Even if your office is only going to be used for a short period, it doesn’t have to be full of plastic chairs, folding desks and drop cloths…

Even if your office is only going to be used for a short period, it doesn’t have to be full of plastic chairs, folding desks and drop cloths.

The costs of an uninspiring temporary workplace are high. If your staff dread coming into the office every day, chances are they’ll be less engaged with your work and colleagues. The notion of creating a ‘destination workplace’ goes beyond just giving people autonomy to work how they want; it recognises that providing a unique experience within the office will foster loyalty and engagement. But how do you make your office a place your employees actually want to be?

Like many companies, one of our clients in Oxford is currently between homes. Its team needed a temporary base for two years for 100 staff while it searched for the perfect permanent office. In the interim, we were appointed to convert an old industrial laboratory into a modern workspace, one which didn’t feel like a waiting room. This got us thinking about the responsibility of employers to provide great places to work, even in times of change.

Managing change

Many people are naturally sceptical of change, which is why change management must be handled properly for your office project to be successful. Change can be scary too. Especially when you’re not quite sure what it may entail or how it will impact your teams. This is the main reason you must ensure your office fit out or refurbishment journey is inclusive.

In the case of temporary offices where change may be drawn out over several years, this is even more critical. Staff should be involved from inception stage to the end so they understand the bigger picture and how a temporary office is a stepping stone to meeting the company’s overall goals, whilst still fulfilling their immediate needs.

You could consider staff consultations, questionnaires, workshops, site visits or even setting up a ‘mock’ office to seek buy-in. One of the biggest advantages of doing this research early is knowing what will be needed one day in your permanent workspace. This way you’re future-proofing your office by making it relevant and people-focused, instead of merely providing what you think people need.

It’s not just your staff whose opinions count. Consider also your clients and how they perceive your business and working environment. First impressions count, even in a temporary space.

Employee wellbeing

Businesses with healthy and happy staff enjoy high levels of staff engagement, productivity, satisfaction and ultimately long-term profit. As there are so many elements to wellbeing, it can be overwhelming to know where to start, especially in a temporary space.

However, the research is overwhelming: a company that prioritises wellness is one which is successful, and this is all the more relevant in periods of change when morale may wane. In fact, according to research published by Business in the Community, FTSE 100 companies which prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing have been shown to outperform the rest of the stock market by an average of 10%.

Simple fit out and design tactics can ensure it’s a comfortable environment without breaking the bank. Research from the World Green Building Council shows that productivity is increased by 23% from better lighting, 11% from better ventilation and 3% from better temperature control. Even something as simple as seeing the colour green for just a few seconds boosts creativity levels, as does outside views which results in 10-15% better mental function and memory. This means, in your temporary space, it could be as simple and inexpensive as using different lux lightbulbs, painting walls green, moving desks closer to the windows or dotting some plants around the office.

Creating a destination

Think about a football match. You can easily watch the game in the comfort of your own home but you prefer to head to the stadium to soak up the atmosphere with like-minded people. Armed with laptops and mobiles, your employees can easily work from a café or at home but they travel to the office to be with others, to share and to collaborate. Working elsewhere simply doesn’t provide this level of interaction.

Your fit out can celebrate this by providing varied social areas and informal breakout spaces. Don’t skimp on making these zones feel homely and comfortable with soft finishes which draw people to connect in meaningful ways. Remember any sofas or soft seating you invest in now can be easily reused in your next office.

A temporary office is more than just a stop-gap until you find a more permanent home. With early staff engagement and the right investment, you can create a space where staff wellbeing and productivity will flourish, and feedback can be carried through to your future space.