An inspiring office makes even miserable Mondays feel good

Google London is the latest firm to spot the value of a feel-good factor at work. Companies that care know it attracts top talent

How can you make Monday the happiest day of the week? It is a big ask but some enlightened employers get close, providing workplaces with cleansed air, gyms, swimming pools and free food in funky restaurants designed to be exciting meeting places.

Interior design and clever architecture has become a must in the latest new homes, eateries and hotels — but now forward-thinking companies are recognising that a stimulating working environment can pay for itself through greater productivity and slower staff turnover.

In the City, in the Upper Bank Street offices of law firm Clifford Chance, staff can use the sky-lit swimming pool, engage a personal trainer in the gym or visit the office hairdresser, while a coffee shop is open 24/7.

Google has won plaudits for its new London offices at Victoria and Covent Garden. Aside from free food from a choice of four restaurants, the 1,250 engineers working in Victoria can talk shop in a series of "communal environments" that come with comfy sofas and armchairs. They can also play pool or take out their frustrations on the drums in a music room. The web giant's US HQ has fitness rooms, exercise desks, cycle walls, yoga, spa and massage sessions.

Creative colour coding
Dr Birgitta Gatersleben, senior lecturer in environmental psychology at Surrey University, acknowledges the importance of recreational facilities and good interior design. Poky offices with little working space and cubicles where staff are separated from each other undermines collaborative working; similarly, badly thought-out, entirely open-plan offices can be distracting, stressful and noisy, she says.

Plants, natural history paintings, plenty of light and views of trees through a window reduce stress and improve concentration, Gatersleben insists. Waterside, the British Airways HQ at Harmondsworth, west London, has trees from different parts of the world lining a three-storey high, central communal space that connects different departments within the building.

Colour matters most, says Gatersleben. Blue and green promote creativity, red aids concentration. Music and moderate background noise, like café sounds, inspire creative thinking.

Desk layouts, furniture, height and type of chairs are important. People who work opposite each other are more likely to compete with each other, but working side by side increases co-operation, says Gatersleben. Hot desking is bad for morale, because staff need a space to call their own, she says.


Work and play: Testbed1, an experimental arts venue in a disused Battersea dairy, has a café, table tennis and table football for staff working on the floors above

Appliance of science
Designs for The Francis Crick Institute, a world-leading medical research centre opening in Euston in 2015, include open central communal areas, elegant high ceilings, walls of glass through which you can see the sky and some fabulous interior design.

With a million square feet of working space, the institute's planned glazed exterior and interior emphasise openness, says its assistant construction director, Henry Robinson. "It allows scientists to meet each other in a more natural way and should lead to a greater sharing of knowledge and ideas and lead to more scientific breakthroughs," he says.

Giving staff a say in workspace design can also be productive. At the Blizard Institute biomedical research centre in Whitechapel, architect Will Alsop designed its key facility, the Blizard Building, after consulting the scientists who would work there.

"I had them drawing and painting, and talking, and did that several times," says Alsop. "What kept turning up in the drawings were gardens, so I created a cloudscape of a seminar room and meeting rooms in pods above the laboratories, made the whole building interior as open as possible and filled it with light."


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