ARTIQ Seminar: Blended Spaces | Blurring the Lines

Send an email, hit the gym, have a meeting, pick up your dry cleaning…. 2019 is predicted to be the year of the blended workplace, with more and more companies looking to revolutionise what it means to be in the office. A panel of experts from workplace, planning, development and design came together recently to understand the effects of blending work, home and hospitality and to explore the pros and pitfalls of the trend on the social fabric of the built environment and on employee wellbeing, company culture, sustainability and productivity.

The event by ARTIQ, was kindly hosted by WeWork at the Devonshire Square campus and forms part of the ARTIQ Opinion programme of events.

The panel included:
Chair: Dr. Craig Knight, Founding Director, Identity Realization
Patrick McCrae, CEO & Co-founder, ARTIQ
Nicky Wightman, Global Occupier Trends, Savills
Nicola Wood, Community Insight and Engagement Manager, Grosvenor
David Kaiser, Head of Real Estate UK and Ireland, WeWork

Here are the ten key questions the panel answered:

1.What exactly is ‘blended space’?

‘I have been interested in the idea of blended space for some time. For me this is about thinking in terms of the variety of ways in which a space might be used. It’s about buildings which have beautiful bones and allow for flexible ways of using spaces so that that they have longevity, are sustainable and work hard for the people who use them.’
Nicky Wightman, Global Occupier Trends, Savills

‘Blended space is a new way of articulating something social beings have been doing for a long time: being productive and inclusive.’
Nicola Wood, Community Insight and Engagement Manager, Grosvenor

‘It’s all about optionality and people feeling empowered to do whatever they want and to work remotely and flexibly. Blended workspaces are a great way to break down barriers where everyone is levelled more in terms of creativity. Optionality can be a very powerful thing.’
David Kaiser, Head of Real Estate UK and Ireland, WeWork

‘It’s part of the opt-in, opt-out generational shift away from permanent ownership. You can rent your art collection, for example, so you can also lease or share space too.’
Patrick McCrae, CEO, ARTIQ

2.What are the drivers for the blended space movement?

‘A huge amount of consumer focus is driving this requirement. Landlords and developers have come to the realisation that either we innovate or die. Likewise, in the hospitality sector, spaces have become urban living rooms within the cities they are inhabiting. Hotels no longer want dead foyers or F&B spaces and they see that a blended space allows for increased revenue generation. It applies to art spaces too, like The Rich Mix on Bethnal Green Road, which is a cinema, restaurant, performance space. I went to see a film recently and walked straight into a poetry slam.’
Patrick McCrae, CEO, ARTIQ

‘Urbanisation is a key part of why we’re taking on blended workspace. Cities are more densely occupied now and rent is high for small businesses, especially in London. Google and Amazon are moving to Birmingham and Manchester. But more people in a city means a greater need for facilities and we need to think more cleverly about how to put space together. Developers are very aware of this. Economic and business pressures have definitely led the trend.’
David Kaiser, Head of Real Estate UK and Ireland, WeWork

3.What are the challenges?

‘Within the built environment we’re trying to understand how people operate in space, which is of course challenging because consumer taste changes very quickly. How do you marry slow-moving real estate and fast-moving consumer groups, for example, whilst creating spaces with longevity that can operate in multiple different ways?’
Nicky Wightman, Global Occupier Trends, Savills

‘With freelance and flexi working, people are able to go out and spend time in local area beyond traditional peak hours. Local businesses can benefit from this at off-peak times – cafes, nail bars, gyms etc and so on, but the flipside is a potential homogeneous city experience. Everywhere could start to feel same as no fixed identity. Coffee shops have started no laptop zones for example to counter this or banning Wi-Fi to promote conversation and book reading.’
Nicola Wood, Community Insight and Engagement Manager, Grosvenor

‘Landlords want to understand the end user but don’t necessarily have the capabilities to do so, lacking the data and the relationships with the occupiers. Conventional landlords often speak to a company’s CFO or Head of Real Estate. WeWork is end-user driven and we’re overseeing the change from co-working hot desk businesses to private offices co-working. Examples of WeWork blended spaces are the gym concept, nursery concept, retail concept and incubator concept. Blended spaces allow for an option to use these facilities. Everything is there if you want it.’
David Kaiser, Head of Real Estate UK and Ireland, WeWork

4.How should blended spaces work with local communities?

