Lots of us have a special place where we feel our best – a favourite room of our house, a view, our favourite restaurant. And then there are other spaces that make us feel something particular; a spa where we can totally relax, a football stadium where we feel part of the team, a church where we feel our most spiritual.

When I worked from home, I absolutely had to think about how to make a space in my house where I could be productive for work, whilst also separating my work and home life as much as possible. When I was looking for a venue for my wedding, I knew exactly the kind of vibe that I wanted the place to have.

We spend so much time thinking about and feeling the benefits of the different physical spaces in our home life and yet often don’t spend any time thinking about our work space (where we spend most of our time). The work cubicles we see in movies representing an awful job, have fortunately never been a part of my life, but how can we be at our absolute best and bring our whole selves to work if our work environment won’t allow us to? 

Virgin Unite, 100% Human, The B Team

An IPSOS study commissioned by Steelcase (of 10,500 workers in 14 countries) found that employees who are highly satisfied with their places of work are also the most highly engaged. In our 100% Human at Work - New Ways of Working report, we identified that as the way we work changes dramatically, a reimagining of the office is necessary. We’ve seen 100% Human at Work network members – including Google, Airbnb and innocent – all innovating when it comes to workplace design.

The International WELL Building Institute certifies buildings which are the most advanced in helping people work, live, perform and feel their best. And so I asked the question … how do they come up with all these ingenious ideas? 

Anouk van Oordt is the Founder and Managing Director of Out of Office and Studio UMA. She and her team are convinced that the physical environment we work in has a huge impact on our behaviour, and on our ability to be productive, innovative and creative. As such, they work with companies to transform their office spaces and ways of working to reflect the behaviours and values that they stand for.

Virgin Unite, 100% Human, The B Team

UCB is a company that has committed to representing their culture through their office environment  and they’ve embarked on this journey of transformation with Anouk’s team. Working with ambassadors from across the organisation, and ensuring employee engagement all along the journey, they imagined all the activities that they might carry out at work, and identified what types of spaces would help them do these activities to the best of their capabilities. In response, they’ll be carving out different spaces to enhance transversal collaboration, knowledge sharing, learning, creativity, spontaneity and fun at work .  

As the way we work changes dramatically, a reimagining of the office is necessary.

One of the main things UCB want to achieve with their new workplace is collaborative working. To address this they created a surprise pop-up restaurant in the office atrium. Employees sit together and share a lunch and it’s become a space where people can minlge and feel free to be themselves. 

Virgin Unite, 100% Human, The B Team

Another key behaviour emphasised at UCB is innovation. As such, and at Anouk’s suggestion, they considered creating a dedicated space where employees feel their most inventive. Recognising that if they really want to innovate, they must engage with a wide cross section of their staff, they then hosted a one day hackathon to create the best ideas for the design and mindset of this new pioneering space. Mixed teams of employees, colleagues from other companies, and 16 years old students, came together to compete to create ideas for the most innovative space.

Together they identified what they needed, created mood boards, and then built prototypes – all while bonding through football and ping pong competitions. The experience of having students and employees drawing on the walls shows the commitment of UCB leadership to creating an improved workspace. The ideas produced by the hackathon resulted in a design that neither Anouk’s team, nor the company, could have come up alone. 

Virgin Unite, 100% Human, The B Team

Through a process of observing the work of employees, identifying what they aim to achieve, creating and testing concepts, and engaging everyone in the process, the UCB offices will be completely transformed.

I’m confident they will result in better employee wellbeing and spur innovation & engagement. This in turn gives me a great reason to plan a visit to Belgium in the near future, and whilst there, keep my eye out for some other new favourite spaces of my own.


Read more from our 100% Human at Work series - powered by The B Team and Virgin Unite

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