We’ve all heard the stories: slides instead of stairs; bean bags instead of office furniture; unlimited snacks instead of an old packet of Digestives. Unless you work for a firm like Google however, you’re not likely to experience such a thing. Or are you? When we were invited to tour a new office building which aims to "redefine the concept of the workplace", we just had to check it out.
Usually, press releases offering to take us on a tour of an office in EC2 tend to be filed in the ‘thanks but no thanks’ tray. However, at the heart of this office on Finsbury Square is something unique — a large portion of its considerable atrium has been dedicated to a brightly coloured ramp, allowing cyclists to roll in from the street.
Once into its industrial-chic basement, we find rack after rack of bike double-decker storage (we’re told enough for one-in-eight of the building’s workers), as well as showers, lockers and a resident mechanic.
If this method of transport is not exercise enough, there is a basketball court next door to rinse out the final few drops of sweat and a darts club to relax in afterwards. The building also has a boot camp, barista and a branch of cafe/restaurant Modern Pantry.
AlphaBeta is the name of this place — representing, apparently, the border between the creative hub of Shoreditch and the financial industry of the City (hence the alpha and beta). Its occupants reflect this creative-tech crossover, such as Silicon Valley Bank and other so called 'fin-tech' companies. Perhaps the increase in such merging of industries could be the catalyst to revamp the way we see and use our office space.
Architect for the project, Richard Hywel-Evans, told us of his pitch to one firm to have a cycle park like this, along with a swimming pool and running track so people could train for triathlons. Coupled with performance coaching and blood lactate testing (used as a measure of exertion), the workplace would look more like Team GB headquarters than your average office. Rather than scoff at the idea, Hywel-Evans tells us that they entertained it.
With an increasing amount of firms realising that investing in staff this way aids staff retention, makes them healthier and keeps them in the workplace longer, could this office be a glimpse into what London's offices will look like in 20 years?
What is it like to use the ride-in office?
Cycling is becoming increasingly popular as a pastime but crucially, as a mode of commuting. We cycled through London rush-hour traffic where much of the capital resembled Europe’s largest car park, but once we’d weaved our way through the queues, we headed to the rear of the two entrances where the ramp is located.
Aside from adding a dropped kerb to make it truly ride-in, the experience is a smooth one. Down one ramp, tight 90 degree turn, and down the second and you're in to this dedicated space. While we were there, a number of people were using it, despite the fact much of the building is still being fitted-out. The ride-in office, we think, will prove very popular.