‘Shared spaces need to work both ways and local communities should be able to use spaces too. For example, at the Biscuit Factory site in Bermondsey, we’re bringing underused spaces back to life with creative entrepreneurial organisations such as 3-space. 3-space has operated from the old Bermondsey campus site since 2016 and here they launched their ‘buygivework’ initiative, where traditional businesses are matched with not-for-profit space and interesting and unique uses come together for cross-collaboration. To make sustainable places in sustainable cities, spaces have to work economically but also be culturally and socially diverse.’
Nicola Wood, Community Insight and Engagement Manager, Grosvenor

‘It’s important to engage with local community and authorities. In Hackney, WeWork launched a mentorship programme, where members had the opportunity to mentor students for a week within a WeWork. We also open up access ways through the ground floor of buildings, for example, and hold events not just for members but for anyone who wants to attend. We give back, which makes things more powerful for members and can be inspirational for making connections.’
David Kaiser, Head of Real Estate UK and Ireland, WeWork

5.Can retail and residential also be part of the blend?

‘We have seen the emergence of co-living spaces which have centred on the creation of vibrant communities with amenity. In terms of retail, it is interesting to think about how retailers use space in exciting ways to create a connection with their brand.’
Nicky Wightman, Global Occupier Trends, Savills

‘42 million people visited Westfield Stratford City in 2015. In the same year, the top 12 cultural institutions in London combined had fewer visitors. It’s very hard to crack the retail market. It’s so incredibly profit-driven and hasn’t happened as much as it could.’
Patrick McCrae, CEO, ARTIQ

‘Where are the boundaries between industry, business, home and leisure and where do they end? It’s all about community focus. People are happy to have private office and a shared space. We now have the WeLive concept in the US which offers community-based apartment living, and our WeGrow school – also in the US.’
David Kaiser, Head of Real Estate UK and Ireland, WeWork

6.What’s the attraction for end-users?

‘The need for blended spaces comes from two things: 1) consumer experience 2) the drive for sustainable urbanisation and business. If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer, you’ll be looking at blended space in different way to small-medium enterprises or a business traveller. Shoreditch House is a good example. If you go in the late afternoon you will see five ping pong tables covered in freelancers, whilst, for an SME, blended space is an incredible way to have competitive advantage and get knee deep in the sharing economy.’
Patrick McCrae, CEO, ARTIQ

‘There is still a difference between working from home and working somewhere dedicated to work. People still want the separation.’
Nicola Wood, Community Insight and Engagement Manager, Grosvenor

‘We’re constantly thinking about how to make people more productive and improve the feeling of community. We moved our beer taps from the side of wall for example, where they generated queues and people didn’t speak to each other, to being located on islands so people can talk rather and move around rather than queue. We have kitchens on every floor so that people are encouraged to talk and interact in a space that is known for talking in.’
David Kaiser, Head of Real Estate UK and Ireland, WeWork

7. Are there any downsides? Pauses for thought?

‘From a sociological aspect, what are the implications of over blurring boundaries? What does this mean on a more holistic scale regarding the future of cities? As we are running out of space? People do not want to sacrifice green space, which means they have to live and work in more dense environments.’
Nicola Wood, Community Insight and Engagement Manager, Grosvenor

‘There are good examples of businesses bringing families in – at Facebook, for example or banks offering free day-care centres. But will we end up living, eating and dying in the same place? Fundamentally, what blended space is doing is addressing societal need. The advent of mobile phones is great but has also completely destroyed some communities and engendered ‘generation mute’, so there’s lots to say about the positive aspects of blended space too.’
Patrick McCrae, CEO, ARTIQ

‘Blended spaces have soared in popularity, but people still want a distinction between work, home and play. We all have our own decisions to make; we’re not staying in jobs for 10-20 years anymore. The installation of sleep pods at work is a worrying idea and the whole live-work trend makes me raise an eyebrow too!’
Nicola Wood, Community Insight and Engagement Manager, Grosvenor

8. What about those not in the heart of a metropolis?

‘It is easy to have these conversations as though everyone has the opportunity to work where they want, when they want, but to some extent this is a bubble conversation. There are so many people that do not have the opportunity to do jobs which are really flexible. It’s also really important to consider the effect to neighbouring communities and design spaces which work for them too.’
Nicky Wightman, Global Occupier Trends, Savills

‘It’s not all about cities. I met a housing association recently who go into rural communities to provide affordable housing to help people stay in their communities, which of course helps keep the local economy thriving. Blended spaces may still lie in the future, but there are positive things happening outside of urban centres.’
Patrick McCrae, CEO, ARTIQ

9. Have millennials been one of the roots of the change?

‘Yes. I think that millennials have a different relationship with work and workspace and this has been part of the driver for change.
Nicky Wightman, Global Occupier Trends, Savills

10. Are blended spaces here to stay?

‘Yes. We need to create spaces that are fundamentally flexible to allow people to be productive, creative and imaginative. Where possible it is helpful to think in terms of reaching out to the community to find out, rather than imagine, what they really want.’
Nicky Wightman, Global Occupier Trends, Savills

‘Yes, because they’re sustainable. If we occupy less space, we consume fewer resources.’
Patrick McCrae, CEO, ARTIQ

#BlurringTheLines