We must be vocal about the value of offices to our lives

2nd October 2020

As built-environment professionals, we should be championing the value of the office to our daily lives. We have spent our careers observing how offices can be effective and, if done correctly, create value by harnessing the power of good design, Helen Berresford writes for Property Week.

Read the full article here.

We must have a loud voice about why workplaces are important for our mental health, our productivity and our lifestyles, which can be done in an open-minded way that remains cognisant of what we have learned during this period of working from home (WFH) — staying calm, collected and thoughtful, while others are making knee-jerk assumptions that feed the “death of the office” narrative.

We must appreciate the office and not become complacent about the important role it plays in our lives. It is foremost an equitable place: everyone has a similar amount of space, their own seat to sit on, similar facilities and technology. Not least, everyone has a space where heating and electricity are paid for, something which will become more important over the coming months.

We have been hearing a lot about how effective WFH is — and it has been. WFH has surprised many people by how quickly we all have mobilised and how far we can get with remote working. The people we often hear promoting WFH are those with comfortable surroundings and a clearly defined home office. I have read fewer accounts in the press and social media from people who have struggled with WFH — those working in cramped conditions, sharing a kitchen table or within earshot of flatmates and children.

The office also provides a place where you can learn from others — not by staring at a screen but by working with them and observing how they operate.

My own professional development has tended to come from informal working alongside colleagues and clients, rather than formal training sessions. I have observed how real creative leadership and senior people operate, how they direct and build businesses.

Equally, I have learned from the energy and fresh perspectives of graduates. The creative, collaborative office is the catalyst for this kind of professional development, where experience is absorbed and passed down by osmosis. Would this still happen to the same extent if your home was the primary place of work and the office was just a place to ‘drop into’ for meetings? I think not.

The culture of an office is a collective zeitgeist, a professional team-based environment and a place for social interaction. This vision for a successful office shares many of the qualities of a university campus, and to ignore this kinetic quality could lead to serious, irreparable damage to a business’s culture.

Read the full article here.

Read Sheppard Robson's latest thinking on approaching workplace re-occupation here.

Helen Berresford RIBA

Partner, Head of ID:SR