Published on:

16 January 2023

Updated on:

18 January 2023

Read time:

3 minutes

Cyril Parsons

Managing Director

The end of one year and the start of another; it’s a time for reflection as well as resolution. Last year was, without doubt, a sobering year. During 2022, we faced a political and financial tsunami, while still grappling with the effects of the pandemic and the aftermath of over two years of restrictions.

I’ve been reflecting on how all this change has impacted the world of office design and how we use the places we call work. In doing so, four key points have come to mind:

Employers are putting pressure on staff to return to the workplace

This is a huge mistake. Staff members have grown used to working from home and appreciate the independence, along with the freedom from tortuous commutes. Yes, staff members should be encouraged to get back to the office to overcome social isolation and to strengthen team bonding, moral and brand identity - but it’s a mistake to make this mandatory.

One company who made a real, and very public, hash of this is Apple. They ordered all 165k employees back to the office for three fixed days a week, causing mayhem and anger among employees who felt disrespected and ignored. An article on the Fortune website reported that 76% of staff were unhappy with the decision at the time, with 56% stating that they would quit to find a more flexible employer. This caused a lot of negative publicity for Apple.

So, if Apple can’t make it work, I challenge any company to take this forced approach and do better… Finding a way to attract members of the team back to the office, while giving them trust and freedom to work from home when it suits them, has to be the accepted way forward for 2023.

Wellbeing needs to be at the heart of employers’ decisions

Businesses that truly champion mental health and staff wellbeing in the months ahead will be best placed to attract and retain talent, benefiting both the individual and the organisation.

It’s a well-known fact that lockdown took its toll on hundreds of thousands of UK people, with an estimated 39% of employees citing a decline in their mental health. This, in turn, is estimated to have cost the UK economy an additional £45bn per annum. Given that, employers who walk the talk, with good positive strategies and support, will be the ones who are most likely to be able to attract and retain their staff going forward.


of employees citing a decline in their mental health.


Diversity and inclusivity are a must

During the pandemic, almost 500,000 individuals retired early or decided not to return to employment. Five million women, aged between the ages of 16-64, were economically inactive in the year to Dec 21 - that’s almost 25% of all women compared to less than 4% of men of a similar age. These statistics indicate that a flexible approach to employment is key to supporting as many people as possible to get back into the world of work.

Office downsizing will continue

A lot of people can’t see the point of a one hour commute to sit at a desk when they have a perfectly good desk at home. However, most will agree, there are meetings, knowledge sharing, mentoring, social interaction and team focus that going to the office is ideal for. At Office Principles, we believe the office, in the immediate future, is going to be smaller and more like an ‘event space’, which staff may attend two to three times a week, to enjoy great interactions, which drive positive team culture; these spaces will promote social wellbeing and create brand awareness and collaboration.

Most organisations we are currently dealing with hope to reduce their office space by up to 50% while also aspiring to an innovative workspace that promotes a high energy environment which, in turn, inspires and attracts best talent.

We’re determined to do more and to do better in 2023 and have a Carbon Footprint Management Plan (CFMP) in place to further reduce our emissions

Moving On

The steps we took, last year, towards carbon neutrality and commitment to team wellbeing (for our employees and our clients’ employees) have been among our most profound and significant achievements. During 2022, we focused on PAS2060 and Carbon Neutrality and launched Sustainability Principles, a public show of accountability, outlining our environmental principles and the goals we’ve set.

We’re determined to do more and to do better in 2023 and have a Carbon Footprint Management Plan (CFMP) in place to further reduce our emissions. We aim to help landlords and building owners to reach a standard and develop greener environments and we’ll consult and assist our clients in reaching their own sustainable goals throughout the year.

We’re now designing for multiple types of people; considering spaces for various personalities to bring people in to connect with the space as well as with each other. Businesses are realising it’s necessary to work with workplace consultants in order to get the most out of their space and we’re working with HR and talent directors, as well as managing directors and those based in operations – a change which reflects the growing concern to keep staff happy and to make sure they’re onboard with all modifications.

There’s a real sense of community that comes with this people first approach. Individuals are being thought about on all levels and given the space to come in as much as they want and to use the office as a touching point; a source of connectivity.

What’s most gratifying is, for the first time ever, the change is being driven from the bottom up. The corporate concern for recruitment and retention means that staff comes first and we are now seeing employees’ needs being put front and centre. Those more junior members of the team are being listened to. This links back to sustainability as these same staff members want to work in eco-friendly environments and now they have the power to make it happen.

The years of change behind us have laid the foundation for future achievements and advancement. There’s a lot to look forward to - and we’re proud to be a part of it all.

Meet the Author

A founding partner of Office Principles, Cyril has over 30 years’ experience in workplace design and has been instrumental in the success of the business and its positioning as a leading workplace consultancy. An author of white papers and a renowned industry speaker, who regularly hosts his own popular seminars and webinars, thought leader Cyril’s book on office relocation and fit out, The Black Book, is currently on its fourth edition.