Martin Barber-Redmore
Martin Barber-Redmore Creative Director, TSK
25 July 2022

Designing workplace experiences

Many employees still aren’t returning to the office – the question is, why? If it’s easier for people to stay at home in a safe and comfortable environment where they have control, the office has got to offer an experience that remote working can’t.

Business leaders need to adapt their strategic approach, redefine the purpose of the office, and rethink their responsibilities to the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of their people.

People can work from anywhere and so are deliberately making different choices now. Without fixed desks, employees aren’t as restricted and are able to explore and connect with colleagues from other departments.

Roles within organisations have also changed. Key influencers are now expected to create content and communicate with a wider audience, both physically and digitally. In effect, they are now leaders, communicators and social stars. As a result, we’re seeing a whole host of new roles coming into businesses to streamline that communication and produce content. To cater to this demand, we need to adapt the environment so businesses can create digital content on a daily basis, without having to hire a studio.

COVID has also had a significant impact on the rise of paperless offices. Almost overnight, that paper disappeared, and people realised it was a comfort blanket we didn’t need. We can now remove that wasted footprint and make better use of the available space.

TSK’s evolution

TSK’s evolution

TSK’s evolution At TSK, we’ve not only upskilled our own team but have brought in new people with different expertise to accommodate the diversity that offices need to develop a healthy, inclusive and empowering workplace. We now have more Fitwel ambassadors, SKA assessors and experts researching acoustics, biophilia, and much more.

How we communicate and the breadth of media we use have evolved. One of the benefits of an office is that you can physically connect to build rapport. This is particularly important for new starters so they can experience your centre of brand, culture, ethos and values.

Once you’ve formed those initial relationships and bonds, you can use digital tools to connect with clients and colleagues who are geographically dispersed, speeding up the decision-making process without the constant travel. It’s also accelerated our desire and ability to explore new technology and find new ways to visually immerse our clients, through tools such as interactive VR.

“We know that workplace design can significantly influence business performance. As organisations review the ways in which they work, there is a clear need to ensure that now, more than ever, workplaces are designed to support employee and organisational needs.”

Iain Holden CEO, TSK

Hybrid working misconceptions and truths

Hybrid working isn’t about giving employees a laptop so they can go and work at home. It isn’t just hotdesking or a free-for-all where users tell the business when, where and how they want to work. Hybrid working is about empowering users and aligning personal and business goals. We need to support people to do their best work everywhere, through a choice of work settings.

Historically, offices were focused around desks and meeting rooms. Mistakenly, many of these organisations now think a hybrid office just needs desks, meeting rooms and technology for video conferencing. That isn’t what we’re talking about. We need a diversity of space that fundamentally changes people’s mindsets.

Designing workplace experiences

A lot of this has already been proven. For instance, fast food seating drives short, sharp interactions. Soft seating changes people’s mindsets and how they interact with one another. Understanding that psychology about how people connect with their environment allows you to start designing diverse spaces that offer a richness that was previously lacking.

The criteria of a successful office isn’t simply a functional and practical space that meets operational costs. Unless organisations are prepared to offer a positive experience that motivates people to go to the office, it doesn’t matter what size your office is or where it’s located – if people don’t want to go there, you’ve just got an empty space.

Measuring real-time user experience gives us an opportunity to listen, evolve and adapt. Using mobile technology, people can make simple changes, such as adjusting the temperature or the lighting, as they occupy the space.

Hybrid working is about recognising the office as a physical manifestation of your brand and ethos; as a cultural anchor. It’s a place to bring people together to interact socially, collaborate, reconnect and remember what the business is all about. Without a sense of place to reinforce those cultural values, they wither.

Design inspiration

The office isn’t competing with home; it’s competing with everywhere else.

Everywhere else is connected – coffee shops, flex spaces, client spaces. If the office is just a box with a load of desks inside, it’s a dying speciality. Other venues have everything an office has and more. For example, hotels have beds, meeting rooms, great coffee, conference rooms and restaurants.

