Human beings are complex and our work life is complex; our emotions relating to work, recognition, reward and control are complex; and so too is the culture that binds us together.
We experience these complexities personally, but as workplace professionals there has been a tendency to seek borrowed solutions from other industry sectors when we design workplaces, paying scant attention to the human psyche and worker experience. I believe that workplaces – physical places with fluid communities drawn together to achieve business aims – need to mirror these complexities in every single space created. They should enhance every interaction and support optimal performance for every work outcome.
I am passionate about design and the potential of creative thinking. When I studied spatial design in the late 1980s, design was a new and exciting way of solving problems and imagining the world as it should be. With the socio-economic backdrop of that time you can understand why this was such a compelling possibility. Workplace design has rarely fulfilled its potential, despite the many lives it can affect – not because workplaces or buildings are poor, but because the complexity of human need and experience has often been overlooked. Could you imagine if we applied conventional workplace thinking to the living space in our homes? Begin with industry-validated assumptions of 8-10m2 per person, with fresh air to match. Avoid independent specialist evidence informing the design process of the life activities and social dynamics of the family. Apply a per m2 cost to the interior with a nod to the environment, biophilia and wellbeing. Rely on furniture to add the magic and use stock images to express the values of the inhabitants. Sink all the money on day one and only consider change when the lease ends. I don’t know anybody who lives like this, so why would this be a credible approach to office design?
Looking forward, there has never been a better time to be involved in our field. Informed clients clearly understand the potential of their people working together, and in the relationships between business, employee and colleague. Great care is also shown in the health and performance of their people, all directed at identified client outcomes with optimal organisational performance. Leesman has provided us with a critical external reference point that underpins our consultancy and enquiry. The evidence base and early engagement with a client and their employees provides a golden thread from design to solution and, ultimately, the relationship between the individual and their workplace. This is exciting, because for the first time, evidence and engagement liberate creative thinking and align the designer and the client. Design is no longer a WOW moment in time, it is creativity at work every day.
As I write, TSK’s project for investment specialist AJ Bell has received a Leesman+ accreditation. The key differentiator for this project is how they approached the opportunity of workplace, identifying employee engagement as the primary objective for their office relocation. This project had the human experience at its heart, making the design simple, relevant and emotionally engaging. A powerful lesson that all great workplaces are fundamentally human.
Craig Murray | TSK Consultancy and Design Director
With over 28 years’ experience working with leading organisations on the link between customer outcomes, people and workplace, Craig leads the consultancy and design teams at TSK, helping them use the opportunities presented by a relocation or refurbishment to create workplaces that enhance businesses by supporting people.