“Increasingly, organizations will need to offer a new experience to their people,” says Bill Dowzer, a principal at global architecture firm BVN. “And shared work environments are key to this.” Dowzer and his team should know. They recently completed And-Co, a hospitality-inspired co-working space in Vancouver (shown above).
Set to open this fall, the four-storey, 3,437-square-metre interior offers not only a highly sophisticated design but also an abundance of communal spaces, including an on-site restaurant and a fully equipped fitness centre with treatment rooms. Dowzer’s preferred phrase for this 360-degree experience: the “office as clubhouse.” As he explains, “In a world where choice is now available to everyone, an environment that feels inclusive and nurturing is absolutely essential — and it’s the future of the workplace as we know it.”
You can’t argue with the fact that where you work can have a massive impact on how you work. For more than a year now, the collective “where” has been significantly displaced. And while remote working has its perks, something integral is missing at the kitchen table–turned–desk — namely, a collaborative office culture that encourages creativity. Providing this social aspect in reimagined ways will be the proverbial sweet spot for companies that want to entice their employees back to the office. After years of studying co-working spaces, Dowzer offers his unique perspective on how to conjure a desirable atmosphere within a setting used by many diverse companies:
A strong culture is important for an organization and the well-being of staff — folks need to feel like they belong. As we’ve seen, a strong culture can also survive online and across time zones, but an emphasis on providing spaces to collaborate and grow, network and learn in a safe environment, rather than just coming together in traditional closed offices, will support this.
You can walk into an environment and instantly get a feel for the culture of that organization. A traditional cellular office space reinforces a hierarchical culture with many doors to go through to access people; a more open plan can reinforce more open behaviours, like knowledge-sharing and collaboration, and prioritize the power of the team, rather than the individual. In a co-working space like And-Co, it’s exactly the same, just at the next level, where organizations can learn and grow together through serendipitous and unplanned encounters that can yield new opportunities. It’s the optimum environment for innovation and growth. One feature of And-Co is the ability to bring your four-legged friend to the office. Pets are huge for combatting anxiety and generally lead to higher office morale.
Individual offices for focused work are not really needed anymore — people will want to do this at home if it’s for a longer period of time. Private spaces are still needed but can be shared. The economics of having a huge empty office space no longer make sense, but the employee experience does. This means that many organizations will look for “other” environments for their people to work in, and set-ups like And-Co are going to be special places for people to grow.
Australian architect Bill Dowzer on how co-working spaces can support both individuals and the team.