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Flexible workspaces will be the answer to Covid-19 office issue
Working from home has exposed the failings of old-fashioned workplaces. Employees need creative spaces that actually work for human beings
Covid-19 has thrown the future of offices into uncertainty. When workers were sent home for lockdown, many started realising that they preferred not to undergo the lengthy commutes to sit in a dull, lifeless box all day — a report by Cardiff and Southampton universities suggests that nine in ten workers who have worked from home during lockdown would like this to continue in some form.
All of a sudden, a stick has been stuck in the spokes of the $30trn global commercial property market, and people have been left wondering if physical office space is in the future for the working world. Enrico Sanna, co-founder of flexible workspace FORA, thinks this is because the average office isn’t working for employees. “How people get excited working from home is a failure of the office,” says Sanna. “There is no reason why the office needs to be a dry, boring place.”
Featured in Nov/Dec 2020 issue of:
While the future is uncertain, one thing is for sure: a change has been ignited. We’re seeing priorities rearranged to suit real needs rather than lifelong traditions. This is where flexible workspaces come in, as working from home is not viable in the long run.
Stuck at home, many workers suffer from a lack of variety in their day and miss out on socialising with their colleagues, leading to feelings of isolation. Since the start of the pandemic, the proportion of people experiencing depression symptoms has risen from seven to 11 per cent, according to a global survey of almost 300,000 people by Kantar Health. Not everyone has the luxury of a home office, and when you work in the same rooms that you eat, sleep and relax in, a healthy work/life balance fades from view.
Quality, flexible spaces can change the way the modern workplace functions by addressing these concerns and that’s where FORA leads the field — every one of its buildings has been crafted to contain valuable spaces that work for human beings.
It’s about creating an environment where workers have more freedom — they can move around, make the space their own and take full advantage of the many facilities, rather than being stuck in one spot. Workers whose companies allow them to decide what kind of space they get to work in are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, as well as perform better than those which don’t, according to the 2013 Workplace Survey from Gensler, an architectural firm.
Flexible workspaces such as FORA are much more vibrant than your standard office, as not only do you get a desk of your own, you also have countless other places to work to suit your needs. In FORA buildings you can perch in the sunlight-filled atrium or station yourself in a spacious (and snack-filled) kitchen. There are quiet areas to escape to, such as reading rooms that are well-stocked with inspiring books, and soundproof phone booths to keep your conversations private. The sheer variety of workspaces is something that home working can’t compete with.
What sets FORA apart from its flexible-workspace competitors is its focus on hospitality. As soon as you step in the door, the concierge team is there to greet you with a friendly smile. Before setting up the company, Sanna saw how well the hospitality industry works, and how excited people get at the prospect of spending a night in a hotel, even though they know a stranger has been sleeping in their bed only the night before. This is why FORA kitchens are kept clean and tidy throughout the day, each room is beautifully decorated, and any suggestions on how to improve are taken into account and implemented. The front-of-house staff have received an unmatched level of training, thanks to FORA’s partnership with one of the leading hospitality schools Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne.
People are social beings who require interaction, and those based at home are missing the intrinsic human experience of working together. Office workers at FORA develop a lasting relationship with its employees as they assist with anything they might need throughout the day.
Companies such as Dropbox and Plaid have both taken advantage of Fora’s flexible workspace model. Those brands, and any company who works at Fora get to attend events across the entire network of locations. Fora’s philosophy in light of Covid-19 is to celebrate returning to work for those who are ready, but to cater for those who aren’t — live streams of every event are available for those at home, such as the week-long wellness festival held in September.
Working from home during Covid has been about hunkering down. When a vaccine, a cure, or a fully repressed R-rate is achieved, we will emerge from our defensive business practices and want to grow again. The key to that growth is human interaction, innovation and productivity, created through the positive energy of creative masses clustered in compelling workplaces.
“When you ask our customers how they feel about coming back to Fora offices, they say ‘we’ve missed it’,” says Sanna.
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