Power to the people

People-centric design is everything when it comes to shaping a TOG work space, says our product director, Warren Margolis

The essence of how we at TOG design spaces is ‘people-centric’. Every consideration, every decision, every debate we have as a team, is filtered through the lens of our members. And I don’t just mean the company or organisation, I’m talking about the actual users of our spaces; the people flowing through each floor, using our amenities, drinking cups of coffee and really experiencing TOG work spaces first-hand.

COVID-19 has made it even more apparent that people want to work in varied, comfortable, beautiful spaces and spaces that enable them to work most productively. Of course, there are so many definitions of what all this means. Sometimes it’s just a sense. The real skill of our design teams is considering every little detail and piecing them all together, so that when someone uses one of our spaces, they just feel like it’s a great place to be – that it’s seamless and supports their needs.

Right from the outset, we approach our spaces by thinking about our clients’ experience and journey. In some cases, a work space may be something else entirely when we first look into acquiring it, or it may not exist at all – some of our forthcoming spaces are being constructed from the ground up. We spend time in these early stages considering different user experiences, and when we first get the opportunity to physically be in the building and walk the space, our thinking often changes. On plan, you can walk through the building from its entrance, to how it feels if you need to store your bike and take a shower, or where the nearest toilets are. When you actually physically make that journey, it sometimes doesn’t feel right and we’ll adapt it.

Fundamentally, this thought process is all about people, and we’re fortunate that the in-house team at TOG are pretty typical of the people that use our work spaces. Together we have the collective insight of bringing over 50 buildings to market. We also work with external architects and designers to widen the lens, to keep challenging the thinking and bring in the experience of other users from a varied range of sectors – hospitality, retail, commercial, residential and so on. It’s incredibly exciting for us to work with such inspirational talent from the likes of Universal Design and DMFK in the UK to Note Design Studio and Studio David Thulstrup from Scandinavia.

Some design principles are fairly obvious. The use of natural daylight is key, for example. It’s probably the single most important factor that we take into consideration, and not just in private offices but throughout the whole building. It’s proven that if you work in a space filled with natural light, you sleep better, you function better and overall, you feel better. Often, natural daylight is overlooked and some work spaces are designed with more emphasis on ‘sweating the asset’ and thinking too much about revenues. In our experience there is more value in creating spaces for people to thrive and do their best work – and the way in which we consider our design must support this.

Generosity and visual interest in our corridors as well as in our communal areas and stairwells is also hugely important. On the other hand, we don’t want our corridors to be so endlessly long that you feel lost or it’s unclear where to go – it’s a balancing act. No matter where in the building you are, the journey should be seamless. Then there’s getting the basics right: the heating and cooling, the optimum lighting levels and the acoustics. All the things that only get called out when they don’t function well and go unnoticed when they perform effectively. These things are kind of obvious, but they are also super important to get right.

Coming out of the pandemic, working across a hybrid week of video calls, face-to-face meetings, collaborative work and private individual tasks, we’re expecting to see significant changes in the way people will work. No longer will there be just the need for a sea of desks in offices, it’s  more likely that what’s needed is a mix of furniture settings to suit more agile ways of working – informal meeting spaces for collaboration and learning, break-out zones for socialising, scrum spaces for teams to work and private, quieter spaces for people to make calls.

We don’t really know the definitive answers to all these changes in the world of work yet, but we’ll be talking to our clients, taking in their feedback and constantly looking to evolve our product over the course of the next 12 months. We are strong believers in testing and challenging, and ultimately, we’ll only create work spaces suited to this new landscape by listening to our clients.

Warren Margolis is TOG's product director