10 July 2019/ rent_serviced_office_guide

The benefit of creating an office breakout space for staff

Offices are evolving to include huddle rooms, games areas, rooftop gardens and much more...

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As the open-plan office continues to become popular, while at the same time workers demand better-than-ever amenities from their employers, multi-function staff rooms are being designed with more care and creativity. Stodgy conference rooms are being replaced by huddle rooms, games areas, outdoor enclaves and cleverly-furnished pods. Employees can break out from the main office area to host casual meetings, take some time out to play a game, or slip into a quiet space for a few minutes to clear their head from office noise.

While these rooms have been 'amenitised' in many cases, or at least equipped with better audio visual (AV) kit than in previous years – they are also designed to be more casual, flexible, and more thoughtfully equipped. Rather than evoking a formal feeling, they're designed to put people at ease, foster creativity, and create a spirit of collaboration.


Make the office a point of destination

“Younger people prefer the ability to be untethered, to move and be reactionary," says Julie Zitter of design firm Stantec. “But there's still a desire at the managerial level for staff to come into the office. More collaboration, more overlap and more intellectual property comes out of people being physically present. So, you have to make the office a point of destination so that people want to come to work.

‘Sense of place’– once a term for locations that for aesthetic or cultural reasons grabbed the visitor by the heart – is now being applied to office spaces. The aim is to create a business culture that resonates with employees and deliver a killer amenity platform that's far better than any home office or coffee shop could provide. Multifunction rooms are an essential component of that.


Fresh air and accessible outdoor space

Currently, there’s a real emphasis on providing natural light, outdoor views, and outdoor access. Where feasible, companies are designing outdoor meeting spaces, or providing some type of outdoor recreation space – no matter how small.

Jumping on the trend in the UK are the likes of Red Bull. Based in London’s Soho, the energy drink company’s high concept interior includes a stunning roof terrace extension providing spectacular views of the West End. TalkTalk’s spanking new HQ in Salford Quays has a 350-seat restaurant (featuring a pizza bar, deli and coffee station) with adjacent rooftop garden boasting panoramic views over the River Irwell. Taking this concept to the next level – and then some – is Google. The tech giant’s new UK HQ – currently under construction by Kings Cross Station – has already been dubbed the ‘landscraper’. The entire roof will be given over to a garden, which will also feature a running track.

Even at locations that lack useable outside space, some innovators are doing their utmost to bring the outdoors inside. Fruit Towers in Ladbroke Grove – home to Innocent Drinks – is turfed with green grass throughout. At Ovo Energy’s HQ in central Bristol, CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick has achieved his mission to create a ‘living jungle’. Within the building are six trees (up to 8m tall), 500 balcony plants and 100 standing plants. Overlooking this miniature forest is a treehouse meeting room, perched on wooden stilts above the lobby.

Many landlords (as well as corporate-owned offices that are big enough to do it) are not just offering outdoor spaces (or the next best thing) but are also investing in thoughtful amenities. For one Texan landlord who wants to attract tech companies, Stantec is designing an indoor-outdoor meeting space adjacent to the fitness room. It will have a patio and a lawn (with a combination of natural and artificial grass) where people can do yoga or turn their lunch hour into a picnic. It will also have a furnished shipping container that can be used as a meeting room – or, after business hours, a bar.

Recreation should reflect the culture

The cliché of the tech start-up with a ping-pong table or table football has become almost standard in most spaces with modern aspirations. But not every company's culture is suited to this style of break-out activity.

OK, so Superdrug’s Croydon HQ does have a ping-pong table – but the health and beauty chain also provides staff with an on-site brow and nail bar and in-house wellness clinic.

TalkTalk has a slick computer games area, where Xboxs and PlayStations are wired up and ready to go for the 24/7 teams who work nights and weekends. In an effort to create ‘the happiest workplace in the UK’, Moneypenny, the Wrexham-based outsourced switchboard and telephone answering contact centre, asked its 500 employees for feedback. The result is a quirky place of work that has its own village pub ¬ aptly named the ‘Dog and Bone’ – a sun terrace and a restaurant offering free breakfast and fruit.

In technology company Cisco's Austin office in Texas, the employees asked for board games. They got 4x4 vertical versions of chess, Connect-4 and Scrabble, made of wood and mounted on the wall. Employees, many of whom are engineers, play the games standing up, which requires physically moving the pieces instead of staying head-down staring at a screen.

 “Engineers are a bit more cerebral and introverted. When they need a little respite, this gives them something fun and engaging to do,” explains Zitto.

For extroverted sales teams, table football or arcade-style pinball might be the better choice. A yoga studio or a virtual surfboard set-up could work well at wellbeing-focused companies. To keep creative motoring minds at full throttle, Autotrader magazine in Manchester provides an inspirational playground that features media walls, a skateboarding full pipe and real cars – including a Mini, VW Kombi, Audi Quattro and a TVR – inside the actual office. The key is to make sure that design features, break-out areas, activities and overall office vibe are a good fit with what your business offers and the kind of people that work there.

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