An uninspiring workplace can have major ramifications when it comes to staff morale, productivity and attracting new staff. All of these factors can adversely impact an organisation's overall performance and as a result, many companies are now investing in workplaces that aim to inspire.

Pino Catalano

Lead Designer

16th Jul 2016

Engaging the workforce

Last year’s Gallup State of the Global Workplace Report found that the majority of workers (51%) said they weren't engaged in their jobs, while a sizeable proportion (17.5%) said they were "actively disengaged".

In fact, less than a third of workers reported being engaged in their jobs. With statistics showing that businesses with engaged employees have much higher productivity than those that don’t, it spells bad news for businesses failing to engage their people. So how can office design influence employee engagement?

The importance of work as a meaningful activity in our lives is higher on the agenda than ever before. As members of the workforce, we want to be able to add value in our roles and work for a business we believe in. Offices are often the physical manifestation of companies and can become places to embrace, reflect and communicate it's culture and core values.

It is the process of engaging with these values and buying into the culture that drives people to put in the effort and hard work that will ultimately lead to higher individual and company performance. If you look at a business like Nuffield Health, their office design included features like a smoothie bar, gym, and flexible breakout areas.

The design reflected and emphasised the company’s healthy ethos and commitment to wellbeing in a way their people could engage with. People matter when it comes to driving a successful business forward, and workplaces matter in motivating successful people.


Steve Jobs famously altered the design of Apple HQ to ensure that the toilets and shared spaces were at the centre of the open plan. He wanted to force chance encounters and encourage serendipity. Merissa Meyers, CEO of Yahoo! famously banned home working in 2013 as she saw the advantages of having teams together in the same building. Inspiring workplaces become a destination rather than a chore. People want to be there, to be part of the buzz, to feed off the energy from their workplace.

Inspiring offices today are designed to encourage this organic collaboration, to maximise that bump factor and those water cooler moments that can speed up communication or lead to a eureka! moment. With a less than inspiring office, people will just work from home, or stay pinned to their desk, limiting group interactions, collaboration and potentially innovation.

The cost of an uninspiring workplace is probably too complex to calculate precisely, but with people making up one of the biggest cost centres for most businesses it's easy to see how a negative effect on recruitment, retention, engagement and productivity can be seriously detrimental to a business’s bottom line. This is not to say that the only way to create an inspiring work place is to spend millions or fit a Google-style slide. It might be as simple as adding some colour or artwork to the whitewashed walls, or reconfiguring the furniture to create a more dynamic or agile workspace.

Most importantly, it’s about understanding ‘what does ‘inspiring’ look like to the people in your workplace?’ Free coffee? Music playing? More communal, collaborative areas? Once you know what will inspire your people you can remove the inhibiting factors and create a workspace where people can flourish