(Written by Thomas Parker)
“You don’t design for corporations, they just happen to be paying for it, you design for individuals.” – Mark Catchlove
Calling upon experts in all aspects of the workplace arena, the Knowledge Exchange seeks to share information, insight and best practice between its partners and a wider external audience through events and reports. Their Manchester based Talent Centred Workplace event, hosted by the global water and natural resources firm MWH, explored the workplace through a people focused lens (or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say a person focused lens), looking at how and why the office space has evolved.
The day kicked off with a coffee in the MWH central ‘hub,’ a space designed to draw in staff from any and all departments and invite them to sit together in a comfortable, communal space – and that is exactly what we did. From the moment I arrived I was welcomed by people I had never met and was warmly invited to join in with their discussion.
After I had a chance to get to know a few people in a relaxed, none corporate environment, Ian Ellison, senior lecturer and course leader in Facilities Management at Sheffield Hallam University, introduced the day’s proceedings.
Mark Catchlove, director at Insight Group EMEA (Herman Miller), led the first session and started by having us introduce ourselves by our hobbies (triathlete, world cinema enthusiast and baker to name a few) and not our job titles. Catchlove explored six fundamental human needs (purpose, belonging, autonomy, achievement, status, and security) in relation to workplace and we worked in groups to discuss organisations could do to help staff achieve them.
TSK workplace consultant Craig Murray and design director Martin Barber-Redmore took us on a whistle stop tour of the history of workplace design, from cubicles and large empty executive offices, to hive-like collectives of teams, and the ergonomic, collaboration based designs of 2016.
Finally, Barber-Redmore walked us through the new MWH office, demonstrating how brand and identity can be incorporated into the building itself, without plastering a room with logos and the company name. We also saw first-hand examples of spaces encouraging staff of a range of ages and disciplines to work together.
Two powerful key messages came out of the event: generational labels don’t really matter, the six human needs are universal; and workplace design must be focused on and built for the individual, not the collective. Only with these in mind do we created an environment that promotes collaboration, enthusiasm and efficiency, in addition to increasing staff retention and attracting the best talent.