Re-imaging the world of work in London City

The London WIC team is very excited to be exploring the changing nature of work against the backdrop of the changing City of London. We have had the benefit of the POVs from the practice areas globally which we have analysed in the context of big workplace changes and trends in London and the ‘London Plan’ for 2030.

Changes in the world of work
We began with trying to agree on a common definition of what we categorise as ‘work’ today and came to the conclusion that work is any activity that is done in return for a pay. It is however, not limited to work done in a particular location (office) or time.

In addition to this shared understanding of what activities comprise ‘work’ we began to map the trends or changing patterns in the world of work in London City. And we found that the patterns that we identified in the world of work posed a few really important and interesting questions for us.

The third space phenomenon
With immense advances in technology which frees employees from the ‘office desk’ coupled with corporate policy allowing remote working, many people are making a choice to use alternative locations to work in, at least once in a while. And in the case of start ups many often choose to work wholly from coworking spaces instead of investing in (or being ‘locked down’ by) office real estate investments. In the last 8 years London has seen a tremendous growth of locations in the city where work is chosen to be done outside of the corporate office space. This includes coffee shops, parts of public buildings, parks, coworking spaces, event spaces and bars and restaurants.

Work clusters / professional mini guilds
Another phenomenon we see is that for more and more people (and corporations) space alone isn’t the point: it’s the sense of community, joint purpose and opportunities for learning from peers that really makes work worthwhile. And this coupled with desire to be connected with the local community is creating we think like minded work clusters (/professional guilds) in the city. We have begun mapping the work clusters as they exist today and we think that the ‘third spaces’ of the future will need to respond to this clustering (and could even drive it) by ensuring that they are industry specific ‘third places’, rather than a ‘starbucks solution’ for all.

The corporate office in 20 years
One of the major challenges that we’d like to explore is one we think will be faced by the corporate office in lieu of this third space phenomenon. The corporate office will need to counter these third spaces either by opening up parts of it’s own space to collaborators and offering it’s employees ‘memberships’ into other’s workspaces. At the other end of the spectrum, corporate campus facilities will we think need to be opened out to interface with the city rather than repeating the ‘gated campus’ that it is today.

Two design propositions
The end of this document then ends in two design questions that we would like to explore in more detail. Firstly, as work is increasingly chosen to be done outside of the ‘Corporate office’ how will the corporate office change to counter or embrace this trend? And secondly, what will future ‘Third Spaces’ mould into? How can they respond to better support the industry clusters that they are embedded in?

Two questions for the future of work in London City
1. The corporate office
Work is increasingly chosen to be done outside of the ‘Corporate office’ and it is moving into ‘third spaces’ in the city. What will this mean for the corporate office of the future? How will the corporate office working model counter or embrace this trend? How will it need to change?

2. ‘Third spaces’
What will future ‘Third Spaces’ mould into? How will they respond to the growth and opportunities in the city? And how will they respond to the industry clusters that they support? How will they continue to be popular and counter the ‘Corporate campus?’

Working@Aldgate re-imagined as a curated work-community. What if the council ‘adopted’ and then curated all the underused/ineffective spaces in our 5 min walking radius?

What if these became ‘third spaces’ that served different work functions accessed by businesses in the area?

What if councils made money from this by offering business memberships at varying levels of access?

What if this then became a planning paradigm for all developments new and old?

A community curator
Whether it was a the local council or a private firm, a work community curator to create a new working experience for the business and employees at Aldagte. This curator would take charge of all the under used and non effective spaces and ‘manage’ them to create work community and also to generate revenue. For Aldagte, we have seven intervention ideas that we think can create a new workplace experience for us and our neighbours.

A membership model
Like a private gym, or a hubs space, the curator would open up a membership system that business could buy into depending on the spaces and the level of service they desired.

This model would allow each of the spaces that are curated and managed to be access by all businesses in the area as and when they need it. This will help spark serendipitous interactions, create a sense of community amongst the businesses in the area and generate revenue potential.

A planning model for the future?
If this pilot project is successful, we recommend that this is included as planning policy for new and regeneration developments.
Team London

Alicia Cecchini
Johnny Clayton
Jon Tollit
Louise Burnett
Nayan Parekh
Nicola Law
Owain Roberts
Stuart Dickie