Workspace Design Show

26 – 27 February 2025 | Business Design Centre, London

Speakers Q&A: How can empathy allow future designs to attract and retain talent?

Amy Gargan, Workplace & Interiors Sector Lead, Director at RKD Architects

More and more we are understanding the diversity of employees and recognising that not everyone works in the same way. We also know that the environment we work in can greatly affect our mood, productivity, and well-being.  Employers seeking to incorporate empathetic design principles in their workplace are cognisant of that diversity and strive to create an inclusive workplace that values individual differences in the workforce and makes everyone feel accepted.

Design should focus on creating a workplace which is human centric, catering to individuals, their personalities, experience, and choices in the way they work. Addressing environmental and wellbeing factors will help keep employees engaged, giving them a sense of fulfilment that will ultimately benefit employee retention.

Claire Henderson, Inclusive Design Lead, Workplace Design at HMRC

As a society we are becoming increasing aware of the diverse nature of people, we aren’t all the same and what a boring world it would be if we were!  Workspace is key to supporting individuals shine, by providing the right environment, or indeed choice of environments throughout, people see that not only do employers care about them as employees but also as individuals, that comes with increased levels of engagement and retention as well as productivity. 

Only by listening to a diverse range of end users will design teams truly get anywhere near providing an inclusive workspace and ultimately a change for a protected characteristic generally is something that helps others, lowered kerbs, clamshell doors, all examples of that so it’s a win win.

Claudia Bastiani, Head of Workplace Experience & Design at Legal & General

Neuroarchitecture will play an ever more significant role in the creation of future workspaces; understanding the question that we are trying to answer ie what does empathy in the design and operation of a workspace really mean?  These are the sorts of interesting and sometimes uncomfortable conversations that need to be explored. 

The interaction between HR, Real Estate and Technology has never been more significant.  Data and the ability to pivot your thinking quickly is key to evolving strategies around employee engagement.  Neuroscience will make more and more of a contribution to future strategies which might seem disruptive for some, whilst very exciting for others.

Natasha Hewlett, Senior Project Designer at Peldon Rose

I think empathic design should consider the human above everything. The needs and requirements within a workspace differ between every single person, so for employers to both attract and retain talent they have to invest in their people. Creating ‘everybody’ spaces sounds like a challenge, but by designing a workspace revolving around the human flow with flexibility in mind will do exactly that.

Quiet focus areas, dedicated collaboration zones away from the desk, high energy social spaces, but most importantly the choice of how the employee can work. These are all ways to create diverse environments that go above and beyond the basic requirements of the traditional office, giving choice and flexibility for everyone – for example introverts, extroverts, anyone with a disability or who is neurodiverse.