Meet the Workplace Strategy Team

Leeson Medhurst, Head of Workplace Strategy Change management, Workplace strategy
colleagues having a strategy meeting and pointing at pictures on the table

Our inhouse Workplace Strategy team are here to take a deep dive into the hard data behind workplace design. By asking meaningful questions, challenging assumptions, and keeping open minds, they help us to design workplaces that innovate and inspire.

Head of Workplace Strategy Leeson Medhurst said, “A workplace is part of an ecosystem and it is our role to look at the many elements that make up this ecosystem. We analyse the feasibility of a workplace for the future, and define a brief that helps to create a long-lasting environment. Our workplace Strategy team offer something different to others in the industry. Because of the robust design and architectural credibility in the team, we’re able to think not only about the emotional significance of a workplace, but also the importance of space management, and that makes us quite unique in the marketplace.”

We sat down with Principal Strategy Consultant Sophie Grant and Workplace Consultants Melanie Carvahlo, Sameeha Joshi, and Nathalie Walls to learn more about their roles and why workplace strategy is so important.

Tell us a bit about your experience?

Sophie: I originally trained as an Interior Architect and have a master’s degree in Space Syntax, which tries to understand the social implications of architecture. Most traditionally, Space Syntax can be used to look at how we can explain certain collective patterns, mainly of human movement, by looking at the structure of buildings. From this, I became fascinated in the relationship between people and place and how we can curate better interior experiences. Since graduating, I have worked in a number of different workplace strategy and change consultant roles before joining the team here at Peldon Rose.

Melanie: I started as a Junior Designer at an interior design firm in South Africa before moving to work for Discovery. While at Discovery I progressed into a strategic role, looking at how we could apply analytics of the environment to assist in managing, optimising and future proofing space. Moving to the UK and joining Peldon Rose has allowed me to dive further into the strategic approach to space.

Sameeha: I have worked across multiple geographies such as India, USA and now the UK. With a knowledge base in architectural design, I have been involved in multiple workplace design projects through my career. My key thought has been to question why we design what we design and to understand what the key drivers of change for clients are. I’ve spent the past few years working on design strategy, and now as a Workplace Consultant to also advocate for sustainable practices within the industry.

Nathalie: I studied Interior Design at university and graduated with a master’s degree in Design which gave me the opportunity to work in the Strategy team at Fosters + Partner’s, one of the largest architecture firms in the UK. Workplace Strategy has given me the opportunity to work on a number of large development projects with property developers designing skyscrapers in New York, Dubai, and London.

What do you like best about your role?

Sophie: As strategists, we embed ourselves within an organisation and I thoroughly enjoy being able to work closely with a client and explore behind the scenes. It’s our job to pick up on the nuances of a business’s culture and behaviour. It certainly requires some detective work but it’s always a really interesting journey to be a part of.

Melanie: For me, it’s the variety. Of course, there are trends across the industry, but every client has their own unique set of circumstances and challenges. A good example is our work with the Royal College of Anesthetists, where we surveyed their eight and a half thousand members – that was a new experience for me!

Sameeha: I believe it’s exciting to challenge assumptions – to investigate the status quo of how people work and identify opportunities for meaningful change. Often businesses can be surprised when they find that the data suggests something different to what they had expected, but that’s why Workplace Strategy is so important.

Nathalie: I really enjoy putting a strategy document together so that clients can visualise the data and insights we’ve gathered. It offers a clear synthesis of all the information and our strategy recommendations – it’s very satisfying.

What do you think the future holds for the workplace?

Sophie: It's an interesting and exciting time to be involved in workplace strategy. The pandemic has accelerated a range of existing trends, like the move to distributed work, which will have an influence on the future of our work experience. Although we’re still waiting for the dust to settle, there are some early insights that we can learn from. It is clear that the office is certainly not dead, and the workplace will continue to have a crucial role in the future of work. However, its purpose is changing. Equally, employee needs are evolving. How to attract and retain the best talent, as well as how to authentically respond to wellbeing, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion needs will be more important than ever.

What are some of the biggest challenges your clients are facing?

Sophie: There has been a wellbeing-engagement paradox recently. Typically, engagement and wellbeing move together. More engaged employees have higher wellbeing, and we know that higher wellbeing supports better engagement at work. But one of the curious findings of the pandemic, and something that our clients are now having to deal with, is that remote workers were both highly engaged and highly stressed.

Melanie: One of the few positive things to come out of the pandemic was that it was a catalyst for change, it pushed people to find new ways of working – change is a constant in the industry, and in the world, so pushing people to think differently is key.

Nathalie: Clients are struggling with employee reluctance to return to the workplace with offices only being at a quarter of their capacity, rising to a third on peak weekdays. The big question now is about how to make the office an attractive proposition. A lot of this is to do with the culture of a business, but the design of a workplace also plays a significant part.

Why is Workplace Strategy so important?

Sophie: We’re no longer just designing the work environment; we’re designing the entire work experience and that’s why workplace strategy is so important. It’s not just about the space, it’s also about understanding the tools, technology, behaviours and policies that make up the ecosystem of work experiences – if you’re only looking at the physical space then you’ve missed the mark!

Melanie: As a Workplace Strategy team it is our job to get under the skin of a business. In doing so, we can obtain essential data that enables our design teams to create from a validated evidence-base. Workplace strategy is important because we ensure the entire work experience is designed with every stakeholder in mind.

Sameeha: We provide clients with tailored recommendations, aligned to business goals, to help solve any challenge. We also support with the ‘why’ message – if the why message isn’t clear, you’ll struggle to get people onboard with any change!

What do you do for fun?

Sameeha: Having affinity for the outdoors, I love hiking, being by the beach or exploring cultures through my traveling experiences. If not cooking curries or making cheesecakes at home, I am playing with my little one and spending time with family!

Sophie: I've recently taken up golf and am enjoying getting out on the course and taking some time away from the screen. Whilst I'm not hitting the ball like a pro just yet, I'm looking forward to playing a round with the Peldon Rose golfers soon…!

Melanie: As a fan of science fiction novels, I love to explore imaginary worlds and immerse myself into alternate realities. When not nose down in a book, I enjoy travelling the world we live in, exploring new cultures, architecture, history and dining experiences.

Nathalie: From building micro homes to making jewelry, I love DIY and using my hands to create. I enjoy challenging my abilities, learning to use new tools and overcoming design problems by developing new creative techniques.

Leeson: When not working, I enjoy riding bicycles and spending time with family, which includes training my cocker spaniel, Chester!

Detail shot of brown terazzo worktop with brown leather seating

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