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Supporting the gig economy with versatile office design

According to the most recent Hoxby Report, the UK is experiencing the most notable evolution of working practices since social reformer, Sir Robert Owen instated the 8-hour day in 1817.

It’s an interesting finding but one we probably don’t really need research to highlight. Attitudes and practices around the modern working day have changed so significantly in recent years that this evolution is clear to see.

One of the most instrumental factors in this transformation of how, where and when we work is the ongoing rise of what has come to be known as the ‘gig economy’.

Gig economy office

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is a new approach to working life which overthrows the traditional 9-to-5 structure and calls into question classic office design.

It encompasses those who choose to earn their income on a job-by-job basis, rather than committing themselves to a full-time, salaried contract.

Gig culture supports the benefits of:

  • Flexible hours
  • Professional autonomy
  • Fast money
  • Short-term labour
  • The ability to work whenever, wherever and for whoever you want

Woman with curly hair in dark trousers and light shirt working on a laptop on a red chair

5 million people in the UK are doing gig work (and counting)

With all of the above advantages in play, it comes as no surprise that around 5 million people in the UK are currently part of the growing gig economy*.

Air BnB, Uber and Deliveroo are all popular examples of gig-style work but it also translates into office environments with the increasing talent pool of freelancers and subcontractors.

With so many multi-million UK workers adopting this approach to earning a living, it’s high time architects, interior designers and businesses owners start seriously considering gig culture in workplace design schemes.

Working from home agile environment

Office design for freelancers and gig workers

So, how do you design an office which caters for full-time staff and freelancers simultaneously?

The key here is high-performance flexibility – providing choice and control for workers (both salaried and temporary) to select the setting they want to work in according to task and requirement.

For this reason, our Workplace Consultants recommend:

Nomadic neighbourhoods – Modern concepts of agile working and activity-based work have nurtured a generation of professional nomads who no longer want to be anchored to an assigned desk or rigid working hours.

Incorporating an ecosystem of diverse work settings – or ‘neighbourhoods’ – is the ideal alternative to this. This will enable workers to move in between each area freely and choose the setting they see fit.

Click to read more on why the days of a dedicated desk are over.

A home from home – Gig economy is closely related to coffee shop culture and making working from home a more commonplace concept.

Introducing soft, domestic design elements will make the space more welcoming and familiar to freelancers.

Resimercial interior design will also have a number of benefits for full-time staff including improved job satisfaction and better workplace wellbeing.

Plenty of privacy – As with all workers, freelancers and temporary staff may require a dedicated private space to use when they need to avoid distraction, concentrate on individual focus work or discuss confidential information.

Modern collaborative working space integrating technology and biophilic design

Ways to connect with people – One of the downsides of gig work is that it can become quite lonely and isolating if you aren’t consistently involved with one company.

Encourage freelancers to feel more part of the team by providing things like social spaces or a WorkCafe where they can join the hustle and bustle and interact on a more casual level.

Collaboration and co-creation spaces – Providing purpose-built collaborative work settings which also stimulate interaction and communication between full-time and freelance staff is crucial.

Collaboration spaces and breakout areas provide an equal playing field where all participants can share ideas and information freely.

Group collaboration encouraged by advancements in office technology

Ad hoc office storage solutions – Workplace storage – such as lockers – which can be assigned on a requirement basis is a great idea when trying to provide storage for resident, remote and temporary workers.

Tech-integrated office furniture – With increased flexibility and freedom of movement around the workplace comes a higher dependency on sufficient power outlets, data connectivity ports and technology.

Technology-integrated furniture is the ideal way to provide all of this while still keeping the space aesthetically pleasing, clutter free and streamline in terms of design.

Modern office technology conference room panels optimising workplace efficiency highlighting the importance of office refurbishments

50% of the working world could be freelance in 2 years’ time

Incorporating all of the above into your workspace will go a long way towards future-proofing the space and ensuring it appeals to users for years to come.

According to the Future Proofing report carried out the by Hoxby Collective, half the population could be freelance by 2021. This means it’s time to start seeing your workspace as a strategic tool to boost things like productivity and wellbeing – it’s no longer just a place we are required to be.

*McKinsey Global Institute

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