For years the assumption in business has been that the days of the actual office were numbered and that the future belonged to the virtual office and home working employees all connected by incredible technology and so obviating the work to travel to glass-walled, expensive working factories.
The actuality is, as so often, that it isn’t like that. Yes, more people are working from home, but the trains have never been more crammed and the roads more busy, particularly as people travel to and from their workplaces.
For almost as many years as the received wisdom about offices has been circulating, there has been a perception that ‘hubs’ of like minded ventures clustered close by is a workable model for creative enterprise. Business start-ups have long been attracted into centrally serviced buildings with minimal/share overheads.
The main newspapers, such as the Telegraph, work in their news rooms with open-plan layouts that have a central editorial hub the centre of a wheel of different and specialist activities, but all interconnected and providing common material and information to the overall aim, in this case, producing leading-edge journalism. Some new educational establishments employ similar design principles.
Google Ahead of the Game
Internet giant Google is reported to have spent £5m to top secure the lease of a tower block in the east end of London. It is in what is being dubbed ‘Tech City’ near to ‘Silicon Roundabout’ which looks set to become the driving force of contemporary technology development business in Britain, if not Europe.
Campus, a collaboration with ‘incubators and co-working initiatives’ like Springboard, TechHub, Central Working and Seedcamp, was opened on 29th March by George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is already full with over 800 tech companies jostling for desk space.
Business hopefuls can register for access to the basement cafe and networking zone, or pay annual fees for access to a desk spot a few times a week or a month charge for permanent facilities. Other business can register as ‘partners’ and offer services or learn from the work going on. Some partners are collectives, charitable bodies or direct businesses with something to offer.
Google’s former business development and strategic partnering executive (Spain), Eze Vidra, explained that ‘density of network’ is the key. ‘Easy access to talent, investors, advice and partners’ are the ingredients of ‘the successful start-up cake’.
Campus is equipped in a modern way expected of today’s offices – ‘with pool tables, networking den with odd-shaped furniture, a garden with plants that tweet water requirements and a cafe selling products from start-up food companies’, according to Emma Barnett of the Sunday Telegraph (15 April 12).
Staff Want to Be at Work
The psychology is that staff enjoy being in the building, they don’t leave for food or recreation. In fact, some may have little incentive to go home. Cross fertilisation of ideas, the raw resources to experiment and invent, the power of collaboration, upgrading skills and improving output are logical ambitions achievable by this kind of working. Barnett pointed out that ‘cynics’ argue workers never have to leave to ‘go into the real world’.
Just a taste of some of the events, a mix of worthy learning and fun time, last week at Campus:
* TechHub & NeuroSky: Riding the Brainwave was about incorporating Brain-Computer Interface Technology in the future.
* Global GoogleTv Hackathon, a coming together of brains to ‘explore and create the future of television in the brand spanking new Google campus London’.
* TechHub Founders Secrets, ‘At our first event we hear from the mind behind ‘Invisible Hand’ and those that backed the brilliant idea’.
* Geek Girl Makeup, ‘is a un-conference about web, code and startups. We aim to lift female role-models, new networks and active knowledge exchange’.
Early days yet, but Osborne borrowed a phrase from Google, ‘let’s fill this town and this country with start-ups’ and it would seem to be happening. Is there scope for more such hubs in other places and using a wider spread of contemporary businesses?
Isn’t the fact that staff enjoy being in the office, relating to others, being fully creative and contributing to the economy, an entirely beneficial circle?
Business Collaboration: The Time Has Come
Hackathons: The Next Olympic Sport
The Sunday Telegraph, Emma Barnett, 15 April 2012.
Image: Fotostudio Huger