This year's Inspired Spaces show what can be done - and how the whole concept of 'the office' has changed

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

The way we work is constantly evolving. With Inspired Spaces North now in its third successful year, GVA’s Jonathan Lowe discusses the recent trends and what is important for workplace productivity in 2018.


The office environment is the foundation for creative thinking, something that has been proven again through the quantity and quality of entries from successful companies and innovators throughout the North, for this year’s Inspired Spaces North (ISN) feature. The property industry is constantly evolving with people and places adapting and innovating quickly to stay ahead of the curve. However, many companies are still missing a trick by repeating the same cycle.

The entries we have received for ISN this year have built upon the fantastic foundations laid by the competition over the last two years. The shortlisted entries have all challenged the norm and what is considered the typical workplace, seeking to break down the barriers of communication and innovation, which are standard practice under the old regime.

So, what is ’the office‘ in today’s world? Some would quickly imagine a sterile, bland, standardised box where employees are lined up in desks like a battery farm. But within the majority of industries today, the diversity of employees’ roles means they are not chained to their desk 9-5 anymore, and the rise of digital smartphones, tablets, watches and the many platforms that exist for people to meet and engage digitally have aided this and enhanced the working experience.

As a result, the office space today is much more than a place to house employees to undertake designated actions. It’s a place to meet with clients and other colleagues, to discuss and create ideas. The new generation of employees expects a certain degree of amenity to their workplace, and not just a desk and a chair. The office is seen by some as a home from home, where staff can relax, concentrate or socialise.

For many companies, the office has a golden thread at its core, to deliver its purpose, vision and values throughout everything it does. For a lot of businesses, you are not necessarily buying a single service or a unit of product as such, but instead you are buying a vision… or ’a why?’ Why does a customer buy a product or service from one company over another? What is their differentiator? More often than not, they will buy, not necessarily because the product is the cheapest, as you usually only get what you pay for, but the way a company acts and portrays itself through its team and its workspace and communicates a message that the customer can identify with, will give them the edge.

Some of the shortlisted entries from this year's Inspired Spaces North

The space that a company occupies can reflect why they do what they do, how they treat their employees and how they innovate.

Companies that take pride in their workplace and find it a true inspiration, encouraging productivity and great ideas, are showing the world, their customers, clients and employees, a transformational environment, that continues to deliver growth at every level.

The ’war on talent‘ across many industries is also a big consideration, and companies that fail to acknowledge this and do not provide a flexible, innovative and inclusive culture, will eventually fail. Creative, tech and digital organisations are rightly known for being at the forefront of embracing disruption, where employees are encouraged to express themselves and their personalities, adopting styles of working, which work for them and utilise the latest workplace hacks to assist their productivity.

The personality of the office has changed considerably over the past 10 years or so, and with that change we have seen a real niche for a feature like Inspired Spaces North to exist.

The rise of co-working can be intrinsically linked to the number of start-ups, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the recession. However, the environment provided by forward thinking, co-working operators and landlords has provided a fertile plain for company seedlings to flourish.

So, an inspired space is so much more than a ping pong table in corner amongst some 4G artificial grass and ball pool. While I can appreciate the gesture, and they were very much the sort of gimmicks companies were finding inspiring three or four years ago, today, a fit-out needs to be more grown-up and aligned with a company’s culture, a trend that we have definitely seen more in ISN throughout 2017 and 2018.

The main driver should always be to inspire people to want to come into the office in a morning, to captivate clients and associates through creativity, to encourage business growth.