People Power – The Importance of Consideration in Design

Tabula Rasa


When a workspace is designed first and foremost with its occupants in mind, it entails a complete shift in thinking. Why? Because until recently we have seen the places we work as just that, locations that each member of the team needs to travel to so that the company can ensure work is done and productivity happens.

Work. Space.

Notwithstanding the fact that human comfort was never top of the agenda, the way in which we used to functionally work was a formative influence on how our workspaces were necessarily designed and organised. Think top-down structures, people in separate departments, each with a desk and a visible chain of command.

It was logical for the time.

Without technologies for communication, each employee would, outside of meetings, focus on a set array of tasks that, more often than not, required a ‘heads down’ focused mentality to achieve results. It made sense to have people isolated. It was an effective way to make use of people.

Well, times changed.

People Unchained

From typewriters to word processors, then internet-connected desktop computers to web-enmeshed mobile everything, we are now indisputably equipped with the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, in real-time. And, this has irrevocably changed the way we can function together, the way we can choose to work.

When we reached the point where it wasn’t totally necessary for people to be physically in one place every day, we discovered the challenge of working mobile. While it’s easier said than done, the challenge is being embraced. 55% of Australians reported feeling more productive working from home than at the office, and this is why many employers are either experimenting with remote working strategies or openly advertising themselves as offering a ‘distributed company structure’ so as to incentivise new talent.

So, what does this mean for the emerging modern workplace?

People Enabled

Being able to work from anywhere might not mean we always want to. There is a huge case for the physical workplace because of our need to pool our knowledge to generate great ideas. It’s good to be around others on your team, hear their differing views, and challenge your own perspectives. It’s how consensus is driven and embraces more diversity in experience and approach that can make for better quality work output.
It’s very human to be at least a little social, and it’s why co-working spaces have proven so popular.

So, for businesses, it makes sense to retain a valid physical workplace, somewhere that brand identity can be hashed out and developed, where networking creates new ties and bonds colleagues into a shared sense of mission. This means it’s more important than ever to ensure that the physical design direction of the interior workspace is defined by the needs of those employees so that when they are using the space they feel inspired and effective.

This cannot mean simply designing the ‘open office’ and expecting instant teamwork. It means figuring out how a team needs to interact, but more critically how they need to individually access secluded space that enables focus. It’s a strange outcome of the ever-connected world that design now needs to concentrate on how it can help people manage that connectedness. Design needs to offer spaces that people can call their own without feeling infringed upon by others when required, yes…at the drop of a hat!

Is it asking too much? Should people simply be ushered into workspaces that show them where to sit, how to work, and what not to do? No. There is no turning back now on our persistent connectivity, so as the research shows, we must embrace the benefits in the form of a more democratised, flatter, more networked team structure.

So, what’s the first step? It means we have to design as though people actually matter, and the energy of the space is at the centre of things. A conversation with an unbiased mind is where it begins.

Photo by Aron on Unsplash – Stunning, but it still needs to be worth the commute!


The Importance of Interior Inspiration

Developing a relationship with a trusted interior designer is important, but care needs to be taken to ensure that selections are not based simply upon a glittering portfolio of project work or a specific branded style. Sure, that can be fine, but will it demonstrably reflect your team and company values? It’s easy to order a ‘cool’ design and keep up with the crowd, but why not peel off and focus simply on what resounds with your brand?

From a business ownership standpoint, if you actively encourage your teams to work flexibly, and this results in lots of distributed workforce, you’re in a position to work with a smaller space and use saved expenses to really consider how to develop the right space for your mobile teams.

Look for several key characteristics in a potential interior designer:

  • Knowledge – A solid track record. This doesn’t have to mean the ‘glittery’ stuff, rather a visible history of happy clients. Don’t pick somebody on their first day.
  • Innovation – A designer should be able to walk into an existing space, whether occupied or empty and start to mentally develop and outline ways to use that space to more improved effect. It should be a conversation informed by an understanding of the company, its mission, size, and future growth outlook. Critically, a great designer will need to spend time around your people to immerse in the culture, let it seep in, and generate informed ideas about.
  • Business Acumen – A viable understanding of what makes your particular business tick. This takes some practice, but it’s super critical that the designer can chart out what will work aesthetically for a given type of business versus another. For example, legal offices will always require a certain sheen of the ‘dependable’, and design must reflect this. Creative industry offices, for example, advertising, are more open to interpretation and can experiment with colour palettes and textures, delivering more fun into the equation.
  • Extra Touch – There’s a strategic design plan in place, but how does it develop past the branded colours, furniture layouts, and space planning to really emphasise the uniqueness of your company? A solid commercial interiors mind will have a similarly unique way to express your ID via the finishing touches. These need to be both visible over the ‘base layer’ of your general workplace design, and deft enough that they add something almost inexpressible without any resort to clutter. Think how specific furnishing textures resonate, or how an utterly distinctive piece of framed artwork will stop you in your tracks and promote instant reflection. This is the magic sauce that you’re looking for, and you will only find it by developing a quite personal relationship with a designer who is willing to equally jump into the deep end with you.

A good designer will know that no matter how flexible your team works, they will always feel good about walking back into their office.

People Do Matter

If companies really are serious about designing to optimise the productivity of their people, the very first conversation regarding design direction may need to involve those people. Have a ‘town hall’ discussion, and if possible bring in the interior design specialist to start a working relationship.

Bare your soul. Open up and really consider the possibilities. Otherwise, you’ll be falling into the trap of creating a workspace that is simply just a space for work. It needs to be more than that, it needs to optimise the time spent within its walls, and reinvest each and every team member with the energy of your company mission each time they walk back out the door.

Consider your design and give power to your people.