Workspace Design Show

26 – 27 February 2025 | Business Design Centre, London

Speakers Q&A: What are the most important considerations for employers when creating spaces where people really want to be?

Michael Dowds, Head of Workplace Design Standards at Department for Work & Pensions

You need to really know your people. Take every opportunity to bring the various teams using a space on the design journey with you. Help them reimagine how they could carry out their work in different settings to achieve better outcomes. Encourage creativity, imagination, collaboration appropriate for those using the space.

Most people don’t naturally default to a smarter way of working. Help your people understand how the workplace has been designed with them in mind, and how to make best use of the various work settings. Review the workplace with your people after a period of time to help keep things fresh, appropriate and to continue the journey together.

Lewis Barker, Director, Workplace Services EMEA at ServiceNow

Event spaces to host large meetings ranging from a hour, to a day to a couple of days. Also seamless technology embedded in the designs to ensure a great employee experience. Finally hospitality focus from the workplace teams equals personalised experiences that the employee base remembers and wants to come back to.

Tina Norden, Partner at Conran & Partners

In our post-Covid WFH world our ambition is to design spaces that make people want to come to the office and actually be there on an (almost) daily basis. The new flexibility is amazing and a real game changer, but it is easy to forget how much enjoyment a good and professional working environment can bring.

Key considerations are now to actually set the workplace apart from home functionally whilst creating environments people like being in. Lighting is key, ergonomics of chairs and table, flexible height desks – and spaces where the team can come together for meetings and socials. All things that are very hard to recreate at home!

Steve Brewer, Founding Partner at Burtt-Jones & Brewer

To create a place first and foremost, and not a space. Build in staff engagement at the offset. Allow time to listen, to have their input, the brief building process at the start of the project is almost always the part of the project that is easy to compress, but is the part of the project where you learn most, it will define the project.  Discuss what your employees are willing to compromise on early too. We’d all love everything to be just as I want it, but that may not be the same as you would like it. Your employees will understand this. Clear, open, timely and transparent communication is vital. Treat the problems and subjective and objective. What is best for you, and your team, the wider business needs and the planet.  The employer has to listen, allow a degree of, taylorism (there’s that word again). Always respond to every idea, no matter how daft, crazy or pointless. Show that you listened and responded. Embedding your staff into the process will pay dividends. They will own the project. Co-design it with them, not for them.

Natasha Hewlett, Senior Project Designer at Peldon Rose

Today’s offices need to deliver something special and should be so much more than just a place to work; somewhere that encapsulates the purpose of a business, provides space for connection, collaboration and bring the best out in their people. A true destination workspace considers the needs of the employee as an individual and caters for everyone, which is a delicate balance of designing for their priorities and needs. 

One reason we are seeing staff coming into the office is for the social aspect, so employers have been more invested in creating those spaces and showing the employees are trusted to utilise every aspect of the workspace. Having had our home comforts at our fingertips in recent years while working from home, businesses now need to ensure that they are mimicking this in the workplace.

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

Looking forward to seeing whether what we thought were the key factors for a high performing workspace before the pandemic; have these changed with the key shifts that the more general population have come to realise?  We have followed the Hospitality sector for the last 20 or so years in creating ‘experiences’ and placemaking, insistent upon work/life balance and creating workspaces that support both.  Generally our workspaces now cross at least two different places each week; do we need to change our design thinking?

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

Undoubtedly the focus now for employers is to provide a workplace that offers so much more than what their employees can experience working remotely. Their reason for coming to the office is no longer one of routine or a sense of obligation, but rather it is purpose driven and the workplace must respond by tailoring itself to meet the needs of the individual.

This means a curated office landscape that offers a variety of intuitive work settings that fulfil the individual’s requirements providing for ultimate flexibility and productivity. The experience when in the workplace should be seamless – from booking a desk or reserving meeting space, to knowing who and when other team members will be there.

The employee who is removed from the office for part of their working week comes there seeking a sense of belonging and therefore it is incumbent upon the employer to create an environment which not only enables their employees to work in the most effective way possible, but also embodies their culture and values, creating a sense of community. 

Scott Rominger, Creative Director at WeWork

At WeWork, we’re consistently speaking to our members to understand more about what they need and want from the modern workplace – especially as flexible working continues to take shape and office visits become more intentional, depending on working styles and tasks that need to be completed that day. With this in mind, there can no longer be a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to office design in this new era.

Instead, a workspace must be a dynamic and mixed-use space that meets the varying needs of workers. From quiet nooks, lounges and collaborative spaces to conference rooms and dedicated focus areas, at WeWork, we strike a balance between functional and thoughtful design – underpinned by flexibility. As work trends evolve, it’s a combination of understanding what workers actually want, and having the flexibility to adapt seamlessly that will be key in 2023.

Paula Rowntree, Head of Workplace Design at Lloyds Banking Group

For me, the most important consideration is our colleagues and the different roles and needs they have from space, one size does not fit all.  How do we create the optimum space to support both productivity and also well being and comfort in the workplace.  After two years of Covid and home working we need to focus on how the Office space can provide the face to face human interaction that you simply don’t get at home; virtual is just not the same; humans are social animals with connection being vital for our health and well-being as Covid so aptly demonstrated.

Naomi Sakomoto, Senior Associate, Gensler

Today’s talent seek workplaces that combine the best of the pre-pandemic workplace, mixed with the best of the remote workplace. In broad terms, the best of the pre-pandemic workplace ingredients were:
Work: the technical infrastructure to support production;

  • Play: the social infrastructure to support connection; and
  • Love: the narrative infrastructure to support communication of values, impact, and purpose.

The remote workplace, despite its difficulties, brought us a few key wins:

  • Flexibility & autonomy to choose when and where we work best;
  • Equity for different personality types, life circumstances, and physical, neurological, and social abilities, enabled by technology;
  • Convenience.

Workplaces will need to provide all of these ingredients, combined into their own recipe based on the organisation’s ways of working and unique culture.