After a year of lockdowns, organisations from all creative sectors around the world are beginning to interrogate their traditional office - based working models. Now, the workspace has a different role to play. As we have adapted to working from home and meeting online, the workplace is not just a place to get your job done but a place that highlights the necessitude of human connection, collaboration and creativity; a foundry for company culture. At Design District, we are interrogating the best way to return to the workplace.
Businesses recognise they cannot thrive on remote work alone. It’s true that projects can be successfully mapped out on the multifarious digital platforms, but thus far, there is no tech platform that can truly replicate the essential human element – the chance encounters, spontaneous conversations and shared moments of connection that spark new ideas and shape company culture. When a task demands the equal and simultaneous participation of multiple people, it helps, immeasurably, to have them in the same room. We are hoping to bring this back by creating a community of creatives.
For new-starters, in which Design District has had five in the last two months, online connection with teammates has created a digital work experience that omits the social and emotional reality of the work environment. Culture is best passed on in person. Not to mention the knowledge that is earned simply by being in the same room as the other conversations and goings on in the team or business.
There is also a significant number of people for whom working from home is less than ideal; their homes might lack the space or the privacy necessary to work effectively full-time. For many of us, a commute, however short, provides essential punctuation to the day, space to decompress and a transition between work mode and relaxation, increasing the work/life balance of employees. It’s becoming increasingly clear that, for most businesses, the old-school office approach is outdated, but a pure remote-working model is inadequate.
An approach that taps into the benefits of both — must be possible. Now, as we stand on the verge of a post-Covid reality, and businesses emerge into ‘the new normal’, the need for a more flexible workplace where employees want to be (rather than have to) is becoming an even greater priority.
A new working model
Design District was conceived as a permanent home for the creative industries, and at the heart of our concept is the notion that it is an ecosystem that will enrich business and working life for all those inside the District. The buildings and businesses within it do not operate in isolation, but in complex, interdependent ways — and the right masterplanning, design and operational thinking can elevate a cluster of discrete enterprises into a successful community.
A combination of ample space and built-in agility means that our range of workspaces, services and facilities allow us to respond quickly to a company’s changing needs — whether it’s scaling a team or streamlining its operations. With 16 unique buildings housing large-scale offices, spacious studios and versatile workplaces of every size — as well as an inclusive members club for creatives (Bureau), event areas and an array of outdoor squares and courtyards — Design District ensures that there’s always quiet space to retreat to, as well as extra room available for collaboration and spreading out. Alongside a central communal Canteen filled with greenery offering a bar and diverse food outlets, a rooftop basketball court, a district-wide networking and events programme, and the wider attractions of Greenwich Peninsula combine to ensure that Design District will be a positive and inspiring place to work — that will even tempt hesitant employees back to the office.
With employees free to work in the way that best suits them — from open, collaborative and energetic to quiet, calm and concentrated — Design District offers creative organisations of all scales an opportunity to adopt a progressive working model that enjoys the advantages of a shared physical workspace without sacrificing the flexibility and benefits to wellbeing of working from home.
The financial incentive
It’s not just individual employees themselves that benefit. In response to the economic challenges that so many in the creative industries have faced in the wake of the coronavirus, we have announced a 12-month reduction to a flat rate of just £5 per square foot rent for any business, of any size, taking up tenancy. That represents a discount of as much as 80% and is intended to kickstart recovery by enabling creatives to secure workspaces in one of London’s most architecturally significant developments in recent years, while also allowing them to focus resources on business development, marketing, employees and growth, rather than worrying about making rent.
We have also developed a tenancy scheme known as the ‘On/Off Office’, through which businesses and individuals can combine the convenience and community of a physical office with the freedom of flexible working. There are options to rent office space for one to three days a week, with the benefit of an active and supportive landlord on call to respond quickly with solutions and advice. This provides all the benefits of a permanent workplace, saves business owners the headache of physically reconfiguring their spaces to suit the post-covid landscape, eliminates the stresses and expenditure of maintenance, and comes at a significantly lower cost.
We’ve been working hard to make the Design District offer workspace that we hope suits employers and employees equally well — an approach that responds to the lessons a year or two of remote working has taught us, while restoring the perks and pleasures of being with your colleagues within an environment that is designed specifically to support them.