Knowledge Hub

Neil Usher's Top 10 Tips

You have your building. You’ve assembled your team. You’ve secured the funds and know you can create your new workspace in time. It’s a hugely exciting moment. What can possibly go wrong?

While we like to think that problems we may encounter will all be the result of forces beyond our control, we’re just as likely to be the reason. The decisions we take, the things we do and the things we miss. For many of us, we don’t do these projects very often, so we need some helpful guidance.

We asked Neil Usher – Chief workplace & Change Strategist at GoSpace AI and author of The Elemental Workplace and Elemental Change – what he considered to be the 10 key things not to do in creating a new workplace. From brief to delivery, each week we will share with you his Top 10 Tips.


DON’T consider the present at the expense of the future – and the future at the expense of the present

It’s all about balance.

We’ve studied the trends, looked at what our competitors are doing, marvelled at what the seriously cool companies are doing. We like to think we’re as cool. Perhaps cooler. We want some of that, to be a leader, out there, shaping the future. Like our pre-lockdown favourite jeans, the present just doesn’t fit anymore.

We want to change. We have to change. But how much? We’ve studied and modelled how we work, with different groups and teams doing different things in different ways. We want to make sure we reflect their needs in the new workplace, and we want them on board with the outcome. But if we create a space for what we have today, what changes?

It’s easy to fall into either trap, but it’s about balance. The things in the present that are working that we can do more of, together with a crafted vision of the future incorporating the changes we want to prompt and enable.

Balance doesn’t come easy. It’s a skill. One we need to master.


DON’T let fad and fashion dictate the outcome

We want our fit-out to last (longer than flares)

Time can seem to move at two speeds. There’s the frenetic day-to-day we can barely keep up with, our packed schedules, projects, initiatives, ideas, all battling with the demands of our personal lives. In this channel live the forms and tastes of the moment. Including the dubious. The occasional re-emergence and rapid disappearance of bell-bottoms. Pushing up our jacket sleeves, turning over our collar. Workshop chic with its crumbling plaster, exposed brick, eye-straining filament lightbulbs and sagging felt.

Then there’s the slow wave beneath; reassuring, easy, reliable and assured. Here resides everything we consider to be classic, the aesthetic, features and elements that never tire. While they don’t set the pulse racing, they exude confidence.

We don’t want to be left behind, left out. We’re looking for the emerging talent, those in-tune with the zeitgeist, the innovators of today and leaders of tomorrow. Our workplace has to chime with their expectation of an organisation on a mission. The rejection of even the idea of ‘corporate’ is wholesale, so everything must be its antithesis.

But it has to last. We don’t do this every year, checking what’s hot and what’s not, we’re investing our organisation’s money and reputation in being both relevant and bold. Another delicate high-strung wire to tread.


DON’T drive down fees at all cost

The better the preparation and design, the better the outcome

Fees. They’re line items in a budget – often about a tenth of the whole spend. We can’t sit at them, write on them, share them. They don’t make an enviable Insta shot. Most of the time we don’t understand what’s actually being done, only we’re told the services are needed. When we see the output, we’re impressed but we don’t always understand it. So we challenge them, try and trim them, remove them if we can so we can spend the money on things we can actually see and touch.

Fees may look like an easy target but taking the red pen to them can be a false economy we’ll see and feel, every time we step into the completed space. The key to the success of the project is exceptional discovery, strategy and design. So that when we spend the other nine tenths of the budget, we’re getting the maximum return, the best-value and a fantastic outcome.

Why take the risk?

4. To follow...