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BCO 2018: How can designers create community in the workplace?

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To coincide with the 2018 BCO conference, this week the AJ is asking top designers, engineers and agents a series of questions surrounding the future of office development in the UK

This year the BCO annual conference is heading to Berlin – a city where, according to BCO senior vice-president Katrina Kostic Samen, the ‘future arrived early’. The three-day conference takes ‘diversity and inclusion’ as its theme.

One of the topics at the conference this year is how designers and developers can build ‘communities for occupiers’.

The rapid rise in co-working spaces is one example of how the workplace is changing; but do office workers really want community in the workplace? If so, how can designers deliver this?

As the conference got under way, the AJ asked our panel for their answers. 

The BCO is championing the building of ‘communities for occupiers’. Do companies and workers want community in the workplace and, if so, how could that be realised?

Ken Shuttleworth, founder, Make Architects
People have always sought community, even if it was just around the water cooler or the photocopier; it has just evolved with time into something new. I’m not sure catering for everything in one ‘building’ is the healthy way forward, but there’s more we can do as specialists to create and deliver different spaces that accommodate the needs of occupiers.

Helen Berresfordpartner, Sheppard Robson 
If an office is to be like an appealing city, it really needs successful informal civic spaces and needs to come together in a collective way, borrowing from educational environments, providing steps or an open atrium to provide a perfect place to get together and allowing creative and informal interaction in the heart of the workplace.

Henry Squire, partner, Squire and Partners 
The short answer is yes. The tech sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors and encompasses a lot of this change. Small companies like to come together in a building and mix with other like-minded companies – so we’ve seen a big growth in co-working.

Sherin Aminossehe, head of offices, Lendlease Europe
We spend so much of our time in the office that we have to design workplaces that allow communities to be fostered. Spaces that break down siloed working, places that allow conversations and chance interactions as well as formal and informal gatherings are important to this. But this needs to be done in step with the leadership of organisations who want to make changes in their companies.

Simon Allford, founding partner, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
People want to enjoy working, playing, essentially they want to enjoy life! Buildings need to enable this by offering a range of different working and relaxing spaces on the micro scale of the office and on the macro scale of the building.

Hazel Roundingdirector, shedkm 
Yes, I’d say most office workers hope for a sense of community as time in the workplace is such a large part of their waking hours. In a world increasingly held in a virtual screen, human interaction is crucial and this can be encouraged via proactive intranet sites and using every area of communal or underused space.

John Mcraedirector, Orms
In our experience SMEs, which make up a significant share of the employment market, find a sense of belonging to a larger and wider community attractive. This is often created through shared events spaces, coffee outlets, communal terraces and informal social evenings.

Roma Agrawalassociate director, AECOM
Designing for communities of people is of increasing importance. This includes your employees, clients, and surrounding communities. The success of many co-working organisations is that they provide spaces for a large variety of social and networking opportunities, not just the standard working spaces. This can help to create a community within and beyond the workplace, which ultimately makes the office a more attractive place to be.

Hanif Karaco-founder, AKT II
A lot has been learned from the hospitality and retail sectors and it’s not unusual to sense already in some offices the feeling of being a hotel guest. The White Collar Factory [in London’s Old Street] has moved to organising a number of services in-house and the new headquarters for Google at King’s Cross will go even further to create cohesion in the worker community.

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