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3 (Commonly Overlooked) BUT KEY Components Needed When Creating Effective Future Workspaces!

Updated: Feb 9, 2023


I'm about to swear.

C H A N G E.

Yep. The dreaded C word.

As someone that creates, delivers and evaluates workspaces, 'change' is something I live and breathe every day.

I have to say, I love change.

I see change as an opportunity to improve.

To grow, evolve and do better.

But, for many, change is TERRIFYING.

I get it. I do. In fact, I hugely empathise with this.

It's fear of the unknown.

It's unpredictable, risky, uncontrollable and for some should come with a trigger warning and red flag that shouts...




I get it, I do. I used to feel the same.

This is partly why I decided to create a business that is dedicated to helping other businesses and their employees to 'embrace the change' and leading them to a place where everyone involved will reap the benefits.

By creating working environments that promote health, happiness and physiological and psychological safety, you’re not only investing in productivity and hugely improved levels of employee retention but also the quality of your overall work culture.

A large proportion of my career has been focused on helping smaller independent businesses, global banking giants and everything in-between, with designing, creating and evaluating their workspaces.

But post-pandemic has been all about helping businesses to understand what their ‘future workspaces should look like and essentially creating their future blueprints.

Future workspaces encourage and invite employees to want to return to the workplace. They will feel healthier, happier and more productive when they are there.

You can expect to see significant reductions in energy and running costs, better support those with neurodiversity and provide opportunities for empowerment, independence and autonomy.

These future workspaces will support our new ways of working.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, in theory...

But as we know, people are terrified of the unknown.

They often stick to what they know and are familiar with.

And as if that wasn't enough of a hurdle for any business to jump through, it's not even like they know what it is they’re changing to!

If you're one of the few million that have googled ‘what should a future workspace should look like?’ then you'll already know there are thousands upon thousands of threads that give a million and one suggestions, theories, ideas, scenarios and guesses.

Your current workspace might be underutilised, employees and colleagues seem de-motivated, perhaps performance and productivity aren't where they should or could be, (or was??)

Or perhaps you've been tasked with refreshing the workspace with the objective of creating an inviting and inspiring workspace that your colleagues will want to come back to.

With this in mind, your objective is likely to be creating a workspace that promotes social interaction, collaboration and relationship building. Somewhere that your colleagues are proud and excited to come to. An environment that provides a greater emphasis on technology and space that encourages face-to-face interaction as the future of work evolves and a return on your investment.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that when businesses begin to create their brief, this is a stage way too easy to over-complicate. (Another blog coming on ‘how to simplify an effective future workspace brief’.)

Everyone has a different idea, opinion and theory.

It's no bloody wonder so many businesses are taking their sweet time deciding what exactly they plan to do to future proof, adapt and enhance their physical workspaces.

Having carried out extensive evaluations and studies on our future workspaces, we might not be able to see into the future, but what we do know is that there are 3 simple components that if every business implements within their workspaces, here are some of the outcomes you can expect to see:

  • A safer, happier, healthier more inclusive workspace;

  • Improvements to your employees’ mental and physical health;

  • Significant improvements to productivity levels and overall performance (of up to 22%)

  • Increasing retention, attendance and employee loyalty

  • A significant reduction to current levels of sickness and employee absenteeism.

With this in mind, composing the right brief is crucial.

You only want to do this once and we want this to work, right?

With this in mind, below I have outlined the three commonly overlooked key components that can be easily implemented within your current workspace and if applied correctly, will provide significant improvements across your business and for the employees within it.

Remember, for every £1 spent on employee mental health employers can expect to see a return of £5.

At least 17% of your employees are neurodivergent.

This also means at least 17% of your customers are too.

If you don't know what neurodiversity is, I would recommend that you familiarise yourself with this term ASAP.

Neurodiversity has become an increasingly popular discussion point for many businesses recently and is a term that relates to the differences in the way we think, process, learn and behave.

As someone recently diagnosed with ADHD, the challenges I have faced throughout my career have highlighted the many benefits available to businesses IF the right support is put in place to better support this 17% of your workforce.

ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, autism, Tourette's.

These are some of the more commonly known and talked about forms of neurodiversity.

Something I didn't know until I was diagnosed a few years ago is that if properly supported, neurodivergent employees can hugely benefit a business - rather than sadly being seen often as a hindrance.

Or worse still, not even considered.

Why wouldn't a business want to benefit from different schools of thought and problem-solving?

A report produced by JP Morgan Chase in 2021 found that neurodivergent employees in certain roles (in this case technology) could be up to 140% more productive than those without.

Last year a large tech firm was struggling to improve efficiencies in their business and they engaged a change consultant.

As a result they started job diversifying and identified a group of employees with autism.

The newly allocated team was asked to work on a particular programming project which had been taking the original team almost 3 weeks to complete. Once this new team was allocated the project, it was completed in a matter of hours.

More frequently employers overlook the needs or capabilities of this group and in my opinion - are missing out.

With this in mind, what are we doing in our working environments to support this often untapped talent?

Why do we continue to squash a square peg into a round hole?

It's harmful to the individual and the business and doesn't do anyone any good.

There are SO many things you can very easily apply, adapt or introduce to a workspace to support those with neurodiversity and I can promise you, the results are significant.

Some common challenges that exist with neurodivergent talent is that they could be more easily distracted or find monotonous tasks more challenging, for example.

Perhaps they struggle when the workspace doesn't provide a sense of psychological safety and as a result will avoid group work or even coming into the office at all.

Or perhaps they force themselves to come in - but feel anxious or vulnerable as a result.

There are some really simple things you can do to a workspace that will hugely support those with neurodiversity and make a huge difference in how they feel and perform when at work.

You can start by simply zoning your workspace and applying clear boundaries to the different areas you plan to provide.

Areas where there is a strict no phone, noise or screen policy, for example.

Often I find employers are keen to create spaces that promote creativity and collaboration but I find that areas for restoration and retreat are overlooked and underrated.

Did you know, noise pollution in the workplace impacts the concentration and productivity for 69% of us?

A study in California found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 secs for us to get back on track once we've been disrupted!

You may find that investing in some kind of sound masking could be a good solution.

Particularly if you have an especially noisy workspace. If you have a smaller budget or space - there are various alternative acoustic solutions that are that you could use instead.

Acoustic booths, screens, panels or desk mounts for example.

It’s important to remember, we all have different levels of sensory thresholds and stimuli depending on our mood and this differs from day to day.

Therefore it’s important that our workspace provides the opportunity for us to have the choice on where and how we work best, ultimately supporting us physically and mentally.

By 'zoning' we are able to create spaces and furniture solutions that support the five primary styles of working.

This is step one towards creating a fully inclusive and productive workspace and community.

Our ways of working are evolving.

So it's important that are workspaces are to.

To ensure that our future workspaces are sustainable and grow and evolve with our employees and business, what are we doing to introduce to our workspaces that provide plenty of opportunity for growth, flexibility, independence and employee empowerment?

7 in 10 employees view empowerment as an important element of engagement and with 85% of employees reporting not being engaged at work, this could be seen as a priority, right?

We've been introducing, assessing and evaluating hackspaces and the behaviours displayed within these spaces post pandemic and have been able to provide invaluable insights for our clients as to what their future workspaces will look like.

Hackspaces are flexible, adaptable and dedicated areas or smaller working environments that provide your employees with the choice as to where and how they wish to work and what tools and environment will best support them to carry out their tasks to the best of their abilities.

They don't need to be costly or complicated.

Two of our basic human needs are are creativity and freedom.

So let's give our employees this!

If you're creating a hackspace that is designed to support creative and collaborative style working, this would have brighter, vibrant colours, patterns, imagery, varied moveable furnishings and a choice of technology, for example.

A hackspace designed to support concentration, solo style working or retreat and restoration, should have calmer colours, patterns and textures with the introduction of direct and indirect nature. Control noise pollution and ensure there will be minimal distractions by having sound reduction applications and clearly indicate either limited or no tech and phone areas.

