Designing for people not desks

Colm Murphy, Head of Design - Enterprise Design, Culture, Agile working

Design journalist Katie Treggiden talks to Total Media’s Becca Laidler and Pedro Martins and our very own Steve Taylor and Sonia Crozier about designing human-centred workspaces.

Laying foundations

Steve Taylor and Becca Laidler met at a Peldon Rose breakfast seminar almost two years before Total Media moved into their new space. With an on-site build duration of just six weeks, that seems like a long lead time, but it’s not atypical. ‘It’s really important for us to invest time right from the early stages of a project to create a relationship, help define the brief and lay the foundations for an office that will work for its people,’ says Taylor. ‘We developed hypothetical designs before Total Media had even found an office, which helped them to understand the sort of space they needed.’ Peldon Rose’s approach involves embedding themselves within a business to generate data-led insights and ensure people feel heard at every stage of the process. ‘We felt a connection with Peldon Rose from day one,’ says Pedro Martins. ‘They have an expert for everything, so we good relationships with everyone in the team.’

Behavioural planning

Total Media puts behavioural planning at the heart of everything they do, so their ethos aligned with Peldon Rose’s approach. ‘There was a neat synergy between our approach of designing people-centric workspaces that encourage positive workplace behaviours and Total Media’s USP,’ says Taylor. ‘We just had to help them apply their approach to office deign – and get away from the claustrophobic tyranny of desks.’ Peldon Rose worked closely with Total Media to define the behaviours they wanted to encourage and design spaces that nurtured wellbeing, trust and collaboration. ‘We’ve got a really strong culture, and everyone is different, so it was smart to cater for our staff by providing a wide range of work spaces for people to choose from,’ says Laidler. ‘We wanted an office for people, not machines, and a space that would inspire, connect on an emotional level and unleash creativity.’


Total Media recognises that its product is its people and the blank canvas of a new office gave them the opportunity to create a space that reflected that, facilitated smart working and encouraged collaboration. The imposing reception desk with a view over the finance department was replaced with an open space with a large welcoming kitchen, media wall and corner-glazed break-out space. ‘The bigger central kitchen is much bigger and more central,’ says Martins. ‘It gets people away from their desks, moving around, and connecting with others.’ The sheer variety of break out spaces and a new agile working policy means that not only do people sit in different parts of the office, sit with others freely and share more knowledge, but that Total Media actually needs less floor space, despite a growing headcount.

Trust and autonomy

The fact that lunchtime ‘FIFA tournaments’ are played out in full view of reception, is perhaps the most obvious example of the trust that Total Media places in its people to work how, where and when they believe is best. ‘Integrity and independence are two of Total Media’s core values, so, it was crucial to reflect that in the design of the office,’ says Crozier. ‘It is literally transparent – we’ve used a lot of glass – and it is an intuitive workspace that gives people flexibility and freedom to use different areas to suit their working styles, personalities, mood and work. That only works if there is trust from the top.’ Clients walk straight into the thick of it in this office, and Total Media wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘We wanted to celebrate our culture with an open, honest, transparent office,’ echoes Laidler. ‘Our people are our business and what you see is what you get – hardworking talented people who are looked after so they can so their best work.’

Design for wellbeing

‘The media world can be pretty full on,’ explains Martins. ‘The long hours, constant attention to detail and nutritionally dubious, if delicious, client lunches can leave people feeling burnt out and sluggish. So, we need to ensure our staff are energised, balanced and above all – happy, so they can do their best work.’ Their new office supports this ambition in a number of ways – one is biophilic design, such as the extensive use of plants throughout the scheme and a moss wall. Bringing the outdoors in and creating indoor green spaces not only nurtures wellbeing, but also helps to mimic the real-life parks that surrounded their previous offices. Natural light is another important factor. ‘To maximise the flow of light and openness, we removed walls and replaced them with large windows,’ says Crozier. ‘We used internal Crittal glazing to allow light to flow and used open bookcases to divide spaces rather than walls.’ A buzzy open-plan kitchen echoes the dynamism of their new Soho location while providing facilities to prepare healthy food to counter-balance all those client lunches. The new workspace is such a draw that Total Media’s people can’t stay away – despite being free to work from home, most choose to come into the office.

Detail shot of brown terazzo worktop with brown leather seating

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