As city centre real estate costs continue to rise, we’ve seen a growing trend for businesses moving out of cities and enticing talent through creating sprawling, campus style destination workplaces. But how do you design an office to highlight its location

These sprawling campuses often provide more on site facilities to take advantage of their greater floor space and out of town location. At the same time, city centre offices can entice staff through convenient commutes and unrivalled access to central amenities, instead focussing their fit outs on team outputs, rather than services for individual staff members.

We compare the different considerations between city and campus office designs, so you can focus your fit out to get the best out of your facilities and staff.     

Nuffield's on-site gym keeps staff fit

Commute: motorway or metropolitan line?

Whether in the city or country, there’s no getting away from the inevitable daily commute. But this can vary considerably depending on your office’s location.

For staff commuting to business parks or out of town locations, driving is often the most feasible option. So how does that affect your office design choices?  Drivers may appreciate facilities that counteract the negative affect of sitting in the car for 10-plus hours a week; like a gym, walking routes around the office or showers to support a lunchtime running club. At Nuffield Health in Epsom, this amazing gym is just one of the many elements of their office design that encourages a healthy and active lifestyle for their employees.

In the city, commuters generally have a lot more choice. They may drive, get public transport, cycle, jog, or even walk into work. City workers benefit from access to showers and bike racks to support cycling or running to work, helping to promote a healthy start to the day. In fact, recent research suggests that cycling is the least stressful way to commute into the office. We know that would definitely be a welcome alternative to standing on the tube!

Superdrug's collaborative cafeteria

Facilities: downstairs or down the road?

Suburban offices sometimes miss out on access to the facilities that city workers take for granted but this doesn’t always have to be the case.

We can all admit that coffee now forms an integral part of any office’s daily culture. However, access to quality coffee is another important consideration. Will your staff be happy with a machine in the corner!? Unsurprisingly, Costa made sure that great coffee was at the forefront of their Basildon office with an enticing coffee laden breakout area, complete with a barista coffee machine at the reception.  While a bustling high street could be missed if you’re working on campus, having more space provides opportunities to offer your own services and retail experience, just for your staff. At Superdrug, they ensured their staff still got that Superdrug feeling by offering a pharmacy and beauty bar so staff could pick up essentials and even have a bit of well-deserved pampering! This highlights the concept of a destination workplace, where staff have everything provided to support both their professional and personal lives in the one spot.

Although city-centre offices have these great facilities on their doorstep, they can also lack the space of their regional counterparts. With a choice of half a dozen coffee shops a stone’s throw away, you wouldn’t waste that precious space with a barista and coffee bar. Instead, you need to think how you can get the most use from your space. This is often best achieved through flexible furniture solutions that allow for a space to be instantly transformed from one use to another. At Thoughtworks in the heart of Soho, a ping pong table takes pride of place in their office, but when it’s not all fun and games, the table can be used as a hot-desk area or a coffee table in a breakout space. MRI Software have also maximised their floor space through clever design and flexible furniture, which incorporates a reception, breakout space and collaboration zone into one area. 

FirstRand's private bar

Community: the kitchen or the bar?

Wherever your office is located, your workplace should provide an opportunity for staff to interact and collaborate. The location of your office can often play a role in what sort of collaboration activities that you’re likely to host in your space.

At a regional office where eating options may be limited, you’re more likely to need to have a large multi-purpose communal cafeteria where staff can meet, eat and collaborate. Manhattan Associates have a large kitchen and dining area as the focal point of their Bracknell office. Distressed timber is used to create a biophilic link with the natural environment. The space seamlessly extends onto a communal outdoor area thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass windows and an angled table that joins the two environments. These large, open-plan areas are more than just a lunchtime eating place, and are often used for team socials and after-hours events.

In a city location however, where eating choices are abundant, it makes less sense to offer staff an on-site café. Since staff will be keen to pop to the shops, or down the road for a sandwich at lunch, it’s important not to sacrifice the space for employee downtime, but rather re-purpose it to better suit the surroundings. FirstRand wanted a space where their staff could wind-down on their breaks and host company socials, so we converted the basement of their central London office into a wet bar and games room. Designed as an exclusive on-site oasis, the Manhattan loft inspired design allows staff to feel that they’re in a trendy bar, yet still firmly in the privacy of their city-centre office.

Designing a new office is always an exciting prospect, but by giving due consideration to the facilities available around you, and tailoring your fit out to complement the lifestyles of your staff will ensure your office and staff are around for the long-term.