New London Architecture

Work Expert Panel

Tuesday 07 March 2023

Our second expert panel met recently to explore the work place in a post pandemic context. The drive to have people back in offices and the city is key, and in part, the design of the workspace space plays a role, Yetta Reardon Smith, Director, KKS Savills reports.

Arup hosted the second all panel session for the Expert Panel on Work at their offices on 27 February 2022.  

Both sub groups have met following the initial session in November 2022.  The sub groups were focused on tailoring discussions to specifically address recommendations for the NLA New London Agenda and the Mayor of London.

Both sub panels presented their thoughts following a fascinating presentation from Suky Macpherson, Chartered Psychologist. With over 20 years’ experience in the NHS, she has learnt much around the effect that people’s housing has on their psyche.  Her perspective on what people want from their workplaces included consideration of different personalities resulting in different needs, what works for some will not for others considering neurodiversity as one factor.  She considered what amenities could make the fundamental difference, whether child care or supermarkets, our baseline needs must be met.  

Basic fundamental human needs – daylight, exercise and good wash rooms are all critical but beyond that maintaining those environments to be clean and functional is vital.  She recognised that the needs of the individual have to be balanced by that of the organisation, however the crucial requirements to be met in the workplace are safety and belonging, which has impact on HR policies to workplace design.  

Defining the expectations and preferences of people now hybrid working, the group identified key aspects required to meet and respond to changing needs; including access to outdoor spaces, community, technology and well-being - begging the question how the city can facilitate this? The configuration of the workplace is largely within employers / designers control, so what is required to enhance the physical workplace to bring people to working and spending leisure time in the city that can be supported by the GLA? The ground scape beyond the office is important, not least the ability to enjoy green spaces but to connect at ground level.  

The increase of amenities as part of the overall scheme, be it shared facilities for congregation and socialising or fitness and wellness opportunities, will encourage utilisation.  Permeability at ground floor with interconnectivity through landscaping will create environment that are attractive to occupiers and building users.  With childcare costs delivering challenges, facilities can be provided as part of a wider offering, such as co-working, independent retailers, food markets and hospitality.  Part of the draw to the office must heed the expectation that people will have places to eat, exercise and be social on the days they come into the office, outside of the working day.

The cost of the commute is cited by many as a reason to work from home, so the City could consider more to ease the financial pressure and experience of central London travel.  Fares clearly are worth consideration, however alternative means of transportation, supported by the City, would find favour.  E-scooters and bikes are widely used however the random locations and availability could be greatly improved with borough schemes.

The location and quality of affordable workspace is both inconsistent and poorly located.  Wider discussion is needed to ensure that it is positioned to provide the service required and in a location that offers access to the wider business community for support and mentoring. 
The importance of the local heritage and culture cannot be underestimated, and the value that it provides to individuals and organisations in terms of purpose and community engagement are vital.  Clearly it is top of the agenda for sustainability, but can reach far wider in a cultural context.
Broadly the conclusions reached by the People team can be categorised into Experiential and Logistical.

Key questions posed by the sub panel; What does the new office look like / what should we be building?  What are occupiers asking for and can more be done from an occupier / leasing side?

The new building or refurbishment debate is multi-faceted; is London’s existing stock able to meet the changing demands of the occupier for the array of occupiers and their demands, and are they able to provide long term viability?  The reuse of existing stock clearly has both economic and heritage benefits but equally comes with limitations.  

Clearly a factor in this is who are the occupiers of the future and what their requirements will be.  The panel debated what needs to change in terms of planning policies in order to deliver sustainable buildings that are truly flexible. 

Net zero generated significant discussion, i.e. with the current lack of standardisation across the boroughs, the standards applied and the targets to be achieved.  Indeed the panel felt that net zero complexities made it impossible to measure but operational and embodied carbon can be, so the focus should be there. 

The pressure that developers are under should be considered, the more efficient the building, the higher the capital value for NIA:GIA, however the metric for measuring this against end of journey facilities and amenities is not weighed.  It was felt for many the sustainability goals for occupiers was largely a tick box exercise.  Potentially this falls within making the sustainability criteria and standards more accessible and understandable.  Local authorities can certainly assist within this refinement.

Much like the People panel, the Planet team discussed affordable office space in developments and how often it is the move challenging space that is left in the basement or similar. Typically not pre-let, it is handed over to a provider who raises the cost. The planning process should consider it through the lens of community benefits. 

The S in ESG is gaining increasing traction, certainly within organisations and this is being answered by careful consideration of the workplace and it being a truly accessible and inclusive place to come to, thus addressing many employees demands for social governance.  Furthermore, there is a genuine push to talk more on this topic in the wider industry. People want to know what was done for the community and this is important to ask of developers.  

Katrina thanked both groups for their presentations.  In the following discussion, the importance of evidence based data was discussed;  from surveys asking a broad cross section of people from different industries what actually made the difference to them in the workplace to developers carrying out post occupancy analysis on developments to clearly understand the success, and challenges, of their schemes.

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