From yoga spaces to sleep experts – unLTD’s Jill Theobald takes a look at how blurring the lines between home, leisure and work is affecting office space. 

‘Location, location, location’?

Not so much, it turns out, when it comes to the bases for businesses.

A UK real estate report by law firm CMS has found technology and changing attitudes – ‘partly driven by the growing millennial cohort’ – are transforming the very nature of work.

A blurring of the lines between home, leisure and workplace is having a knock-on effect – leading to the rise of the ‘experimental office’.

And our city is no exception, as Tanya Holt, a Partner in CMS’ Real Estate team in Sheffield told us: “Absolutely.  Sheffield is no different than any other major city in this regard.

“It has little do with the location of the office, and everything to do with how changing attitudes of employers and their staff are shaping the way offices are constructed and designed.

“Sheffield is a modern, dynamic city – there is no reason to think Sheffield would be anything other than at the cutting edge of trends like this.

“Just as offices of the 1980s and 1990s were fundamentally different to those of the 1920s and 1930s because of changing working cultures, so too is it inevitable that today’s offices are different.”

The report incorporates interviews with industry figures, data from 350 real estate industry professionals, and the views of more than 1,000 office workers, and aims to highlight new ways of thinking about office space, noting that:

“Investors, developers and occupiers alike are evolving from space providers and users, into creators and curators of experience, wellness and community.”

The ‘millennial cohort’ certainly had their say when it came to working remotely from a public space like a coffee shop or a park with 60% finding the notion appealing – compared with just over a quarter (26%) of baby boomers.

More than 80% of office workers found the idea of working in a co-working or flexible space appealing – and nearly 90% of real estate professionals think co-working spaces will be on the agenda for large companies in the next five years.

As well as talking the talk in their report, it turns out CMS walk the walk when it comes to office space, too.

“CMS has informal meeting areas for when a room isn’t required,” said Tanya.  “We have space for yoga.  We have an onsite cafeteria.

“We are keen to ensure every staff member has a rewarding and productive day in the office when they come to work.  For a firm in a relatively traditional sector, our thinking is as advanced as that of many of the companies featured in our report.”

They’re not alone. Take B. Braun Medical Ltd’s recent refurb – a full-service café is among the features of its contemporary corporate workspace. Meeting zones incorporating bamboo, voiles and glass, distinctive lighting and contemporary seating are also part of the new-look head office and distribution centre at Thorncliffe Park.

 Explaining the reasons behind the revamp, Chief Executive Hans Hux said: “The dynamic expansion of our business alongside digitalisation and modern working practice made it necessary to upgrade and optimise our office facilities.”

Meanwhile Westfield Health’s new city centre offices are home to a relaxation room, onsite gym, a rooftop terrace – and a ‘Sleep Geek’. Sleep expert James Wilson is based at the company’s new HQ, offering a range of group and one-to-one sleep coaching sessions in the ‘science of sleep’.

The staff room, also known as the ‘playzone’ offers leisure activities including a jukebox and table football. Doodle artist Geo Law – who’s been commissioned by the likes of Facebook, Converse and Microsoft – created a mural in the playzone containing quirky aspects of Sheffield culture and the city’s industrial past, incorporating a strong focus on the concept of wellbeing.

Sheffield made the top three of ‘Cities or Towns to Watch’ outside the big six in the CMS report and the city has ranked consistently in the top five since CMS’ first report in 2013, thanks in part to our advanced manufacturing USP.

Added Tanya: “Sheffield is a large, modern city, where hundreds of thousands of people come to work every day.   It is keen to be as competitive as possible and to attract and retain top talent.  It has long been a centre of innovation – the home to two top universities and developments like the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

“This innovative approach will come even more to the fore as the city seeks to transform itself over the next few years, with old buildings making way for state-of-the-art office and mixed-use developments like those planned to be HSBC’s new home.”

Sheffield – watch this (office) space.