Why workplace experience matters whatever sector you’re in

In the third of our series with Area on designing a better workplace experience, we look at three companies which are operating in different markets but sharing the same people-centric values

Workplace experience today is important to employees irrespective of the industry sector they’re in. It doesn’t matter if you’re in IT or insurance, or if you’re an online retailer of second-hand clothes. In an era when people generally have more choice in where and how they work, redesigning and reimagining the workplace for changing employee expectations goes right across the board.

In our exploration of the types of experience that will attract people back to the office, produced in partnership with Area, one of the UK and Europe’s leading workplace design and fit-out specialists, we looked at developments at a trio of different companies: Convex, a major insurance player; leading IT services business TD Synnex; and Vinted, Lithuania’s well-known second-hand clothing brand.

Area has been working with Convex on projects in London, Bermuda and Luxembourg since 2019. It has been designing and constructing a new 55,000 sq ft London office after the company outgrew its WeWork space. Convex’s decision to expand its presence in London reflected its commitment to strengthening its position in the heart of the global insurance market.

The prestigious Scalpel building was a chosen as a prime site for the new workplace with an eye to attracting talent and nurturing growth. The Convex office space was meticulously crafted to create a range of environments over five floors of the building and provide an exceptional user experience.

Essential building blocks

When Area collaborated with WORKTECH Academy to organise a half-day creative workshop on how to create a better workplace experience, six essential building blocks were identified:

  • A Sense of Identity
  • Personalisation and Choice
  • The Right Spaces
  • Functionality and Support
  • Sensory Wellbeing
  • Community and Pride

Looking at these factors through the lens of Area’s work for Convex, it’s clear that a sense of identity shines through a branding rollout that weaves the company’s visual identity into the physical space as part of an engaging creative journey. A range of settings – from flexible workstations for quick touchdown sessions to meeting areas for brokers and video conferencing suites for hybrid calls – reflects the personalisation and choice agenda.

Community and pride are expressed through 360-degree view of London landmarks from the top three floors, expressing the idea of Convex positioning itself at the epicentre of the world’s insurance market. Sensory wellbeing as a further component of a great workplace experience is reflected in the choice of eco-friendly materials for the project such as the use of timber, sustainable furniture products from Orangebox and biophilic elements bringing nature inside. The environmental quality of the Convex workplace creates a healthy, green experience for staff and visitors alike.

Dynamic and positive

Workplace experience was also a big part of the brief when Area worked simultaneously on two office projects in Basingstoke and Bracknell in the south of England for IT services specialist TD Synnex. The overall design concept needed to be consistent on both sites, with a key focus on attracting people back to the office with a dynamic and positive work environment that would foster teamwork and engagement.

Like Convex, TD Synnex wanted to make its workplace a platform for talent attraction and retention, to appeal to a more diverse demographic in the workforce. A clear sense of identity is expressed through a more fluid approach to workspace, with an interesting geometry playing on angles and intersections against the base-build structures. This is no linear solution; instead, a clever use of the right spaces creates neighbourhoods and destinations, giving teams a sense of belonging while maintaining agile principles for all.

There is a high percentage of relaxed and informal space exposed to natural light on the template, supporting sensory wellbeing. These settings are used for socialising, breakout or impromptu brainstorming. There is also a wellbeing suite where exercise classes take place and where workers can de-stress and re-energise. Community and pride are reflected in a wide of workplace amenities which include a games room, parents’ rooms and multi-faith room. Adjustments to hybrid ways of working after the pandemic were achieved with multi-functional furniture.

‘A significant increase in collaboration, employee engagement and occupancy rate…’

According to TD Synnex managing director David Watt, the company vision for the workplace has been matched by the design delivery of the experience. He explains: ‘Our new office is truly remarkable – a vibrant and dynamic space that has exceeded our expectations. Since moving in, we’ve seen a significant increase in collaboration, employee engagement and our occupancy rate.’

Vibes of a start-up

It may be an entirely different industry, but when it comes to elevating workplace experience it’s a similar story of community and growth at Vinted, the online second-hand retailer of wardrobe items which has more than 1,200 employees and offices in Vilnius, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Prague and Berlin.

We spoke to Ieva Užkurniene and Karolina Kontrimiene, Workplace Experience Leads at Vinted, to get their perspective on what makes a great workplace experience. A clue to how seriously Vinted takes workplaces experience can be found in their titles. Ieva manages the physical infrastructure while Karolina focuses on the digital experience. Their ambition is to allow the company to mature while still keeping ‘the vibes of a start-up’.

Before Covid-19, Vinted was a very office-centric company. Now there is a hybrid policy with people asked to come to the office two days a week, typically Tuesday and Wednesday. When they come in, the experience is all about community, collaboration and connectivity, with busting cafes and busy entertainment spaces. ‘It’s all about the collective, avoiding hierarchy, feeling equal,’ explains Ieva.

The company’s core identity is bound up in reuse and recycling, so sustainability is a key part of its workplace strategy is terms of material choices and space reconfigurations to maximise use.

Community and pride

Reviewing Area’s building blocks of workplace experience, the Vinted team pointed to the importance of functionality and support – they are moving in the direction of self-service using an online platform. They also singled out sensory wellbeing for attention – they collect feedback on how people are feeling through a weekly survey and noise remains the biggest complaint in the office.

Just as Momcilo Pavlovic, Workplace Experience Lead at IKEA, told us in an earlier article in this series that community and pride underscores all other aspects of workplace experience, so the Vinted team also place great emphasis on this factor. ‘It’s our top priority,’ says Karolina. ‘We’re trying to stay humble around our mission. We celebrate internally with intense live gatherings, which are very popular. And we’ve got the spaces to gather people together – the largest is in Vilnius.’

So, three leading companies – Convex, TD Synnex and Vinted – operating in totally different markets but sharing some common principles about taking a human-centric design approach to the future of workplace experience.

Area is a founding member of Fourfront Group and a Global Partner of WORKTECH Academy. Read the first and second articles in our series with Area on workplace experience here and here.
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