Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


OFFICE PLANNINGHow would yours look?

To quote Steve Jobs: “Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.”

"Everything from processes to work practices and flows and interactions between teams."

Office design and office culture are so inextricably bound up that it’s almost remarkable that an office would be designed before a business moves into it. It’s no coincidence that memorable companies also have memorable premises (think of Google and you think of Google HQ, think of Innocent and you think of Fruit Towers). An organisation’s culture does and should impact office design and its culture should manifest itself through design.

But this culture doesn’t have to mean a super-trendy tech start-up manifesto or a beards-for-all philosophy. The notion of culture encompasses everything from processes to work practices and flows and interactions between teams. The crucial thing is that how a company works is reflected in where it works. If your teams constantly communicate, work with each other and there is a constant interaction, it makes no sense to have tiny cupboards separating everyone. Similarly, if your organisation is carefully and deliberately siloed, then you don’t want a large, open-plan space where nobody can get a moment’s peace or there is no privacy. If you have a workspace that just about fits your staff and their desks but you have to leave the premises to do the work you’re renowned for, then that culture gets eroded.

One size does not fit all

Importantly one size does not fit all, knowing this and working hard to understand the culture and objectives of clients before the design process has begun is vital to a good outcome for all stakeholders. In many cases workplace consultants will gain a deep understanding of your business, from its needs and goals, to its people, culture, existing systems, policies and technology. You will need to monitor how your current space is being used and where improvements are needed, of course there are many companies that offer this service however remember you are sometimes the expert.

In-depth 360 degree interviews with key stakeholders determine a company’s needs from the perspective of its leaders will set an agenda for change. These conversations, along with staff surveys, help build a picture of what employees want from an office and how they work. This also builds an accurate picture of future needs and overall vision, crucial for effective office design. Putting employees at the centre of workplace design means the space will inevitably work better for them.

"Putting employees at the centre of workplace design means the space will inevitably work better for them."

It may seem obvious but it’s surprising how many companies don’t bear this in mind when choosing a new workplace for their staff. Of course, cost is a factor but designing a workplace based just on affordability can have enormous repercussions in the long term. We know that the work environment can affect employee wellbeing and also staff retention, we know that workplace design affects staff satisfaction and we know that staff satisfaction affects profits. Designing your workplace to reflect company culture, company vision and staff behaviour will not only make your life easier but will boost your bottom line.

In the words of the master of perhaps one of the funniest workplaces, Walt Disney: “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

Office Design

What do you want?

An uninspiring workplace can have major ramifications when it comes to staff morale, productivity and attracting new staff. All of these factors can adversely impact an organisations overall performance and as a result, many companies are now investing in workplaces that aim to inspire.

What colour walls should we have? What types of cushions shall we choose? What carpet should we go for? Office design has sometimes been guilty of being a bit 'fluffy', an over-indulgence for the Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen-types, a 'nice to have' for many organisations. But in today's workplace, leading organisations are realising the positive effects of having an inspiring workplace and what it can mean to the bottom line.

Attracting the best people

We have seen how companies like Google and Facebook design exciting and inspiring workplaces and it's no coincidence that they are also able to recruit the best people. In fact, a recent study of 7,600 office workers concluded that office design was so important to workers that a third of respondents claimed it would unequivocally affect their decision whether or not to work somewhere.

With statistics like this, it’s evident how poorly designed offices can potentially inhibit the recruitment of the best talent, which of course can fundamentally affect the overall success of a business.

Engaging the workforce

With statistics showing that businesses with engaged employees have much higher productivity than those that don’t, it spells bad news for businesses failing to engage their people. So how can office design influence employee engagement?

The importance of work as a meaningful activity in our lives is higher on the agenda than ever before. As members of the workforce, we want to be able to add value in our roles and work for a business we believe in. Offices are often the physical manifestation of companies and can become places to embrace, reflect and communicate it's culture and core values.

It is the process of engaging with these values and buying into the culture that drives people to putting in the effort and hard work that will ultimately lead to higher individual and company performance.


Steve Jobs famously altered the design of Apple HQ to ensure that the toilets and shared spaces were at the centre of the open plan. He wanted to force chance encounters and encourage serendipity.

Marissa Meyers, CEO of Yahoo! famously banned home working in 2013 as she saw the advantages of having teams together in the same building. Inspiring workplaces become a destination rather than a chore. People want to be there, to be part of the buzz, to feed off the energy from their workplace.

The cost of an uninspiring workplace is probably too complex to calculate precisely, but with people making up one of the biggest cost centres for most businesses its easy to see how a negative effect on recruitment, retention, engagement and productivity can be seriously detrimental to a business’s bottom line. This is not to say that the only way to create an inspiring work place is to spend millions or fit a Google-style slide. It might be as simple as adding some colour or artwork to the whitewashed walls, or investing in new furniture to create a more dynamic or agile workspace.

Most importantly, it’s about understanding ‘what does ‘inspiring’ look like to the people in your workplace?’ Free coffee? Music playing? More communal, collaborative areas?  Once you know what will inspire your people you can remove the inhibiting factors and create a workspace where people can flourish.