How to Design High-Performance Workplaces: 4 Key Pillars
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  • 4 Pillars for Designing a High-Performance Workplace

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Patrick Isitt
Content Manager
Content specialist in office design and build.
  • Over the last few years, many businesses have taken huge strides to move away from ‘pandemic recovery’ mode and towards new real estate strategies that prioritise how the office can enable the business to achieve its goals. With a greater focus on adaptability and flexibility, the office now needs to work harder than ever before in order to facilitate an engaged workforce capable of driving business success—but creating a high-performance environment is easier said than done.

    A high-performance workplace is not just about the physical space, but about creating an environment that resonates with the employees’ sense of purpose, aligns with the company’s core values and fosters employee engagement and connection among colleagues. With the majority of employees globally (59%) ‘quiet quitting’, creating an office that engages teams has never been more important.

  • From establishing a context-driven design brief to configuring space for optimal collaboration and productivity, there are certain foundations that, when integrated with the right workplace design, will play a crucial role in shaping environments that not only meet the current needs of employees but are also agile enough to adapt to future changes.

    As the future of work continues to evolve, so too must our workplaces, adapting to new user needs and demographic shifts through experimentation and a willingness to change. Whether you’re refurbishing or relocating, these insights will guide you toward fostering a high-performance culture within your business.

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  • The High-Performance Workplace Guide

    With user needs continuing to evolve alongside the future of work, creating an environment that drives high performance has become a huge challenge for businesses.

    Download this guide for 8 tips to designing a high-performance workplace.

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  • What is a high-performance workplace?

    Different people have different views about what a ‘high-performance workplace’ means. Some believe it’s about talent attraction and retention, others think of it in terms of value creation and financial return.

    We believe that high-performance workplaces emerge at the intersection of people, technology, and innovative design. They are characterised by involvement that ensure employees feel connected to their workplace, and cater to a diverse spectrum of work styles to create environments that not only meet today’s demands but are adaptable to tomorrow’s challenges.

  • The key pillars of a high-performance workplace

    Creating a high-performance workplace goes beyond the physical environment—it requires a culture of involvement where every employee plays a critical role in shaping their future workplace. A workplace co-designed with its users encourages a deeper connection to the space, fostering a culture of pride, ownership, and connection, and this involvement is crucial for creating spaces that truly reflect and support the ways people work best.

    These pillars aren’t intended as specific design tips, but instead, as foundations on which to build and an approach to thinking about how the office should be enabling high performance for your teams.

  • 1. The Context

    To enable high performance in the workplace, office design needs to be grounded in context, and context is best understood and established via a detailed design brief. This part of the process is vital, because without a proper brief an office may end up looking great aesthetically, but be wholly unsuited to the needs and objectives of a business and its employees.

    First and foremost, a design brief has to address the key challenges or problems the business is trying to resolve. And this is achieved by asking the right questions at the outset. Such questions might include:

    • What are the key drivers for this office move/redesign?
    • Are there any problems with your current space? If so, what?
    • What are the current barriers to productivity?
    • How do you want employees to benefit from your new workspace?
    • How do your teams tend to use available office space?
    • Are you planning any major changes in terms of recruitment or ways of working?

    By defining the contextual drivers for a project, design teams can devise informed interventions that will help to maximise workplace performance and productivity. They can also establish clarity of direction and alignment with a client’s vision and goals. Above all, a rigorous briefing process enables designers to identify critical workplace requirements. For example, occupancy numbers, workstation volume and type (fixed, flexible), storage needs and planned use of space.

  • A good design brief should also enable you to build for adaption, accounting for future plans as well as present needs. Does the business plan to shift or scale its operations in the mid-to-long term? Are there plans to transform internal processes? And how might spatial elements need to flex to accommodate these changes?

    A brief can identify where design can drive engagement with a company’s brand, such as identity, vision and values being reflected in the work environment. A sustainable organisation, for example, might want to articulate its eco-credentials through décor and materiality, as well as strict workplace policies and practices. These visible manifestations of brand and values can help to engage and motivate employees, driving up workplace performance.

