Human Resources

Key elements of a Transformational Workplace

Published 25 February 2020



Shane Grimes

Global Real Estate & Workplace Portfolio Manager

Diageo, Ireland

Our assumptions about what makes a great workplace have changed.

The landscape of our work environment is constantly evolving and we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in how, when and where we work. As our organizations, and the people within them, have become more agile in response to the ever-increasing pace of change in our environment, we have had to reassess our assumptions about the workplace and our own ways of working.


Work is not a place we go but a thing we do

Some of the biggest catalysts for workplace change have been:

  • The fundamental shift of understanding from work being a place we go to being something we do
  • The recognition that different types of work require different types of spaces in order to be the most effective

We find ourselves more fluid in both how often we are in one workplace as well as what we do when we are within a workplace. Our needs in the workplace change with the activity; making phone calls, 1 to 1 video calls, conference video calls, focus work, meetings, informal chats, group sessions, stand-up sessions, etc. and we need spaces that facilitate each of those most effectively.

Growth of the third space

The impacts of this fundamental shift have been felt across the three main types of spaces:

  • First space (the home) seeing increased usage with increases in flexible and home working
  • Second spaces (the workplace)
    • Assigned workstations being underutilized due to personnel being in other locations outside the workplace or in other locations within the workplace
    • Meeting rooms at maximum utilization with medium and large meeting rooms having low occupancies due to an increase in video calls with fewer people
  • Third spaces (breakout/collaboration/focus/informal spaces) at maximum utilization due to an increase in activities not suited to a workstation or formal meeting room

Third spaces have been a key component in meeting the changing needs of the workplace, bringing the spaces typically seen in coffee shops into second spaces, and can be seen in canteens, pantries and in the influx of informal and focus areas into primarily workstation areas. The key benefits of great third spaces are that they provide spaces for ad hoc interactions and unscheduled requirements and can support:

  • Individual video/conference calls on headsets/laptops
  • Impromptu meetings
  • Informal interactions
  • Relaxation and contemplation
  • Change of scenery

Dynamic solutions

While all this makes it sound like there are straightforward solutions to easily identifiable issues, the reality is that no two workplaces, nor indeed even two people in the same role, are the same and will require the same solutions. We need to provide workplaces that offer enough variants of all types of spaces and that can provide dynamic solutions to variations in utilization.

Practically, what this requires as a foundation is a scenario analysis process built upon a detailed analytical study into the current personnel which will consist of utilization studies, interviews and projections. Once we understand who will be using a workplace and what their needs are, we can begin to build a model of the ideal workplace.

Holistic yet segmented solutions

The outcome should be a holistic yet segmented approach that not only delivers a cohesive strategy but also addresses individual needs with a wide variety of adaptable spaces. While data-driven analysis is a key component of creating the right workplace, we need to make sure this translates into creating vibrant and exciting spaces which people are going to enjoy experiencing.

Key takeaways

  • How we live and work has evolved; we can and do work anywhere
  • The workplace has evolved, and it needs to represent how we live and work – dynamic, flexible and agile
  • The third space is key to the modern workplace, facilitating so much of our informal, collaborative and creative endeavors
  • Holistic yet segmented solutions that meet individual needs while providing a cohesive solution are required
  • Most of all, create exciting spaces that are a joy to be in


Meet Shane at the

18 - 20 March 2020
Berlin, Germany