater sense of comfort and security. The wellbeing of these individuals then translates into better interpersonal relationships at both formal and informal levels.

Within the WaaS strategy, Origameo addresses precisely this aspect. It does not only take care of the “cool factor”, but also ensures the right balance between the office and the “living room” is created in a space, where productivity stems from good feelings and not from commands and authority figures.

Health and balance

The fact that a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy has been known for quite a long time. However, recent evidence suggests that long-term sitting in combination with a general lack of exercise may have effects on the body that are comparable to long-term smoking. In order to minimise these impacts, employers should also provide alternatives for employees wherever possible – such as stand-up desks or dedicated relaxation zones where people can at least do a small warm-up exercise or other activities that don’t require sitting. Even a small activity that lasts just a few minutes can help prevent long-term problems such as back pain. Minimising these consequences is half of the success story, while the other half lies in creating opportunities to live a healthy life and transferring new habits and knowledge into every person’s personal life.

A good work-life balance is best achieved when people can bring joy to and from work and leave behind as many negative aspects of their lives as possible. The timeliness of this issue is also evidenced by the increasing debates in our society about issues such as stress, burn-out and eliminating the taboos surrounding mental health issues.

Companies that are known to promote a good work-life balance attract clever people. Therefore, they don’t need to inflate their employee benefit packages in order to compete with other companies. A culture of balance also helps to retain talented people in the long run, thereby saving time and money for recruiting and training as well as holding on to as many of the best “brains” in the company as possible.

More, a service that forms a part of the WaaS strategy, is responsible for precisely these aspects of work. It offers healthy exercise through a fleet of bike shares and the opportunity to participate in events tailored to the preferences and tastes of the people working and living in a zone like New Nivy, where WaaS is part of the local DNA.

For a long time, the companies that have realised they need to devote themselves to the quality of life of their employees have only looked at the physical aspect. Gym and wellness memberships, as well as handing out free pedometers, have become a common part of corporate benefit packages. This makes sense from the view of combatting the many diseases that have become increasingly widespread with the advent of office work and have cost both our healthcare systems and companies themselves millions of Euros a year.

In many cases, however, this physical approach has remained the only way, and many organisations lack a more holistic approach, one that doesn’t ignore the fact that a person’s inner mood also has an impact on their performance.

As the largest provider of workspaces in Europe, HB Reavis is at the forefront of a change in the current attitude, which has been based on the misconception that people don’t bring their emotions into work. In fact, the opposite is true. The future of the workplace is based on taking advantage of the natural human component to increase a company’s performance and to improve the satisfaction of the people who work there.