Being more than what you sell: a workplace revolution?

Are employers being recognised more for creating thriving workplaces and employee experiences, even if its hitting the bottom line?

We talk to Alex Young, Director of Projects co-working spaces.

Image: Projects

Success is no longer measured solely by the products or services a company sells, right?

Increasingly, businesses are recognised for the experiences they create for their employees, creating environments where staff can thrive both personally and professionally. 

This might be a priviliged lens for the knowledge economy, but it might be spreading.

This shift is certainl;y evident in the rise of hybrid and co-working spaces, which prioritise employee well-being and productivity.

Alex Young, Director of Projects, a pioneering co-working space in Brighton, spoke to us in a recent episode of The Possibility Club podcast and had some useful perspectives on the role of these spaces in the deliberate creation supportive and inclusive workplaces.

 

The role of co-working and hybrid workspaces

Co-working spaces have become an integral part of modern work culture, especially in the post-pandemic era. They boast an of offer flexibility, inclusivity, and collaboration, catering to the diverse needs of professionals. But what does that actually mean – and is it relevant for a struglling UK economy?

As Young explains, these spaces go beyond providing desks and Wi-Fi; they curate communities where individuals and small teams feel part of something. Projects in Brighton wears its heart on its sleeve and  seems to go out of its way to create an environment that balances professional needs with personal well-being.

Young highlights the significance of inclusivity in co-working spaces. Projects, for example, is designed to support neurodivergent workers, whichever company employs them in the building, by offering quiet spaces, noise-cancelling headphones and varying lighting conditions. 

 

The benefits of hybrid working

Hybrid working models, which combine remote and in-office work, have shown statistically significant benefits for employee well-being and productivity.

Research by the International Workplace Group (IWG) found that 72% of hybrid workers experienced burnout before switching to this model. After the transition, 79% reported feeling less drained, 78% felt less stressed, and 86% were better able to cope with day-to-day life. 68% of hybrid workers reported improved physical health, while 85% expressed greater job satisfaction.

Mark Dixon, CEO of IWG, says for most companies it makes commercial sense. Hybrid working not only enhances productivity and financial performance but also significantly improves employees’ physical and mental health. The reduction in commuting time allows employees to focus more on their well-being, thus reducing burnout and increasing overall satisfaction​ and better customer outcomes.

 

Just ticking boxes?

Projects has B Corp certification, the global kitemark of social and environmental responsibility. But Young points out that while achieving this certification requires significant effort and alignment with rigorous standards, for Projects, it was a natural progression of their existing practices. Not a smug boast, but somethign that reflects how many new workspaces are using more thougtful design-thinking from the outset. 

 

 

The impact of workspace design on wellbeing

It seems obvious, but it is still not universally acknowledged. The design and layout of workspaces does significantly influence employee productivity and well-being. A well-designed office can enhance physical, mental and emotional health, which in turn boosts productivity.

Air quality, natural light, ergonomic furniture, and the availability of healthy food options play crucial roles.

According to the World Green Building Council, improving air quality can increase productivity by 11%. Exposure to natural light reduces symptoms like eyestrain and headaches by 84%, according to a study by Cornell University​

Incorporating biophilic design elements, such as plants and natural materials, can enhance overall well-being and creativity. The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace study found that employees working in spaces with natural material features reported 15% higher levels of well-being and 6% increased productivity​.

 

Fostering community and collaboration

A thriving workspace is defined by the strength of its community. Projects actively curates a diverse mix of businesses, from tech startups and charities to creatives and consultants. This diversity helps to build a vibrant, collaborative ecosystem where ideas and skills can cross-pollinate, driving innovation and growth.

Young shares that the presence of different industries can give tenants a commercial advantage in terms of knowledge exchange and access to expertise.

Projects also engages with the local community through partnerships and events. For example, their collaboration with Together Co, a charity combating loneliness, has had a mutual benefit. This partnership model ensures that both the workspace and the community grow symbiotically, reinforcing the idea that businesses thrive when their communities thrive.

The future of workspaces

The future of workspaces, as envisioned by Alex Young, involves expanding the principles of Projects beyond Brighton. She believes that the benefits of a well-curated co-working space – community, inclusivity, and support – can significantly impact any urban cluster. Her goal is to replicate this model while maintaining the unique local essence of each new space.

always possible’s mission for the workplace

always possible are the economic and social innovation people, and supporting workspace strategy and community building is a key part of that.

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Check out our insights from workspace and AI expert Dr Naeema Pasha on the ethics of emerging technologies at work.

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