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Ferris wheels in offices and student flats with concierges – Does the work-life balance exist?

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We’ve heard the importance of a nice place to work – with companies implementing increasingly extravagant office features in a bid to win the best candidates and keep staff happy.

The BBC poked fun at itself in mockumentaries Twenty Twelve and W1A, but it does indeed have “collaboration pods” as well as giant neon and metal “thought wheels”. Trumping that over in Canada is Toronto’s Corus Entertainment, which has a huge slide as well as boardroom tables shaped like ice-hockey rinks. And insurance company Acuity actually has a 65-foot indoor ferris wheel, because why not?

Recent research compiled 50 things to make an office cool, listing everything from a rooftop terrace to a personal butler – and with these sorts of incentives on offer, you might start to worry about people ever leaving their offices at all.

The murky work-life balance is arguably at a more uncertain place than ever, and it’s now happening at an earlier age. Collegiate AC, which has been offering luxury student accommodation across the UK since 2011, has expanded with 16 new residences.

It has been developing to cope with the increase in demand, and further projects are planned in the near future. When you check out just what its properties offer, it’s not that surprising. The provider describes “hotel-esque services” being available, including concierge and airport transfers. At some of its student properties, the concierge service provides “top restaurant bookings” and help with “the best places to visit”.

Locations now span Aberdeen, Bristol, Glasgow, Southampton, Liverpool, Durham and Exeter as well as London. Accommodation there is listed from around £182 a week, and covers locations including Herne Hill and King’s College London.

Cleaning services are a popular option with students, and free high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi are also available, while there’s even a Club Lounge which “provides the feel of an exclusive private members’ club”.

Collegiate AC said the accelerating luxury was sparked by demands from overseas students – the majority (70.74 per cent) of those booking its student property for the 2015-2016 academic year were from outside the EU.

The provider said, “these students are looking for more of a ‘lifestyle’ from their accommodation, with facilities on-site to make the most of their study time in the UK”.

While some might baulk at the unnecessary frivolity, there are plenty of obvious positives as to what this swanky set-up can provide, aside from the cushiness. Like it or not, work is increasingly becoming intertwined with “downtime” and while it’s not necessarily something that works for everyone, having as comfortable an environment as possible will likely make your general day-to-day life more enjoyable and easier to manage.

Google’s renowned employee perks may be old news, but the repeated discussion about them reflects the impact they’ve made. Many others followed suit – and there have been numerous tales of staff impressed by Google’s benefits. Some were so enamoured, they just never left.

It’s a similar enough thought for students. If they’re able to find the most comfortable place that provides a pleasant daily life alongside their work, it’s not absurd to reckon they’ll be happier and more productive as a result. Though you may question just how many extra additions are too many – for both a workplace and a study environment, when do they become distractions?

Collegiate AC also suggested that the facilities on offer are a particularly good route to making friends more easily too, with on-site cinema rooms and luxury lounges. Heriberto Cuanalo, CEO of the accommodation provider, said: “With students now striving to get more of a lifestyle from their accommodation, communal areas and extra facilities are increasingly important.”

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It’s certainly an interesting alternative to a college-organised pub crawl and other activities that are often some of the most effective ways of encouraging socialisation among students. This seems to cultivate a similar effect, though with added flashiness.

Cuanalo believes that it can be quite a turbulent period for those off to university, and the more adaptable the accommodation, the more likely people are to flourish at work and in their daily lives.

“Student life can be stressful, pressured and adjusting to a life away from the family home, which for many is also a move overseas, is often not an easy transition”, he said.

“A student property should not only provide a comfortable and safe living environment, today it can also provide a sense of community that is unique and luxurious, with a focus on lifestyle, making student living fun, exciting and a reflection of ambitions”, Cuanalo added.

The lifestyle element is interesting – it has become an increasingly important of study and work. The expansion of Collegiate AC arguably signals that many are expecting their working lives and daily lives to interlap to such an extent that they should be meshed effectively together. It’s also surely an indication of where we’re at as consumers too – constantly raising expectations with the belief that infrastructure and technology should be in tune with them, and fast to adapt.

While the inability to switch off from work or study may be a concern, with access to broadband and Wi-Fi on tap, it seems difficult to question the wellbeing provision luxury offices and indeed luxury accommodation serve. The long-term sustainability however, is yet to be seen. Will people get bored with the perks or simply more demanding?

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