I got asked this week if some companies use their office fit outs and office refurbishments as an opportunity to 'out cool' each other in a bid to attract the best staff...
There's no doubt about it, the labour market is hotting up at the moment and there are certain sectors, and competing companies within the same, that are feeling the burn from the heat. With not much to differentiate some companies when it comes to salaries and packages, everyone is in desperate search of a new edge.
A great case in point, and one that managed to grab some headlines earlier in the year, is Manchester-based Rentalcars.com. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the company was upping sticks to a brand new city centre location and had over £2 million to spend on the fit out - an opportunity not to be missed. Its new address now boasts individual floors with unique themes, including road trip, world cars, drive-in movies and metropolis, an open air cinema, a park area, a beach, complete with beach huts, Starbucks bar, swings and a pool table, free breakfasts, hot fresh food and a salad bar.
What potential new employee could resist? If you're a young graduate who's a bit hard-up, do you pick the company that pays for the odd jolly and lets you wear your jeans once a month or the company that feeds and entertains you every day? It's a no-brainer...
A trend started by the likes of the big tech companies, such as Google, whose perks include free haircuts, laundry facilities, food and gyms, the cool office (and its complementary perks) is fast becoming the norm. If you can't be the best company, you can at least be the best to go into and be present at each day.
Most clients ask us for the 'wow factor' in the initial briefing. It's almost mandatory. The emphasis has gradually changed over the years along with our perception of office space. It's now all about flexible working, maintaining a healthy wellbeing and using the design to promote and reflect the brand and its values.
There are common buzz words and phrases that run through the checklists on a lot of these jobs: Quiet areas, agile working, flexible working, integrated departments and let's throw a pool table and a few play stations in there too. It's regular criteria, particularly in the creative, media and digital industries.
Standard design used to be about bums on seats and how many you could fit in. Now, on the whole, it's all about comfort, with companies keeping one eye on how people interact in the office space and the other on how exactly it's best to facilitate that.
It's not just about attracting the best staff either. It's about keeping them once they're in. Google provides all the meals and, as a result, its young staff work longer hours and make the most of the free food. The bonuses are long-term as evidence suggests that those employees who stay, eat and hang out together form stronger, more informed relationships with their colleagues and develop a sense of loyalty and commitment to the brand.