Today’s slick communications certainly make it easier to collaborate anywhere and everywhere, and have even led to some predictions that the office will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of history as work – and the workplace itself – becomes increasingly virtual.
But hang on a minute. Yes, technology has made huge strides and will continue to do so, changing the way we work by putting the emphasis on agility, flexibility and output – what’s achieved – rather than input – hours spent at your desk. But you don’t have to look too hard to see that where you are located as a business, and the working environment that you provide for your employees while they are there, still really matters.
It’s no coincidence, for example, that many of those tech giants themselves can be found clustered together in hubs like Silicon Valley, Silicon Fen or around London’s Old Street roundabout. Physical proximity matters, because knowledge, ideas and creative talent flourish most effectively when like-minded people meet, talk and share In Real Life as well as online.
Creating modern working environments which encourage colleagues to spend time together in fresh new ways - providing open communal spaces for group activities and collaboration, with quieter and more private zones for individual work, for example – really pays dividends. Not only in terms of breaking down old hierarchies and silos and improving productivity, but also by boosting employee engagement and wellbeing: an increasingly important consideration for employers and employees alike.
A recent study of 2,000 British office workers conducted by YouGov found that 78% of respondents regularly spent more than one hour sitting in the same place. This despite the mounting evidence that sedentary working is seriously bad for your health – in a report from 2013 the British Chief Medical Officer even suggested that even if you do exercise regularly, sitting for long periods can undo many of the benefits of that exercise.
But standing or walking for only a few minutes in each hour can make all the difference, so a working environment that encourages people to move around is a win-win for all.
The right environment is equally important in attracting the right kind of talent. That doesn’t mean you have to fill the office with astroturf, mini golf and table football, but a bright, modern, intelligently designed workspace attracts bright, modern and intelligent people to work in it.
It also demonstrates good leadership – organisations and leaders who realise that inclusivity, agility and devolved decision making are key to seizing the business opportunities of tomorrow also realise that it’s important to create a workspace that reflects and encourages those priorities.
And just as digital connectivity is crucial to the modern workplace, so physical connectivity remains important too. Being able to commute easily and in a moderate amount of time is recognised as a key factor in minimising work-related stress.
There are 24 million commuters in the UK and the average commute time is 56 minutes, according to a 2016 survey by the Royal Society of Public Health. That same survey found that for those who do not walk or cycle to work, commuting is bad for blood pressure, tends to promote poor diet and food choices and can even lead to impaired mental health.
So choosing a location where there are multiple transport options and providing good facilities for those who wish to cycle, for example, can bring real benefits. As can simple measures like allowing employees to stagger their working days to avoid peak hour with the extended travel times and aggravation they can entail. A 2015 study commissioned by Vitality Health showed that those who have commutes of less than 30 minutes each way gain seven days of work time compared to colleagues with longer journeys, and are generally less stressed and more productive.
It’s progressive thinking like this that has shaped Lendlease's new development, International Quarter London, on the site of the Olympic Village in Stratford. With nine rail lines – and Crossrail still to come – and miles of dedicated cycle routes, it’s London’s best connected new business district.
We’ve create a 21st Century environment for working and living that fosters creativity and talent, breaks down organisational boundaries, boosts productivity, maximises wellbeing and is only 15 minutes from both City Airport and the centre of London. That’s the power of location.
Image credit: Andrei Bortnikau/Shutterstock