We need to start taking inspiration from other industries and thinking of employees as customers we want to retain. An office doesn’t have to be uninspiring. We can use colour, texture, lighting and other design methods to elicit certain moods.

When delivering a new office space for global gaming giant Flutter Entertainment, we designed each floor with a unique purpose. We carefully selected colours, materials and fabrics to stimulate different responses. In the café, natural materials such as wood and plants evoke a sense of calm. The central lounge area is styled with soft furnishings, warm lighting and a large TV above a fireplace to encourage people to relax. We shaped a space that replicated a traditional library, to encourage employees to concentrate.

Historically, the fintech community (Yahoo, Google, Apple, etc.) have recognised that organisational success is based on talent retention and attraction (and diversity in that talent pool). They are all after the same high-quality talent and have invested in global campuses to attract the right people.

The focus isn’t on process work but on building environments where people can be creative, collaborate easily, and do that in an exciting and fun context. Flex space operators have now taken up this idea. They’ve seen an opportunity to radically change how we think about operating and leasing property. They’ve been at the forefront of generating a different environmental culture that’s more transparent, bringing in diverse brands.

Designing workplace experiences

Our client Sodexo is a fantastic example of an organisation that has redesigned its workplace to meet the needs of its employees. Transitioning from a large central London hub where everyone sits at a desk to work, Sodexo has set up a smaller, high-quality hub with regional offices. These spaces frame experiences that are relevant to the people in that particular geography.

We’ve also supported Entain on their journey, removing 40% of their desks and replacing some of this space with a social zone that includes gaming. Their new work settings accommodate privacy, collaboration and social time.

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"Your responsibility is to build spaces that offer a strong gravitational pull. Build it brilliantly and they will come."

Leesman - Why Workplace: A Leader’s Guide

Designing workplaces of the future

Creating a people-led environment that delivers high-performance output is something we’ve been promoting at TSK for years.

My hope for the next 12 months is that organisations follow through on the conversations we’ve been having. Leaders need to adopt a human-centred approach, through listening to their employees and using their feedback to inform workplace design. This will guide them on a journey to shaping a desirable, healthy workspace that will attract the best talent.

The first step is to build a team that can design a methodology for capturing individual needs. That feedback mechanism will allow organisations to truly understand their people before making new policy, management, tech and property strategies.

Designing workplace experiences

Organisations can start small by asking their employees what fundamental change they’d like to see. It might mean taking one meeting room and turning it into a space that allows people to connect. It might mean creating a quiet, reflective space.

There are too many workspaces flooded with empty desks that can be transformed into spaces that directly reflect employee needs. Adding moveable furniture is a simple step that organisations can take to start a social experiment, developing editable spaces and changing the dynamic of their workplace experience.

For organisations to evolve and shift to individual-centric, business leaders need to become change leaders. They will have to acknowledge that historic management styles of commanding control might not necessarily be the best method to enable their people to work effectively. By building a team of early adopters, leaders can tap into their entrepreneurial spirit to encourage change.

There is also a need to drive change within the property market. Too many buildings are designed for mere compliance and lack intelligence and connectivity. If business leaders choose a generic space, they may have to commit to a level of investment to conceive a better user experience. These things should be driven into the marketplace so there’s a degree of acceptance of the shared responsibility to build healthy, connected and flexible workspaces.

A recent Deloitte survey showed over 60% of senior leaders are focused on reimagining and redesigning office space rather than continuing a pre-pandemic model of optimising and economising. For the most innovative companies, that means embracing creative workspace design that responds to new and varied office needs. (learn more)


Find out more

Our knowledge and experience have led us to offer a library of up-to-date resources that are useful to any organisation considering a workplace revolution of their own.

Our team is always happy to help you start your journey to a better work environment for the future. To find out how we can support your next project, get in touch.

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