Office Focus: Natasha Christian of CMI Workplace

Natasha Christian of CMI Workplace gives her view on the key to a successful project and how buildings should be used if four-day working weeks become the norm

Edited by Cathy Hayward

Google is testing the role of the workplace. It is constantly pushing the boundaries, which would make it enormous fun to design their spaces. But if there’s one project I would love to have been involved in, it’s the Bloomberg European HQ [in London]. It’s beautiful, elegant and rated the world’s most sustainable building.

Installing an open fireplace in the Catlin Insurance building [in London] kept me awake at night. It was such a challenge to get it right, but that project was one of my career highlights, working within an amazing project team. It had everything – from a cafe to video-conferencing suites to fridges in credenza drawers and everything in between. More recently, a project for a leading tech client in Reading was another highlight because they had such a defined vision of what they wanted and they ended up with a wellconsidered project, which works not only visually but also functionally. A client’s attitude and openness to try new products and apply new solutions makes all the difference.

A tech client in Reading had ‘a defined vision of what they wanted’A tech client in Reading had ‘a defined vision of what they wanted’

Helping clients to understand how to use the new workspace when it’s finished is key for a successful project. Organisations need to help staff to make the transition into a new environment through a welcome package, etiquette training or even signage explaining how certain spaces such as booths or pods should be used. Too many simply move their people into a completely new space and expect them to adapt immediately. Assisting in the process leads to a more successful workplace.

If you sit in the same space every day you risk producing the same work every day. You need to work in different environments with different people to spark new ideas. That’s why co-working is so popular. People want to work with different characters and have a variety of spaces to choose from. Organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas between colleagues and clients. Co-working is only going to grow and we’ll see more of the larger, traditional firms opening up their doors and encouraging clients and the wider community to use their space.

A tech client in Reading had ‘a defined vision of what they wanted’A tech client in Reading had ‘a defined vision of what they wanted’

M&E equipment can restrain projects visually and swallows up budget. Which can impact on the overall project results. Having fresh air and air-conditioning within the space can impact the look of it. Access above the ceiling or exposed machinal kit/grilles have to be well considered and coordinated into the project. This can be one of the more expensive elements, and the visual impact can sometimes be overlooked during the process.

We design the countryside into the city office, but in the future we’ll see more workspaces in smaller towns and rural areas. We compensate people for working in the city centre by introducing lush interior planting, organic fruit and beer on tap. But in the countryside, they can walk through fields, pick fruit and have a pint in the pub. We’ll see fewer city-centric offices and more co-working spaces in the regions, in less traditional environments such as libraries or even pubs. This will definitely move towards a better work-life balance and assist with the environmental impacts of travelling to and from work.

Four-day working weeks work. More organisations are allowing the flexibility to work four longer days and have a three-day weekend. But that means rethinking workplaces as they’ll have even less utilisation than now. We need to consider turning our spaces into multi-functional educational hubs, community spaces, events spaces and even nightclubs outside our standard office hours. And that requires designing in enormous flexibility from the start.

Being a working mother in our market can be tough. Juggling deadlines and pick-up can be a challenge. However, with technology allowing people to work from anywhere there’s no excuse not to be able to manage expectations for your employees and clients, if anything to just remove the perception it’s too difficult to do both and be successful.

Natasha ChristianNatasha Christian

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