Where do you see flexible space going as it relates to more corporate space – and where will it likely settle?
As occupiers we have been craving flexibility for many years, so it is really refreshing to see so many new entrants in the market. I think we are seeing some really interesting, more niche players and more bespoke space emerging; rather than just flexible space on mass. I think we are likely to see corporate occupiers having a core lease, branded space, the way they have done for many years. Then with concentric rings of steadily increasing flexible space around this core, to account for the changes within their business and their merger and acquisition activity. This is similar to the Skunk Work projects in the 1950s. Sometimes we think some of these things are new, but I think corporates will end up with a portfolio of space that is a mix of the two.
Do you foresee the Real Estate sector softening its
corporate image similarly to how we have seen the evolving City workspace?
I think we are seeing an increasing amount of informality in a lot of things we do. I have seen some fairly traditional property firms, not just lose the ties but the suits as well. There is definitely a growing level of comfort with informality. A lot of that is determined by new entrants to the market, their whole approach is less formal than traditional property firms have taken. It is all from the good and I think it has created a really interesting mix.
What key elements were addressed during the transformation of workplaces at Sky, Rio Tinto, Honeywell and other places you have worked?
It has been a 20-year journey, so I think they have really changed in that time in terms of their outcome. However, in essence they are a series of commonalities to all of them. Fantastic technology; obviously appropriate to the time and as future-proofed as possible. The best possible range of amenities to support the workspace. In terms of the workspace itself, increasing sophistication of alternative settings, in addition to the primary desk space settings we usually see. There is a real focus on providing for service, designing for service, designing from the inside out has been a big theme of mine for many years. So, the combination of all of those has been common, right back to Warner Bros. days, right through to the last projects at Sky. I think we have just got more sophisticated in dealing with the outcomes and designing the space. As well as more sophisticated in understanding the relationship between the amenities and the work space, and I think the range of amenities has been ever increasing as well. Those are the most common themes I have seen throughout my career really.
What exciting projects are you currently working on with Unispace?
I think we have really seen a degree of diversity in the projects we are
undertaking. It used to just be corporate fit outs, so end occupiers looking to
fit out a more corporate space. However, now we are doing a lot of work with
developers and co-working operators. The richness and the range of projects is
increasing all the time.
What is also interesting is in areas like education, compared to areas like corporate space, some fantastic blurring of boundaries and learning between the two. As corporates look to take the best of educational environments and educational establishments are looking to learn from corporates. I think what we are seeing in all of the work we are doing is the breaking down of barriers between very modular and enclosed types of space, now we are just talking about space in a more general way. The old sectors with their old way of doing things, it is all breaking down. Which is making life incredibly interesting across the board. I think we are going to see more of that, we are going to see more cross fermentation of ideas and learning from each of those.
Lastly as a leading voice debating the way employees deserve to be treated within their workplaces- how would your ideal workplace look and feel?
These things are all entirely personal, but it would probably be very crisp and clean, uncluttered, simple. I am a great believer in keeping things simple and then allowing human beings the space they need to express themselves. It would be warm, accessible, intuitive, but most of all it would have to work. A primary focus of a workspace is to enable people to be the best they can be every day, to do their jobs, to do their work. So the workspace itself has to be highly functional and we have to start with that as the basic premise. It is important as well to allow people to influence their surroundings as well, so make it possible to adapt their surroundings to the way that they want to work.