Grade A offices in London were once constructed to suit the needs of banks and other financial services groups, usually within the parameters of the City of London or the West End. With the rise of tech firms, today there is a fresh concept of what the most desirable offices look like, what part of a city they should be based in, and what they provide. Many offer a village concept with tenant facilities including coffee shops in the reception, showers, cycle racks, changing facilities, and so on. So much more than an office.
Efficiency is a key component of today’s Grade A office. Encouraging flexible working with the provision of various work stations and café culture breakout areas allows for a greater occupancy ratio than the one person per 10 sq m the traditional office format provides. Contemporary office design and a layout that portrays a ‘fun’ environment to work in is thought to improve overall staff satisfaction. The sustainable footprint of a building also caters for greater efficiency.
The wellbeing of the workforce is now a hot topic in the office market. Progressing beyond healthy food and complimentary fitness classes, some landlords now manage the flow of fresh air in a building, the availability of natural light, the smell of the office and noise levels – to name but a few examples. Using the office to promote wellbeing is well on its way to becoming standard practice.
The days of putting wacky ideas, such as slides and ball pits, into fit-outs seem to be fading. There is still a strong focus on creating a productive and fun working environment but expenditure on fit-out is now under greater scrutiny, presumably due to current market conditions. Much more focus is being put on how technology can improve the office, rather than quirky design features.
New technologies that monitor and track the way in which people use a building can help improve staff wellbeing by encouraging healthier ways of working. For example, a reminder to stretch your legs after a prolonged period of sitting in front of a computer or automatically adjusting a chair height to avoid back pain.
A building’s connectivity platform is also vital if an office is to be regarded as Grade A, far more so than it was 10 years ago, and businesses like WiredScored rank office buildings on their level of connectivity.
While proximity to talent remains key, other geographical push and pull factors have shifted. The rise and ongoing success of the City Fringe market in London, and its rich mix of occupiers, illustrates that being positioned in prime core locations is no longer essential for all occupiers as we interact more and more online.
Different businesses want different things. Traditional Grade A office space as we know it will still be a requirement for many occupiers but other companies have come to expect new designs.
Read more: 'Future office buildings: intelligent by design'