WRK / LDN: How and where Londoners will work in the future

Insight Study - October 2016

Shush Room © Gensler

RCA Battersea © Haworth Tompkins and Philip Vile

Dalston Cola © Grant Smith

Alphabeta © Studio RHE and Hufton+Crow

This Autumn, NLA will launch WRK / LDN, a major Insight Study, exhibition and events programme examining the changing nature of work in London, and its impact on future offices and spaces of the city.

Submit your innovative London workplace projects, initiatives or ideas to showcase in our exhibition - extensions available on request, click here for more information click here 

The nature of work is changing very fast. For businesses – both large and small – the ‘war for talent’ is placing a renewed emphasis on the quality of the working environment, from health and wellbeing to vibrant mixed-use locations and public spaces. As the making and digital economy expands, new suppliers of workspace are rapidly emerging, from co-working providers to fab labs, makerspaces, incubators and innovation centres. At the same time, the provision of affordable workspace is under pressure as the price of land continues to rise.

NLA is currently conducting in-depth research to uncover the most innovative workspace initiatives and projects in the capital, highlight key trends and emerging businesses locations, and analyse the types of buildings and spaces London will need to provide to meet future demands. The research will bring together a variety of different workspace developers, providers, architects, consultants and business users, through industry roundtables, interviews and project reviews.
The results will launch in the Autumn, with a major public exhibition and private view, a publication and three-month programme of events, including conferences, talks, debates and building visits.

Key lines of enquiry: Toggle

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?

How you can get involved: Toggle

  •  Align your business with the Insight Study
NLA are looking to partner with a select number of leading organisations active in London's workplace sector through sponsorship of the Study, who will benefit from formal alignment and brand exposure across the research, exhibition and events. There are two levels available which offer the opportunity to contribute to the research and roundtables, highlight key case studies and projects, and raise profile through speaking opportunities and building visits.
  • Submit your projects to the NLA Project Showcase (opening June) 
In June, will be inviting submissions to the NLA ‘Project Showcase’ of the most innovative examples of London workspace projects, initiatives and ideas. The Project Showcase will help to inform the research, and form a standalone exhibition display and publication. Submission details will be circulated at the beginning of June.


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Delivering affordable workspace within areas of regeneration


How can London deliver more jobs and affordable workspace within its many areas of regeneration to ensure more balanced communities? A Think Tank organised by NLA as part of its Insight study looking into work in the capital sought to find out.