When fostered, workplace independence promotes confidence, builds self-esteem and provides self-motivation.

Workplace independence is more than just being able to complete a task without supervision. It's about empowering self-determination and providing opportunity for an employee to apply individuality and encouraging them to make decisions with measured risks.

It's great to have structure but it always feels better to be able to make a choice in the way in which we carry out a task instead of being told how to do it, doesn't it?

By providing happier and healthier workplaces that provide opportunities for employee independence and empowerment you can expect to see improved productivity levels of 22% and profitability and 41% lower absenteeism rates, for example.

Not to mention by promoting and providing plenty of opportunities for employee independence through the physical working environment through the introduction of these hackspaces, we can use this as an opportunity to study and analyse the results and learn from our employees.

How do they feel they work at their best?

What tools, tech, furniture and working environments support their highest levels of productivity?

I recently wrote a blog for the Guardian on how to create your own ‘hackspaces’ and the benefits of these.

If you think you'd find this helpful, check out our website

#Biophilic Design.

Say what now???

Biophilic design is a scientifically proven concept that is fast becoming the future of how we create workspaces. It is considered by many as the missing link in sustainable design.

Biophilic design is used in the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature and space and place conditions.

Components such as colours, textures, planting, materials, furnishings, air flow, scenery, lighting, ventilation, temperature, phycological safety and noise are a few examples of the many factors that are assessed through the introduction of Biophilic design. These components ALL have a direct impact on our productivity, physical and mental health and overall wellbeing.

These components often unknowingly affect our mental health and anxiety levels through the increase in our blood pressure levels, heart rate and muscle tension, for example.

When implementing Biophilic design to workspaces, you can expect to see:

  • 13% increase in workplace wellbeing

  • 15% increase in productivity

  • 22% reduction in the use of medication in healthcare environments

  • 25% increase learning levels in educational environments

  • Significant reductions in symptoms for those with ADHD

A large contact centre in the Japan recently undertook a study on their call centre staff and their levels of productivity in relation with their physical working environment.

They introduced Biophilic design to a particular area in the building and then assessed the productivity statistics - the results were mind-blowing.

Employees who were exposed to these new spaces were now handling calls 6-7% faster…

The contact centre replicated this design process throughout the entire building and in less than three months their annual productivity savings tripled.

Biophilic design demonstrates an immediate physiological response upon exposure with a particularly strong impact on reducing occupants’ stress and anxiety levels and it’s worth noting that effects on our physiological response are immediate after biophilic exposure.

You might even want to experiment with a smaller 'test space' to carry out observations and evaluations on so that you can compare your existing workspaces with a space that is created using the concept of Biophilic design.

A very cost effective exercise that will highlight your return on investment very quickly. See below an example of a test space carried out by our interior architectural design associates.

This scientifically proven concept helps to create a higher quality of natural spaces that promote and display nature, reduce your businesses environmental impact and waste, preserve and conserve precious natural materials, ultimately creating a happier and healthier working environment for everyone.

For more on Biophilic design, check out my Linkedin videos.

And so there you have it.

Three simple, commonly overlooked and incredibly valuable components that if introduced correctly, will create a more productive and inviting workspace that promotes inclusivity, autonomy, independence, autonomy.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post and I hope you found it insightful!

For more tips and advice on creating, developing and evaluating future workspaces, check out my Linkedin page and hit ‘follow’.

I’d love to hear about your experiences on creating and developing workspaces, please feel free to leave comments or any questions below.

Finally, if you’d like to know more on creating future workspaces, smaller test spaces introducing Biophilic design or are simply looking at new ways to enhance, develop or create your existing working environments, feel free to get in touch via our ‘contact us’ page or click the link below.

Kirsty Hayward

Workplace Consultant and Founder of Kirsty Hayward Workplace Wellbeing Consultancy

Credits: Cover photo of Interface showroom, designed by Oliver Heath Design - Kirsty Hayward Workplace Well-being interior design associates.

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