StandardsLearnings from the classroom: How the education sector can influence workplace design

Sophie Grant, Principal Strategy Consultant at Peldon Rose, explores collegiate design and how it translates in the workplace
Content Team3 weeks ago12 min

Interior office designs that unlock employee autonomy in the workplace have been gaining traction for a while. If individuals can shape and leverage their environments in ways that are authentic to their preferred ways of working, they feel better, and they work better. This is a fundamental understanding in designing inclusive spaces – put power in the hands of the user to adapt their environment to suit their needs.

As we step into our professional roles, we know that autonomy in the workplace can also afford us better opportunities to learn. From acquiring specific skills and forging working relationships, learning helps us perform at our best and remains a cornerstone of business growth and innovation.

Our work in the Strategy team at Peldon Rose showcases the how, and the why, behind designing workplaces rich in opportunities for autonomy, with implications for levels of learning, productivity, and wellbeing. Something we’re increasingly interested in, to this end, is collegiate design.

What is collegiate design, and why is it relevant to the workplace?

Collegiate design takes inspiration from the flexibility and versatility of higher education environments. These are amenity-rich ecosystems, built to accommodate and promote a transient approach to learning, play, and socialising.

Think about a student campus. Sports and research facilities, shops, cafes and eateries, public transport links, and health clinics are all commonplace on today’s university grounds. They create a real sense of community and make it easier for end-users to prioritise socialising, working, and resting, moving seamlessly between activities.

The power of these layouts is in the density of different services on offer, placing areas of matching purposes adjacent to each other, and the choice in how people move and use a space. In the workplace, collegiate design looks like providing an array of different areas and zones for people to perform all work modes as they see fit; from focus work, to collaboration, socialising, resting, and learning. It also looks like embedding flexibility into design features, with the end goal of promoting choice and versatility.

Top tips to integrate collegiate design in your workplace


How spaces are configured

It’s not just the features within a space that have an impact on user experience – the way they slot together into the wider environment is also crucial. Consider space planning for higher and lower energy zones, spaces where individuals are seen and unseen, with implications for how individuals feel. The ability to retreat to a quieter space out of sight, for example, is useful for focus work, or for individuals with a tendency towards introversion.

Breakout zones for collaboration, socialising, or simply a change of scene

After considering how spaces fit together, turn to the elements within. For higher energy areas built to spark innovation, switch up the height of furniture on offer. Bring in high tables and a mixture of ergonomic chairs and stools for sitting, standing, or swivelling when deep in thought. Integrate flexible AV in the space and provide portable white boards for brainstorming sessions. Be creative with how you empower your people to be creative.

Solitude space for quiet time, rest, and reflection

Think of these as pockets within the wider garment of the office – places of safekeeping and seclusion. Feelings of calm can be promoted with soft seating, neutral colours, controlled acoustics, and natural lighting. Texture can be important. Soft fabrics, velvets or wool blends on armchairs help with feelings of comfort and cosiness.

Going back to space configuration, plan these areas away from high traffic areas. There’s no point creating an oasis of calm if it’s adjacent to a noisy tea point or overlooked by a glass-walled boardroom.

Serviced social areas

While not every business has the capacity for a staffed barista bar or a fully-catered canteen, it’s helpful to consider what you can offer in social spaces. On campuses, these are a hive of activity, alive with the thrum of friendship and collaboration. In the workplace, it can be no different. Lean on design elements that will compliment a higher-energy area; acoustic ceiling panels to soften louder noises, and large family-style kitchen tables to promote them! Space for everyone to gather round, connect, and laugh while eating their lunch. Natural light is also fantastic in these areas, and another reason why space planning is such a crucial consideration. It brings sunshine and fresh air into the space, and all adds to the ability of employees to take a break and relieve stress.

Embedding personalisation in design

Personalisation is an essential, but overlooked, component in workplace design. It can look like a lot of things. Common features will be dimmable lighting, natural air flow, or other forms of adjustable ventilation. Underpinning it all is the endeavour to accommodate people’s preferences in sensory experience by creating adjustable environments. Temperature, lighting, sound, smell, and touch…these are things we come across all day every day, and each one of us experiences it differently. Women, for example, might feel the cold more than men due differences in body composition, basal metabolic rates, and hormones. Air con on full blast? Might be perfect for some, but far too cold for others. Vents above desks that people can shut off provides choice for people to adjust their environment to suit their needs, allowing them to be more comfortable, and focus better on their work. It seems like such a simple solution, and it is – but things like this are commonly overlooked.

The relevance of workplace versatility isn’t going anywhere – embrace it with collegiate design

With reports that we value the office in building connections and socialising with colleagues more than ever, it’s clear the workplace has become a destination with watercolours that bleed over traditional lines of what the “office” is.

We know we don’t solely sit in a cubicle and perform prescriptive job responsibilities any longer. We collaborate, socialise, hot-desk, not-desk, video call – and crucially, we learn.

Collegiate design is a way to bring a vibrant workplace offering of versatility, learning, and connection to employees. It unlocks a range of benefits for organisations as a whole, and solidifies your position as forward-thinking, receptive employer.


About the author

Sophie Grant is a Principal Strategy Consultant at Peldon Rose.

Peldon Rose is London’s leading office design and build expert. We create workplaces that deliver business value, while providing exceptional everyday experiences for the people who use them. 

Learn more about Pedon Rose’s work here:

Content Team

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