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MIPIM UK debate: 'Tech space is just work space'

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The influence of Google, Facebook and the like has transformed the model for workspaces across the world, according to a panel of leading property and workspace experts

The ideals of these companies kickstarted the next stage of the workplace evolution can be traced back to Frederick Taylor’s Burolandschaft that prevailed in the 1950’s.

At MIPIM UK today industry leaders gathered to discuss the influence that the ethos and aesthetic that start up companies has had on the design of workspaces – the debate was titled Expectations of Tech Space.

‘The tech industry has set an agenda that sees people spend more tank time in the office,’ said Juliette Morgan, head of property at Tech City UK. ‘But tech space is just work space.’

‘In 20 years time we will see the office cubicle as a depressing concept that didn’t get the best out of employees,’ said Patrick Nelson of We Work (a co-space network with flexible working locations across the world). ‘The benefits of co working are attractive to a most professionals looking to be part of a community. I think in the end everyone will work like this.’

‘The tech industry is trying to get people out of banking,’ said Morgan. ‘this is encapsulated by the Alphabeta building [by Studio RHE on Finsbury Square, London between the City and Silicon Roundabout], people wanted the location and aesthetic of tech.’ With the emergence of companies like We Work and Second Home, and buildings such as Alphabeta and the White Collar Factory, investors and large corporations are jumping on the bandwagon.

‘Three to four years ago, tech space was alien,’ said James Silver of Landid, a firm that develop buildings in the Thames Valley. ‘The buildings we deliver are now are about the extra service – fluffy towels, friendly front of house – people just like creative, more exciting space.’

The tech aesthetic of stripped back floors, exposed services and primary colours is abundant in both new builds and retrofits. The workspaces have evolved from being slightly hedonistic and delivered on a tiny budget – there is a renewed emphasis on quality. ‘The baby boomers are leaving the workforce,’ noted Stuart Kotchie of Harmsen Tilney Shane.

‘Research has shown that wellbeing and flexibility are more highly valued by the workforce than pay.’ The return on investment should also be seen in productivity, not just a buildings value. ‘There’s a desire for authenticity, not a hermetically sealed environment,’ added Morgan.

Of course, an office culture and aesthetic, as well as the comfort and wellbeing of the workforce are paramount for a successful workspace. The elephant in the room here was that the fabric of the new workspaces needs to anticipate what comes next – how will they conform to new energy standards, new modes of working and building regulations? In terms of the audience at Mipim the added value is hard to quantify in terms of quantities, ROI and space requirements, as the concept, beyond the aesthetic, is so fluid.

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