There was a time when flexible office spaces had a reputation for being the haunts of groovy young things incubating new schemes and spending their time in break-out sessions drinking coffee and playing table football. But in a relatively short space of time the benefits of the flexibility as well as the quality of the experience has attracted enterprise and mid-sized businesses too.
Of the different companies that operate these places, one has now decided to up the ante. Fora describes itself as a ‘premium workplace provider’. Since launching in Clerkenwell in 2017, the current Fora network consists of 13 locations across London and one in Reading, with six more in the pipeline. Some of the organisations that have chosen to make Fora their home include AMC Networks, the British Fashion Council and Tortoise Media, the British news platform co-founded by former-editor of The Times and BBC director of news James Harding.
Fora’s London locations include some in the West End, in Fitzrovia, but most are in what you might call the trendier parts of town: Shoreditch, Clerkenwell, Brick Lane, Borough etc, as befits an organisation that aims to attract “progressive” tenants – or, as Fora prefers to call them, “residents”.
Fora was co-founded by experts from the hospitality and leisure industries and, at that stage, their vision for a hospitality-focused workplace had enough of the appeal of the new to stand out. But fast-forward five years and the market is getting more crowded and more competitive. In a continued effort to lead the workspace industry, Fora has now conceived a new service to continue to differentiate itself, and, it says, to respond to customers’ shifting needs: Fora Tailored Office.
‘This is a way for businesses to create office spaces that are tailored to their specific needs,’ explains Enrico Sanna, Fora’s co-founder and CEO. ‘All our customers are different, they come from different industries, they work in different sectors, they have different functions, and so we need to tailor to their needs. It can’t be one-size-fits-all.’
But we’re not just talking decor here. More and more businesses understand that a workplace should not be centred around a desk but rather a well-designed, engaging work environment. Organisations know now more than ever that the office must be fit for purpose, delivering agile settings, from collaborative spaces to places to work quietly and focus. What’s needed is a bespoke approach where a company designs its office around its employees and their tasks. This is what Fora is aiming for with Tailored Office, a space with different “settings” that address the various needs that organisations have, all in one space.
As if you were indeed visiting a tailor, the process starts with a consultation where Fora analyses your working practice and then designs a workspace to incorporate different “settings” to suit your business, for things such as presentation, concentration, workshops, casual conversation, and more formal meetings. There is even a space called The Box, which is an office within the office, a quiet space to host private calls or video.
Situated in a Fora building, each tailored office is also “dressed” to clients’ specifications, with a choice of furniture and furnishings, and, of course, kitted out with the appropriate tech. All the facilities available to regular Fora residents – leading technology, reception, concierge, showers, lounges, bicycle parking and the like – are also available.
But the aesthetics are the least of it. What matters here, says Sanna, is that the “settings” are designed around tasks. The theory is that a space fit for purpose will boost effectiveness and creativity. And “tailoring” doesn’t end with the fit-out. Fora will monitor the space and report monthly on how it is being used, so it can be tweaked if necessary.
At a time when we are reimagining what an office is, the idea that it can be designed for how a business actually works – especially in the way it can provide spaces for tasks not easily achieved remotely, makes sense. Indeed, CEO Sanna sees the office’s role as a gathering place as critical: ‘The workplace must create a sense of community and connectivity – meaningful, human, productive – without this, businesses find themselves at major risk.’ With Tailored Office he feels he has a way to deliver just such a meaningful, human and productive environment.