Kickstart Back to Business

Westminster City Council provided Portsdown with a major challenge - to reinvent and reinvigorate their post covid workspace. Did we succeed? Come and find out.

Kickstart Back to Business

When Westminster City Council were looking for a consultant to reinvigorate a floor in their 64 Victoria Street office, the challenge they presented to us was to create a space on their innovation hub floor with four distinct aims. It needed to be, engaging, multi-purpose, flexible, accessible and future-proof.

The space had to foster innovation and creativity for different council workers within the building, incorporate an agile approach, had to boast the latest technology, and needed to be a relaxed and social space to support the teams within. Utilising a combination of recent research and knowledge that the Portsdown design team were able to draw upon, along with the wealth of our 37 years of furniture experience creating inspiring places to work, we are delighted to show you how we did it.

The Proposed Plan

With a strict set of parameters set by Westminster City Council, we knew that we had to detail our new ideas for a Hybrid workspace in an inspiring fashion. Our focus was on innovation realising that the perfect workspace has to contain separate elements of the bigger picture.

As a framework for a new Hybrid Office we used our three key design principles:

Create Emotional Connection

Incorporating thoughtful design elements to inspire thinking and foster team culture.

Nurture Creative Confidence

Ensuring equal access to spaces, tools and technology to encourage equal participation.

Build a Fluid Ecosystem

To provide a variety of spaces to support individuals or teams as they go through the creative process.

The brief provided by Westminster Council proposed the floor should comprise of nine distinct areas:

  • Coffee and breakout zone
  • Workshop zone
  • Empathy lab
  • Horizon scanning
  • Cosy zone
  • Tech and event zone
  • Private workshop
  • Wellbeing zone
  • Collaboration zone

There are many challenges in the new Hybrid workplace, how do you meet safely, ensure privacy is maintained, but keep the office areas open and welcoming. How do you improve wellbeing, increase and allow airflow, ensure the workspace is inclusive for staff both in the office and working from home. How do you meet and collaborate with customers and stakeholders virtually, whilst in the office without disturbing others around you with video calls. We used our ideas and methodologies to fuel innovation, aid creativity, support collaboration, aid decision making and increase speed and agility.

Staff surveys demonstrated that staff were most keen to return to the office for meetings, collaboration and social connection to each-other and the culture of the office. To help achieve this, we had to address six key areas:

  • Open-plan, making the most dominant form of office design more flexible and private.
  • High-density, with less staff in the office at any one time how could the space be designed better to support teamwork.
  • Shared spaces, giving people control over how and where they work.
  • High mobility, allowing people to move freely around the space and touchdown in-between meetings.
  • Communal spaces, making for a more social environment, bringing people back together.
  • Residential aesthetic, as we believe workplaces need to be more relaxed in the future, resulting in a positive workplace culture.

How We Upgraded the Space

Following the brief set by Westminster City Council, we took to upgrading the innovation hub floor section by section, focusing on each of the following zones:

Collaboration Zone

The brief described the need for informal collaborative working, comfortable and interesting furniture, some soft seating options, and round interactive tables. We created an inviting destination for social connection that brings together the co-workers for open collaboration. It supports the sharing of both analog and digital content, providing additional staff choice for a change of posture. The “active frames” are mobile and divide and optimize the space, making it a  private destination for relaxed work meaning people can conduct tasks privately, while also working as a team.

Collaboration Zone

Workshop Zone

The brief asked for a slightly more formal working zone with interesting, but proper tables and chairs and benches for workshops. These shared spaces welcome users with a wide range of choice and control over posture, privacy, and proximity to teammates or amenities. There are multiple choices for focus and collaborative experiences to suit peoples’ preferences and tasks. The team also has access to additional shared social and collaborative spaces within the organisation.

Workshop Zone

Coffee Lounge

We were asked to use the existing kitchen space, but to make it more interesting and fun with seating and tables and space for vending machines. Our design focused on an open, social work cafe space, promoting interactions among co-workers and allowing for time to rejuvenate between meetings or workshops. The implementation of greenery made it a more vibrant and colourful environment and with a range of settings and postures, this is a great place for individuals to socialise with others, drink coffee, eat and recharge.

Coffee Lounge

Technology and Events Zone

They requested a big open plan space with seating, including formal chairs and bean bags. We incorporated layers of different and interesting furniture settings, focussing on a cosy environment, allowing flexibility for large or small groups to meet. Additionally, the technology and events area includes a separate room called the VR Area. A rejuvenation space for moments of relaxation and spontaneous socializing where users can take a break and recharge batteries, with an adjacent informal conference setting creating a cosy environment for focus.

Cosy Zone

We were asked to provide a welcoming and relaxing space, with comfortable chairs and coffee tables. We created a gathering space, a destination for sharing ideas. The ideal place to connect and generate new ideas in a setting far from traditional. This high-performing social space allows users to gather for coffee or impromptu work sessions, alone or together.

Wellbeing Zone

The need for a place that offers privacy for one-to-ones or a wind-down space. Our proposal of a  living room-like environment would be  a comfortable, quiet space for employees to pause and rejuvenate. Here, workers can remove themselves from the busyness of the day, collect their thoughts, or enjoy a conversation with a co-worker in a relaxed sofa or armchair.

Empathy Lab

The brief stated it was important to have a dual purpose, and be an assistive technology testing space. The resource centre allows workers to make copies and access supplies and meeting tools and technology workers need, resources they may not have at home. The living room-like space next door with a view is comfortable and quiet space for employees to collate papers and ideas, pause and rejuvenate.

In Summary

Westminster City Council did not want a formal office setting, but instead they desired a colourful and playful space that looked interesting, welcoming and made the office a destination that would be exciting to return to. They wanted their staff to feel comfortable, safe and homely in their new spaces allowing them to reconnect with each other and the organisations culture in a positive return to the office space. We think they have succeeded in that desire and we’re excited to see the result.