Your office isn’t just a home for your brand and business, but a home away from home for those who work there. It’s important not to forget who your office needs to be designed for your employees.

Lucy Kirkup

Business Development Manager

18th Jan 2021

After all, people are your company’s biggest asset, so it’s important to make sure your office design supports them in every way possible.

How do I design my office for people?

When designing your office for people, it's important to consider the needs of your staff and how your office can support these needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was established in the 1950s as a psychological hierarchy for personal development and fulfilment, however it is still regularly referenced and taught today. We also believe it’s as appropriate as ever when applied to a workplace dynamic. While high-performing organisations would tend to increase their focus towards the top of the pyramid, it is important not to skip investing in the foundations of shelter and safety; otherwise known as our physiological and psychological needs. These are the basics that must be satisfied in order for us to achieve our goals.

This is an ideal structure to adapt to the needs of the modern-day workforce. What we term The Hierarchy of Office Needs can be split into key areas; Technological, Physiological and Psychological needs, which when met, allow us to perform at our peak.

Maslow hierachy of needs in office design

Technological needs

In the modern office, technology underpins everything. From how we work with each other, to how we collaborate and as we have seen throughout 2020, how we interact with one another. That’s why WiFi and technology have so often been added as a basement to Maslow’s near-80-year-old pyramid. After all, how quickly does conversation in the office heat up when the WiFi or Outlook goes down?

Your workplace should implement human-focussed technology that allows your people to work better together in the office. This means that regardless of where you decide to have a meeting or collaborate with your colleagues, you always have the same reliable technology available. Be it a good quality video conference facility, interactive screens or just readily available and easily connectable AV.

Even smart climate control can help by regulating your building’s air conditioning; optimising the temperature for the current season and level occupancy. This not only creates a nicer environment for your employees but can help minimise your environmental impact through reducing ongoing energy consumption.

Anomaly technology in office design
human focussed technology in workspace design
Natural light in meeting room design

Physiological needs

The next tier in satisfying our human needs is addressing our physiological needs. This relates to the physical space your people are working in, so this is where the value of your fit out can really shine. It’s all about creating the right space to provide the basis for your people to further both themselves and the success of your company.

Great workplaces ensure their employees leave feeling better than when they arrive, which is why employee wellbeing and destination workplaces have been such hot topics in recent years. These workplaces ensure they provide everything that their employees could need throughout their working day, allowing them to focus on those higher tiers in Maslow’s pyramid. This is also where you’ll also begin to see a positive return in people performance.

Biophilia and wellbeing

Biophilia is an increasingly important design consideration that has become mainstream in recent years. It’s all about increasing the use of natural materials and the prominence of the natural environment in your fit out. Likewise, ensuring your staff have ample access to natural light will boost their Vitamin D exposure and increase serotonin levels; that feel-good hormone.

This can be addressed through your space plan, ensuring shared areas or spaces where employees are spending the bulk of their time have the most exposure to direct sunlight. That’s why when The Body Shop wanted their office to focus on wellbeing, we ensured natural light flowed freely and natural finishes featured heavily in the design choices.

Biophilic design for workplace wellbeing

Furniture

Great office furniture plays an important role in creating a human-focussed workplace. Good furniture needs to be flexible to encourage interaction, yet also ergonomic to support people in different working situations.

From standing desks that help promote daily movement, to solo pods that provide a quiet haven away from an open plan environment, furniture can help us meet our personal physiological needs.

We worked with the team at Metapack to ensure their workplace had just the right mix of furniture for staff to work and collaborate from. We designed pockets of space throughout the fit out that promoted movement, supported interaction and most of all, were flexible enough for the teams to adapt and use how they needed.

Metapack meeting pod
Metapack office pod fit out
Metapack office fit out

Psychological needs

Humans are innately social creatures, which is why high-performing workplaces continually attract and retain the top talent through providing ample spaces for collaboration and promoting positive interaction between colleagues. This is not just the mid-tier in our Hierarchy of Office Needs, but also a proven way to boost social capital in your organisation.

Creating a sense of belonging

We want to feel part of something, which is why great workplaces create a thriving sense of belonging and community. This is can be supported by your fit out through encouraging the use communal facilities and breakout spaces. These areas not only promote movement throughout the day, but are also somewhere that your colleagues will want to spend additional time and it’s where they’ll foster deeper relationships with one another.

We took this to heart in our design for Virgin Red’s new Paddington HQ; through crafting a workplace that lives and breathes the Virgin Group’s values and culture, while also paying homage to Virgin’s international ventures. From cheeky messaging as you walk in, through to themed spaces and meeting rooms that represent everything from airlines to record labels, and even a boutique African retreat. This is one workplace that keeps their product front and centre.

Virgin meeting room design
Virgin giraffe in open plan office

Top of the pyramid

We achieve self-actualisation when all of our base needs are met and we’re able to focus on bettering ourselves and performing professionally. From an organisation’s perspective, this is when you’ll see an increase in employee engagement, a decrease in employee turnover and a boost in social capital. Your teams will collaborate seamlessly and push the boundaries of what is possible; all thanks to your office fit out providing a space that caters for their base needs as humans.

Breakout space designed for collaboration