HASSELL x HubbleHQ: Designing Workplaces to Optimise Employee’s Health and Well-being

Lucy O'Connor
Lucy O'Connor|

We spoke to Catherine van der Heide, Senior Associate at HASSELL about the importance of designing workspaces that optimise employees health and well-being and ultimately become a place where people want to go, not where they have to go.




HASSELL is a leading international design practice with offices in Australia, China, South East Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Founded in 1938, they have carried out a huge range of projects, from designing forward-thinking workspaces to Olympic stadiums, to creating London’s first ‘sleeperie’.

HASSELL has delivered over one million square metres of workplace design for more than one thousand diverse clients. In 2018, HASSELL partnered with Fora, to create one of the most beautiful and innovative offices on our platform: Fora: Borough. Catherine was the leading interior designer on this project, so we sat down with her to get the inside scoop and to discover how office design trends have changed over the years. 

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Hi Catherine, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. First up, can you tell us about the Fora Borough project?

Catherine: We partnered with Fora to design over eight floors (3000 square meters) of coworking space. Fora’s vision is to deliver ‘Space to be Brilliant’, as designers we were tasked to create a space that takes care of everything to enable Fora’s residents to work and focus on being brilliant at what they do. We incorporated Fora’s philosophy and the key pillars of their brand: unbeatable service, amazing design, and state-of-the-art technology, to create a positive and productive working environment.

What inspired the design?

Catherine: The driver was the local neighbourhood, the space reflects local and familiar cues from the adjacent lively Borough Market. The flow through the cafe, lounge, meeting and restaurant spaces on the ground floor presents a transparent, warm and inviting impression – Fora Borough itself becoming a marketplace to meet, eat and share.

How would you describe the interior design?

Catherine: The design uses a neutral palette of calm tones, reflecting Fora’s commitment to providing space that is adaptable. The space adopts the vivid characteristics of the iconic Borough Market district.

Check it out here.


You’ve carried out a range of projects all over the world, are there differences between countries design? 

Catherine: Absolutely, design is a reflection of different cultures and histories and it often demonstrates the way in which a region is moving forward in their thinking. There are even differences in design between cities in the same countries. That’s what’s so amazing about design, each new project is an opportunity to learn about different cultures, needs and values. 

In your opinion, what will be the key office design trends in 2019?

Catherine: We’ve seen a real shift towards designing holistically, for the people and their experience of place, as clients are increasingly people-focused and health orientated. It’s no longer enough to have an aesthetically pleasing space, companies are forced to think about elements such as wellness and community in order to attract and retain the best talent and to have a more productive and efficient workforce. This is particularly important given the changing nature of the way people work. We are experiencing a huge rise in remote working due to advancing mobile technologies, so employers are now creating offices where people want to be, rather than where they have to be. Holistic design can be translated into workspace through the layout of the space, biophilic elements, ergonomic furniture, lighting etc.

Take a look at how office design has changed over the decades.

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Why do you think there is an increasing trend towards using biophilic elements in offices?

Catherine: As we are spending more and more time indoors, there is an increasing need/want to bring elements of the outside in. This is particularly relevant for city dwellers who spend on average more time in the office than outside. Plants breathe life into a space and biophilic elements have proven to reduce stress. So, again I think the use of biophilia is reflective of the increasing importance placed on employees health and wellness. 

How do you design sustainable office spaces?

Catherine: From the offset, we ensure we use sustainable materials, we expose our spaces to natural light and we find ways to use technology to enhance sustainable practices. It now goes beyond physical sustainability as clients are increasingly looking to exceed BREEAM standards. An interesting new way of incorporating sustainable practices in offices is through enhancing air quality. When you work in a capital city, like London, the air quality inside buildings is often better than outside. We find ways to foster fresh air in our buildings and use this as a way to attract and retain employees.

Fora Spitalfields

How has technology affected office design?

Catherine: Technology has impacted the way people work, we have seen a significant increase in the number of mobile workers. As a result of this shift, companies are increasingly recognising the importance of place for employees. We now see clients asking us to create flexible work environments that harness the power of face-to-face interactions and collaboration. 

How has technology affected the way in which you design offices?

Catherine: Technology has enabled us to gather data to better understand the way people interact with space, which is a real opportunity. There are also advances in technology that enables virtual reality, which is a really useful design tool to help communicate with clients and really bring ideas and concepts to life. Although, a downside of this is that it is impossible to communicate the feel and atmosphere of a space, which is what clients are most concerned by, so there is a limit to the current technology output. 


In your opinion, what does the future of office design look like?

Catherine: I think we will continue to see a drive towards optimising health and wellbeing with the support of data-gathering technology to create and prove greater workplace efficiency and workplace wellbeing outcomes. Future workplaces with be a hub – a humming heart of a place that will communicate the cultural identity of a company. 

To wrap it up, what’s the weirdest client request you’ve ever had?

Catherine: “Can we turn this lobby into a cricket pitch please?”

Thanks, Catherine!

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