What a shame that London mayor Boris Johnson has bowed to pressure and axed two so-called “chill-out” spaces at City Hall. The report in today’s FM World Daily claims that the business lounges where staff can read, eat and hold informal meetings are being removed to make way for more desks.
The “chill-out” spaces have caused controversy because of the big expense to fit them out – about £25,000 (not that much when you consider the building’s overall budget but the Evening Standard kicked up a big fuss at the time). Some chairs apparently cost nearly £900 each, four high tables cost £2,000 each and carpets added another £4,170, according to the FM World report (although that may well be the list price and a substantial discount was achieved). In any case surely setting the spaces up and then demolishing them 12 months later is the real waste of money?
It’s also interesting that according to the FM World report, the original design in 2002 was for 426 desks, on handover there were 570 and this eventually increased to 697. And more to come by the sound of it. It would be interesting to know how many staff the building supports, the desk to person ratio, how many of the staff in the building are encouraged to work flexibly by time or location or whether agile/intelligent working has made it as far as City Hall.
Usually much more can be done to encourage people to work in other locations (either at home, in client sites, local offices, third spaces etc) which then frees up much-needed space in the main head office. If people were to work in this way, then the business lounges currently being ditched would be the first thing needed to allow staff to drop in to work, meet colleagues informally. Those types of informal spaces can support many more people when they’re set up as business lounges, rather than being covered in desks.