Workspace Design Show Amsterdam

#WorkplaceOpinion Pauline Roussel Says “Design For The Extremes”

In advance of the Workspace Design Talks, the show team conducted a series of content-focused spotlight sessions with conference speakers. As a result, #WorkplaceOpinion was created, featuring brief blog posts with creative insights on workplace design from the experts. Check out what Pauline Roussel, Co-Author of Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces, had to say about workplace transformation and design.

How do you see workplace transformation evolving in 2023?

We are living very interesting times when it comes to workplace transformation. Where prior to the pandemic everyone was expected to go to the workplace, without really questioning it, today things look quite different and employees have more freedom to decided how and when they want to “consume” the workplace. 

This pushes companies to rethink their workplace design, in order to build workplaces that are more experience-driven, inclusive and beyond everything, that answer the new reason why employees go to their company’s office these days: meet their colleagues, do some collaborative work as well as their own. 

I’d then expect workplaces to follow the principles of activity-based working environments, with different types of rooms that will answer the different types of usages employees have. 

How are companies using workplace design to attract and retain talent?

Workplace design is becoming a key topic for talent attraction and retention. As previously mentioned, employees have now more freedom to decide where they want work from, depending on the type of work they are doing. If companies want to bring their employees back to work, they need to create attractive environments where people feel comfortable and excited to go to. That means: 

  • Focus on experiences by bringing more content in the workplace, in the shape of events of various kinds: from wellness to content-driven.
  • Offering variety in the type of furniture people can use (from ergonomic chairs to standing desks)
  • Bring more “co” into the workplace, by taking inspiration from the coworking industry (which I am heavily involved in) and hiring community managers to bring a new dynamic to the workplace, that’s more human-driven. 

What lessons do you think workplaces can learn from hospitality and residential design?

  1. Create experiences: A strong element in the hospitality (and coworking) industry. Make each and every of your employee feel like going to work is an experience in itself, one that’s aligned with their personal interests and goals. Find the right set of technology and furniture that meet the experiences you wish to create. As the saying goes “the devil is in the details” and this is becoming more and more true in workplace experiences. Your purpose should be to be one of the most memorable workplace experiences your employees will ever have in their work-life time, one they are happy and looking forward to return to. 
  2. Give your workplace a soul: Something very much aligned with residential design. Create environments that feel warm and with a personality that reflects what your company really believes in and stands for. Use furniture that are coming from both worlds (workplace and residential) so each and every of your employees can find various nooks and experiences within your office that will adapt and answer to their different routines. 

How do you see flexibility being implemented in offices to maximise the use of real estate and improve the employee experience?

Flexibility is becoming the keyword in our worklife. We want to have the flexibility to choose where we want to work from everyday, be it from home, from a coworking space or from our company’s office. But beyond that, we want the workplace to become more flexible in its design, easily adaptable to our daily activities, which influences directly office furniture as we see more and more of them being on rolls and lightweight to fit into our new work realites. 

How can technology be included as part of the workplace design to facilitate an enjoyable experience in the office?

Technology is key to workplace design as it comes as a enhancer, facilitator to more curated experiences for each and every employee. Beyond that, good use of technology also means collection of datas you can use as a workplace designer to constantly improve and adjust the overall design and experience you want to offer, and make it very tailor to your employees. Without using data and technology, it will more and more feel like “approximative experiences”. 

  • Including technology in your workplace design can for instance means: 
  • Using access control systems to understand who comes to work and when. 
  • Use workplace management softwares to get more out of your building, as well as provides tools for your employees to easily navigate around their workplace while also being able to “consume” what they want from it (meeting rooms, pods, booking a desk, etc.) 
  • Educate yourself to the new rising technologies that allow teams to bond in new ways: from the metaverse to interactive screens or visual art, we live in exciting times when it comes to bridging our virtual world with the real one, which means plenty more opportunities to design unique experiences. 

What measures should designers and employers be taking to promote employee wellbeing?

Provide variety.
Variety of rooms, variety of spaces, but also variety of office furniture. Each and every of your employee is different and has different preferences, but also a different body. Make sure to have options so everyone can build their own work setup.

Offer ways for your employees to disconnect with work and reconnect with themselves.
Whether it’s through programming (access to health care professionals, wellness classes, good food) or through the interior design by for instance having nap rooms or meditation rooms where they can recharge when they need it.

How can we design our workplaces to support neurodiversity?

“Design for the extremes” is, I believe, a very important concept to look at in the close and near future at work as it’s very much centered around designing workplace taking into account people who are on the spectrum. Here again, it comes down to variety. Provide different rooms with different lighting options, different sizes, different spaces (enclosed, semi-open, fully-open). Study colors, smells, noise and their meaning in the context of neurodiverse employees.

Understand that different environments trigger different reactions and feelings for employees and work on that variety to make sure that your workplace is inclusive.

Article written by Pauline Roussel, Co-Author of Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces