HR & Management

Britain's coolest and most innovative office designs

16 min read

25 October 2016

Former editor

Innovative office designs are a great way of both attracting and retaining the top talent, so Real Business set out to unearth some of the best examples to serve as inspiration for British business leaders.

Silicon Valley technology heavyweights are famous for innovative office designs, but the companies we’ve unearthed are proving that British SMEs can be just as creative.

Jimmy’s Iced Coffee: The one with an indoor skate ramp

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The staff at Jimmy’s Iced Coffee eat their lunch in a pretty unique spot

Jimmy’s Iced Coffee has gone from being an experiment to a celebrity-endorsed brand stocked by the likes of Tesco, Ocado and Wholefoods. Its quirky nature has amassed a strong social media following and extended to the office employees now call home.

Featuring a skateramp and housed in a warehouse-style space, the office encourages group eating and a collaborative way of working for this beverage business.

Jim Cregan, founder and MD of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, told Real Business: “We wanted the design of the office to be somewhere that you’d also hold your 21st birthday. We wanted a space that inspired people, energised people and didn’t bore people. We are asking people to work long hours in the office so we think it’s only fair that it’s a nice place to be.

“The crew love it, we are always evolving as more people come into the business and we welcome change with eyes wide open.”

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The office design allows staff to unwind in a very expressive way

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Bozboz: The one decorated like an art gallery

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Contemporary art dominates the Bozboz office

With the web design and creative agency being based in the seaside town of Brighton, it’s perhaps no surprise that Bozboz has embraced a more bohemian and creative style for its take on innovative office spaces.

Held within the confines of a converted four-floor Edwardian House, the company has a gallery space on the ground floor with works from its clients (and some not our clients) including Goldie, Ryca and MauMau. The space also hold events – with Mal One celebrating 40 years of Punk soon.

Holly Potter, head of talent and culture, explained: “We are a creative agency and have a very unique culture and we see the interior design and art displayed in the building and the creative space are a way of inspiring the team. A lot of businesses throw budget at interior design and see it as culture. Our culture is how we think, act and interact. We see our work space as a beautiful environment where our culture thrives, it’s a nice to have not what defines our culture.”

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Bozboz showcases some of its clients’ artwork

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Moneypenny: The one with its own treehouse

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Moneypenny recently opened its new office in Wrexham

Calling its new offices the “happiest place in the UK” is a strong claim, but that is exactly what telephone answering service Moneypenny claims to have done.

Before construction began, the 500-strong workforce were asked what they wanted in the new building and the ideas, suggestions and thoughts were used to form the blueprint for the design.

Ed Reeves, founder of Moneypenny, said: “The striking 91,000 sq ft building boasts a treehouse meeting room, its own village pub, a sun terrace and a triple height atrium with stadium seating and a restaurant offering free breakfast and fruit.

“Outside, the development is equally impressive and surrounded by seven acres of landscaped grounds with nature trails, a duck pond and orchards with picturesque countryside views. Subsequently, the reaction by the staff to the new office was one of surprise, happiness and motivation.”

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Staff can unwind in the treehouse or visit the bar

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Zoopla: The one with an in-house wine room

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It’s all rather grown up in this wine-themed meeting room

While Zoopla is one of those companies which probably doesn’t have to work too hard to attract the best talent, it has gone the extra mile for its new offices – bringing together multiple themes to cater for its 500 London staff.

The online property website has secured millions of pounds of investment, and secured a listing on the London Stock Exchange, meaning it has plenty of financial firepower to create a truly unique office space.

Alex Chesterman, founder and CEO of Zoopla Property Group, told us: “When we started thinking about the design of our new office we started with our vision at ZPG – to be the consumer champion at the heart of the home. We wanted to stay true to this and ensure that the design was in keeping with this vision and was a distinct departure from a typical office environment.

“We wanted to create a ‘home away from home’ for our team that reflected our values as an organisation. We feel that we have certainly achieved this and the feedback from staff has been great. It is clear that our team are very proud of their new home and it’s great to now have all our London based staff under one roof in such a fantastic space.”

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Zoopla took inspiration from a swimming pool for one of its presentation suites

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Steamhaus: The one decorated in a Steampunk style

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While Steamhaus is a technology-based business, its office design is a reflection of older times

It’s often all to easy to go overboard with the design of your office, but Steamhaus appears to have stayed just the right side of the line with its Steampunk-inspired offering.

