The average person spends 2,080 hours at work every year. No matter what sector you work in, your work environment directly impacts your overall wellbeing and productivity, making office design a critical part of talent attraction. But what constitutes good office design and how does it impact employees? We spoke with Oktra, the UK’s leading office design company, to find out more.

what is good office design? 

“Good office design is creating a space that gives an organisation and the people that work in it, the tools they need to be brilliant,”

- says Oktra Creative Director, Nic Pryke. 

From increased productivity to better physical health, workplace design has the potential to promote success – or hinder it. It’s important to consider the facilities in your current or prospective workplace, and whether the space supports your professional and personal wellbeing. After all, the most important part of any workspace is the team of people within it. 

Office design is the way a workspace looks, feels and functions. It’s how the space is built, whether it’s energy efficient or sustainable, how the space is branded or decorated, what kind of work areas are included in the floor plan, which amenities are incorporated and much, much more. But what makes office design good is one, simple thing: whether that space provides all of the resources its occupants need to achieve professional success and promote their wellbeing. 

“Wellbeing is increasingly important – candidates care about this a lot, especially when linked to work/life balance and flexibility,” says our Head of Architecture & Design, Tom Hanson.

Oktra’s 2019 Workplace Report suggests that 72% of people would be more committed or happier at work if their workplace was inspiring, proving that the power of office design is something many employers have yet to harness.  


how does office design impact employees? 

Effective office design drives and supports occupants’ success and wellbeing. The space you work in plays a huge part in how well you’re able to do your job. For example, biophilic design – the inclusion of natural materials and elements in the built environment due to the human need to connect with nature – can boost productivity, minimise stress and even support mental health. “It should give you something you can’t get somewhere else,” says Pryke. “Your office should be better than the café and better than your home as a place to work.”

Workplaces should include a variety of spaces in order to accommodate different working styles, allowing all employees to work in a way that best suits them. If you’re data or detail-oriented, you may find that you need private spaces to concentrate on more intricate tasks. If you prefer working with many other people (emotion or idea-oriented), you’re likely to prefer agile spaces with shared desks or tables. This year, Oktra found that 22% of employees do not believe they have the space they need to work productively.  

It’s important that you have access to different types of spaces, as different people excel in different environments; the Workplace Report found that 43% of employees would prefer an allocated workstation in an open plan workspace, while 34% of employees would prefer a private workspace, and 8% of employees would prefer a non-allocated workstation in an open-plan workspace. The kind of space you need also varies based on profession. The same study found that 51% of respondents in the legal industry, and 46% in real estate, prefer working in a private space.

The design of your workplace will also impact company culture. “Everyone has an emotional contract as well as a legal contract with the people they work for,” explains Pryke. “The physical space, the office, is part of connecting with that organisation – buying into it, believing in it and connecting to it. If it’s designed right, the space will help create energy.” 


how office design attracts (and retains) talent 

Candidates are drawn to well-designed offices whether they realise it or not, making design an important tool for talent attraction. Over 80% of people agree that visitors and clients judge a business based on its workspace, and 85% of Millennials are more inclined to desire positions at companies with well-designed workplaces. 

When discussing office design’s role in talent attraction, Pryke is quick to bring up 1970’s American economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman famously claimed that “the only purpose of a business was to make money for the shareholders – to pay dividends. For Millennials, that’s not enough,” says Pryke. “They want businesses to have a social conscious, they want the organisation they work for to be worried about the planet: they want it to connect with the things they care about, their values. And they want it to look after them.”

Large tech companies like Facebook and Google have long been leading examples of workplaces designed to attract – but it’s not just for the Millennials: 79% of respondents, regardless of age, say that well-designed office environments would make them more likely to accept a position. In fact, poor workplace design can actively turn talent away, with job offers getting turned down based on overcrowding, tired look and feel, out-dated technology and lack of natural light. 

In increasingly competitive battles for talent, good design can make a difference. “It is a very competitive market out there,” says Hanson. “The slightest difference can make one firm stand out against another.” 

But more than generating an initial attraction, good workplace design retains talent by enabling the success of its occupants, and ultimately making that success sustainable. Good design is a visual commitment to wellbeing in the workplace, and an investment in the workforce that yields massive returns.