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  • 2. The Configuration

    A high-performance office environment requires a clear workplace strategy, with spatial configuration at its core. Such strategies are built around key considerations, such as how often employees are on site, whether working practices are fixed, flexible or hybrid, and what the spectrum of work modes looks like.

    The rise of hybrid and flexible working has changed how people interact with the office, to the point where JLL predict that “due to changes in workplace management and use, by 2030, 30% of all office space will be flexible.” Large numbers of companies are restructuring large floorplates to optimise space and reduce rental costs, leading to wide-scale spatial reconfigurations.

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  • In this new work landscape, businesses need to assess how their current space is being used and address any friction that may exist. In particular, they need to consider how adjacencies have been mapped out and how well internal spaces have been defined:

    • Are teapoints/social areas too close to breakout meeting spaces, resulting in disruption and noise?
    • Are fixed workstations and designated team areas encouraging siloes and nesting, impacting workplace cohesion?
    • Are employees able to access amenities, tools and resources?

    High-performance businesses assess the different modes and styles of work that take place across the business and develop design strategies around that. Configuration is pivotal to this, ensuring both ends of the spectrum (be it deep focus or collaborative problem-solving) are supported with the right environment.

  • 3. The Programme of Events

    A company’s programme of events can be critical to productivity. Those events that happen on a regular basis, such as lunch-and-learns, town halls, brainstorms or end-of-week wrap-ups, are essential for keeping employees informed and equipped to perform.

    But the surrounding workspace needs to be right. Whether it’s dedicated and additional space, or areas that enable dual use, businesses need to consider how interior design can support their internal events programme. Increasingly, businesses are opting for informal overflow spaces that can support company-wide events, or centralised kitchen or coffee areas that double up as meeting venues. Internal spaces can also flex through the use of sliding partitions, with rooms being expanded for large events, or contracted for more intimate engagements.

    Moorhouse’s London office is a great example of how this pillar can be supported by innovative workplace design. Moorhouse’s core agile space, which is utilised by the whole business during monthly townhalls and social activities, was designed to facilitate six different configurations. The standard layout features casual seating areas near the teapoint, with additional configurations enabled through the modularity of the furniture used. ‘Dine’ is a setting for hosted gatherings, ‘Move’ transforms the area into a vast open space for physical activities, and ‘Craft’ prioritises concentrated tasks.

  • 4. The Education Piece

    An office is only as effective as its users, and the education piece is a critical yet often overlooked aspect of the high-performance workplace. This doesn’t just mean ‘onboarding’ employees in a new space or with a new design, but continuously updating and reinforcing knowledge about the workspace’s design features, etiquette, and evolving practices. Well-informed employees are much more likely to utilise the space efficiently, fostering a culture of productivity and collaboration.

    Educating employees about the design nuances, technological tools and collaborative spaces ensures that they can leverage the environment to its fullest potential. This ongoing education is crucial, especially in the context of hybrid working models, where employees may have varying levels of physical presence in the office. In practice, this could be as simple as informative materials or as detailed as regular onboarding programmes that extend beyond traditional orientation to include detailed insights into the design of the office.

  • By providing clarity on workspace etiquette, you’ll be able to reduce conflicts and ensure smoother interactions within the office. As the workplace evolves, employees can become the driving force behind the integration of new technologies and changes to the design of the space. Educating users is a workforce that not only utilises but also actively shapes the high-performance environment, aligning it with the business’s strategic goals.

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  • Iteration and evolution

    As Oktra’s Creative Director, Dominic Dugan, suggested in our high-performance workplace discussion with YouTube Creative Studio, high performance is about learning, iteration and evolution. What’s new now won’t be new in two years’ time; users and demographics are going to change, so businesses need to be comfortable with experimenting.

    Trial and error will be key to developing successful design strategies that get the very the best from employees and the work environment. These pillars of high-performance design are the foundations on which to build an environment capable of driving productivity, engagement and success.

  • The High-Performance Workplace Guide

    Discover 8 tips for designing a high-performance workplace that caters to different user needs.

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