Workspace design: Designing a human-centred workplace

Trifle* and Workstories co-hosted a panel event entitled Designing a Human-Centric Workspace during Clerkenwell Design Week. When it comes to workspace design, we know that one size does not fit all, so we explored how spaces can – and should – be designed to suit the complexity and diversity of businesses and their people. Here are some of the key insights from Trifle* []; founder and creative director Emma Morley; workplace strategist, founder of Shape Work Life [] and author of I Wish I Worked There and Spaces for Innovation, Kursty Groves; David McKay, culture and environment lead at Innocent Drinks []; and Andrea Pattico and Susan Stanley – chief people officer and head of space respectively at MVF Global [].


‘The right environments can be healing, and time spent in nature – even if it’s just a moment staring out of a window or even looking at artworks or photography depicting nature – enables us to focus and concentrate better.’ –– Kursty Groves, Shape Work Life.



‘Organisations get stuck and workspace design becomes more about numbers than people – then you get genuine sickness, stress and imbalance.’ –– Emma Morley, Trifle*.


‘We are providing a variety of spaces, so instead of just open-plan desking and cafes, we are now providing quiet zones for deep work and ‘scrum spaces’ for problem-solving, so we’re supporting different types of work and different types of people.’ –– Susan Stanley, MVF.


‘We have to understand what people need to do their best work and how their space needs to function to support that, before we can even start to think about how to make it look pretty.’ –– Emma Morley, Trifle*.


‘People are asking for quiet spaces and one-to-one spaces – and that’s not just from introverts, that’s from everyone. Second to that is a desire for flexible working, so we need to enable that, while making sure Fruit Towers is still the hub our people want to come back to.’ –– David McKay, Innocent Drinks.



‘We’re putting in a library for deep work; a ‘green room’ full of plants, a zen space, a corner with just one chair and a light, smaller meeting rooms and private spaces that can be booked out as prayer rooms or for new mums to express milk – and all of that came from really listening to our people.’ –– Andrea Pattico, MVF


‘My ‘elevate model’ – or 6Es of workspace design – elevates the conversation from floorplans, beyond desks and up into hearts and minds: Establish the vision and objectives; analyse the Efficiencies and free up budget from the inefficiencies; look at Effectiveness – how people actually work, what they really need; then work on Expression – what are the values you want the space to express; Empower people by involving them in the process; and then finally Evolution – it’s going to change so think about what future employees might need.’ –– Kursty Groves, Shape Work Life.


‘Workspace design is really about curating employee experiences. I worked with one organisation that wanted their people to whistle on the way to work, and I loved that, so now I always start with that ambition.’ –– Andrea Pattico, MVF



‘It has to be genuine and authentic – if you haven’t got under the skin of the people and the brand, it’s not workspace design, it’s just decorating. When you get it right, people can sense a different atmosphere the moment they walk in, the space tells a story and people intuitively feel the values that it embodies.’ –– Emma Morley, Trifle*.


‘People want to feel connected to their local communities, so we have partnered with local business, shops, cafes, pubs, gyms and yoga studios in the area to offer MVF-ers a discount. It gets people away from their desks and out into the world and also means we’re supporting local businesses instead of bringing everything in-house.’ –– Susan Stanley, MVF.


‘Workspace design is just a tool to nurture culture. We have a large area that is used for Monday morning meetings, lunches and Friday beers – that enables us to share information, supporting transparency; it enables accidental interactions that encourage collaboration; and it builds connections and community.’ –– David McKay, Innocent Drinks.


‘I spend time with my nephews, and I draw a lot of inspiration from them when I’m thinking about the future of workspace design. If you spend time with children, they will give you clues about the future. We have got a lot to learn from them.’ –– Andrea Pattico, MVF



‘Change is the only constant, so question what really has to be fixed and what can remain flexible so it can respond to the future. Workspace design needs to be hyper-agile. It’s really exciting – we could be having a totally different conversation in two years’ time.’ –– Emma Morley, Trifle*.


Emma Smith