1. London’s workers
The shape of London’s economy and business sectors is diverse and thriving, reflecting its role as a driver of innovation and new enterprise, particularly in the service-led economy. The nature of work has been completely transformed in the last 20-30 years, all of which impact on the types of space that we need for work and where this is located in the capital. What economic, social, technological, demographic and cultural forces are transforming the way we work? And how is London’s economic mix changing - what sorts of industries are growing in their demand for space?
2. The commercial economy
London has the highest concentration of large businesses, with over 250 employees, including headquarters of international companies. The demand for highly skilled workers - the ‘war for talent’ - means that the right environments are needed to attract them, leading to an increasing focus on high-quality design, health and wellbeing, and vibrant mixed-use business locations. What is driving business decisions on where to locate in London? And how is workplace design and management adapting to changing business requirements and technologies?
3. The new enterprise economy
One of the most significant factors in the changing nature of work and the workplace is the massive growth of self-employment, which reached a record high of 4.5 million in 2014, and the expansion of SMEs and micro-businesses. This is reflected in the boom of open workspaces, incubators and accelerators that can provide the affordability, flexibility and support that start-ups require. As hubs of creation and creativity, these shapes can also support local regeneration, community engagement, skills and training. Where are these ‘curated communities’ emerging in London? How far is the shared workspace model influencing the wider commercial market?
4. The making economy
London has a long, proud and varied tradition of making, manufacture and industry - the brand ‘made in London’ is known around the world. In recent decades there has been a resurgence of enthusiasm for making, crafting, locally sourced goods, seen in the rise of the makerspace and open access workshops. Yet London’s industrial land is increasingly under threat from the demand for new housing. How can we create and protect affordable workspaces for making, manufacturing and industry? And what how far can industrial spaces form a part of mixed-use regeneration strategies? Does London need a new typology for industrial space?
5. London’s working districts
The digital and physical workspace is merging as work takes place in the public realm as well as in fixed environments. How are London’s traditional commercial districts adapting to the changing nature of work? Which areas are developing as new commercial districts and what do they need to accommodate? How successfully are we creating more open, transparent and flexible working environments beyond the office space?
6. How do we accommodate economic growth in London?
As London’s population expands, we will need more, not less, commercial, industrial and start-up workspace across the capital. What are the key solutions at a London Plan level to ensure London can accommodate economic growth?
7. Future directions: what could work look like in 2050?
As the divisions between the concepts of work, play, live and learn break down further, it is possible that workspace will no longer be an identifiable type or types of space – simply a set of locations or activity-based environments where ‘work’ in all its forms happens. If planning conditions allow, there is likely to be an increasing convergence between industrial and commercial space, and at the same time the workspace itself will become a more highly curated and managed concept as the social focus of work becomes ever more important. Hotels and membership clubs – which provide continuous wifi and a variety of different environments – may provide the model for the future workspace. Technology could begin to offer a seamless user experience through personalised environments, while more sophisticated automated systems could provide more efficient management of energy, waste and water. What ideas are emerging for the workspace of the next generation?