Are workspaces the future of the workplace?

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This was just one of the questions addressed at last night’s BEE Midtown ‘Big Ideas Exchange’ debate, chaired by Jonathan Prynn of London Evening Standard, with a panel including Monica Parker, Founder of Hatch Analytics, Patrick Nelson, VP of Real Estate for WeWork Europe, Alex Hirst, joint-CEO of The Hoxby Collective and Emy Rumble-Mettle, Director of Talent for Group M UK.

Have Millennials come to expect that complimentary cereal, yoga sessions and Friday beers should be the office standard?

“The traditional office is dying. It’s dead, thank God – RIP,” states Monica Parker (who worked with criminals on death row before becoming a workplace behaviourist) “, But space is only a facilitator for a culture you are trying to create…” We know that this is of course true; some of the world’s most successful businesses began in basements or around kitchen tables.

Patrick Nelson adds “, a lot of office space can be a disappointing experience, but if you can create an environment with community interaction and high energy, that will result in productivity…” Indeed, WeWork’s Waterhouse Square building (where the debate was hosted) with its soaring ceilings, living walls and breakout spaces – not to mention well stocked snack stations – is a splendid example of an office that ticks all of these boxes, albeit mostly for the flexible working community.

Alex Hirst, who co-founded a full service, international media agency consisting of a remote workforce pointed out “, in a few years’ time there will be more self-employed people than those working in the public sector…” Both he and Monica are quick to point out that presenteeism (i.e. being chained to one’s desk 9 to 5) kills performance and job satisfaction.

Emy Rumble-Mettle has a tangent view “, young people want to be in an office space, they want to be with people who drive and inspire them. But they want the best coffee machines, the best sofas…”

Is a co-working space the best of both worlds in that case? Alex Hirst agrees “, organisations creating these workspaces are giving the gig economy somewhere to go and connect. Essentially as humans we are trying to improve the world we live in, and maybe by putting less pressure on urban centres this will reduce the carbon footprint overall…”

“The most sustainable building is the one that is never built,” adds Monica Parker “, we need to re-use spaces, and I like that this is what WeWork are doing…”

Audience tickets for BEE Midtown’s ‘Big Ideas Exchange’ debates are free with registration – find out more about forthcoming events at: www.midtown-bie.com

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