Dennis Keighron-Foster, creative director at the cloud consultancy, told Real Business: “The look and feel of the office has taken direct inspiration from the brand’s ‘steampunk’ theme. We’re housed in a converted Victorian mill in Manchester so straight away there were elements that we could work with – exposed brick, wooden panels and gorgeous sash windows. We’ve built on that industrial streak throughout – sourcing original 1950’s leather chairs and framing sketches from Rick Jones; the illustrator we worked with to develop the airship illustration behind our ‘steampunk’ aesthetic.

“We discovered that the parquet panels we bought from an interior salvage company once lined the lab floors of UMIST. We love the romantic notion that the likes of Alan Turing and Ernest Rutherford will have at one time regularly walked on the very parquet of the desks we work at every day.’’

‘‘The feedback from staff has been fantastic! People are at the heart of business and companies are cottoning on to the value in creating a working environment that reflects its people and a space that staff take pride in.’’

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Leather, brickwork and dark colours are part of the design

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Runway East: The one where you can practice your putting skills

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There’s a healthy dose of competition in the Runway East office

London-based co-working space Runway east is home to some of London’s leading startups, meaning it has to be pretty creative with its office space to keep tenants happy.

Natasha Guerra, MD and co-founder of Runway East, told Real Business: ‘We designed our office in collaboration with our members. They wanted fun and original, so we gave them a 30 ft long putting green, they wanted a range of informal and formal meeting spaces, so we have everything from sofa nooks to boardrooms.

“The feedback has been incredibly enthusiastic, and we’ve just launched our second location next to Old Street roundabout, off the back of the success of the first.”

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Runway East also has a living wall

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Gingermonkeys: The one with a wall-mounted moose’s head

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Bright colours stimulate creativity at Gingermonkeys

A moose’s head on the wall and quilted walls make Gingermonkeys, a creative design agency, an office that nobody who enters it will ever forget.

Trevor Smith-Foreman, CEO of Gingermonkeys, explained: “I really wanted to create a space that reflected my personality. I don’t do ‘normal’ and I don’t do ‘boring’.”

“We’re creative people and I want everyone to understand that the second they walk up the stairs and see the first hallway graphic, it’s pretty clear they’re not in a normal, boring office environment anymore. I also wanted a space that my staff would take pride in. We love showing visitors around – they love the fact that we welcome them with a personalised 3D graphic on our welcome screen. We always want to go the extra mile and that’s what people see when they walk into our world.”

But don’t just take it from the CEO. Steve Coles, an illustrator at Gingermonkeys, said: “It’s so refreshing to turn up to work every day and be in a surrounding that nurtures our creativity. The studio reflects our personalities and also showcases some of the talent that we have at Gingermonkeys.

“Welcoming guests to the studio for the first time is always a treat, just to see the look on their faces as they never expect to see what they are faced with – especially not the moose’s head mounted on the wall. Even if you have an idea of what you expect a modern design studio to look like, you have to multiply that by 1000 to get an idea of this one – it blows people’s minds.”

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The office is referred to as a “design asylum”

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IOVOX: The one with a bit of rock ‘n’ roll

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What was once a forgotten space has now been transformed

Founded in 2007 by entrepreneurs Ryan and Belinda Gallagher, IOVOX is a cloud-based provider of telephone analytics technology.

Carl Di Cicco, managing director of EMEA, IOVOX, said: “The idea behind the office is to create a space where people want to be. We found the place in a pretty dishevelled state but loved the fact that it had so much air and light, and saw an opportunity to build a perfect work environment. It’s open plan, it’s quirky, but it’s a relaxed atmosphere with a great deal of space so that it’s never oppressive.

“At the same time, open plan makes it easier to be collaborative, absolutely vital when working in a creative industry like technology. And we’ve furnished the office as much as we can to encourage collaboration and have a creative, fun atmosphere.

“The pool table and musical instruments aren’t just for enjoyment, they are creative outlets for people to blow off some steam while on the job. You can have exactly the same planning sessions around the pool table as you would have in the boardroom, but the reality is that having it around the pool table is going to keep your employees engaged. It’s not just that happier employees work longer, but that everyone is happier to be in the office and work together, and ultimately this creates better outcomes for everyone.”

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Staff are encouraged to think creatively and socialise