Office design is evolving – we all know it; the impact of technology making us more mobile, the influence of different generations entering the workplace, the effect of higher real estate costs, the growing importance of workplace wellbeing.


For HR professionals, it is easy to see how great office design can support the recruitment process.

Just imagine; the perfect candidate for that hard-to-fill role walks through the door. You take them through to the executive meeting room where they deliver an outstanding interview. Then, they ask to see the office. Your heart sinks, as you have to take them through the cramped, noisy, open plan space with odours of someone’s reheated fish pie lunch wafting through from the messy kitchen. Feeling hopeful that you might still win them over on the company’s benefits package, you hear that they are interviewing at your competitor’s brand new office down the road, and you know deep down that the candidate has been lost.

A recent survey found that up to a third of candidates said that office design would unequivocally affect their decision to work somewhere. And in a market where having the best talent is seen as a major competitive advantage, it is easy to see why office design is becoming a key consideration for HR professionals and executives.

Employee engagement

Ah, the holy grail of human resource management – how do we engage our people? Increased employee engagement results in greater productivity and higher staff retention rates.

There are many strategies for boosting employee engagement and nowadays, office design is one of them. There are some basics here. Give some thought and consideration to how your office feels for the people working in it, and they will appreciate it. Do you have good coffee, do people have the space and tools they need to do their job?

But great office design can go further than that. It can be used to reflect the company ethos, to share their values, to communicate why they exist. The office is no longer just a place where people go to do work – we all know they can just as well go to the local coffee shop. A workplace designed to share values and meaning can go a long way in engaging your people.

Ask people what they want out of their working environment – not everyone wants a Google slide. Do people need more breakout areas, a café, quiet zones? If you are designing a new office, a great way to boost employee engagement is to engage with people throughout the journey and make people feel part of it.


How do we help our people perform at their best? HR departments have been working on this quandary for decades – how do we improve communication, creativity, efficiency, productivity, collaboration and other positive behaviours linked to performance. The list is endless. Training and development initiatives have long been seen as the foundation for improving performance, but more and more research is now proving how important office design can be affecting all of these things.

Steve Jobs famously put office design at the top of his agenda as a way to improve collaboration, communication and sparking creativity. His belief was that open offices foster serendipitous encounters that result in greater collaboration and the spark of new ideas - the bedrock of successful businesses. So now when we are designing offices, and deciding where the toilets or printers should be placed – it’s not just a question for facilities management. HR should be part of the debate to identify what departments should be placed where and who needs to collaborate with whom.

Likewise greater productivity is seen as a key area for performance improvement and an area where office design is shown to have a tangible impact. Recent research shows that many office design features can improve productivity - from plants and natural light, to activity-based working environments. It is widely accepted that if you give your people the tools and environment to make their own decisions about where and when they work, they will ultimately be more productive.

Culture development

A favourite debate in the world of office design and workplace consultancy – does culture fuel design or does design generate culture? Either way, it is undeniable that the two are inextricably linked. Let’s suppose that we wanted to develop a culture of collaboration.

Office design would be a great way to achieve this – a mixture of informal and formal meetings spaces, writable walls, communal café or eating areas, carefully placed toilets, tea points and printers to encourage people to walk from A to B and interact with each other. And if culture development is an HR initiative then office design should most definitely play a role in this.

Workplace wellbeing

Wellbeing has gone from being a ‘buzzword’ to something that is now firmly on the workplace agenda. Organisational responses to this now go way beyond having free fruit and subsidised yoga classes (though we wouldn’t complain at either!) Well designed offices can boost employee wellbeing – standing meeting spaces and desks, natural light and plants, reasons to walk from A to B. Perhaps most importantly is the idea that by providing choice for people to work at a time and place that suits them, you can help alleviate workplace stresses and make people feel more in control of their work.

Office design is essentially about people. How can we best plan our space and our surroundings to get the best out of our people? It isn’t just about each square foot and where the reception desk goes. Those things are important but now it’s from the perspective of facilitating collaboration, engagement and supporting wellbeing – elements that are firmly on the HR agenda.

Facilities management is still vitally important, but getting the best out of our people is now a crucial consideration in the best office designs, which is why office design is as much about human resources as it is about facilities management.