Harnessing the Power of the Physical Workspace

by Mike Petrusky on November 15, 2019

The environment in which we spend time has a strong impact on not only how we feel, but how we work. The wrong space could be a detriment to productivity, while the right one could make it soar. I sat down with two facilities leaders to discuss how they harnessed the power of the right workspace to best serve the people within them. 

Creating Inspiring Physical Spaces and Work Environments that Elevate People

Kursty Groves | author and innovative workplace strategist 

“The most successful companies are the ones where the leadership understands the power of the physical environment, and not just the power of it but the role it plays. Knowing that it’s needed, it’s not just an add on…it’s an essential part of the process.”

Kursty Groves is a workplace consultant, author, professor, speaker and adviser on creativity, innovation, and what makes work work. She got her start as a mechanical engineer, where she really learned how and why things work, which she brings to her career today. She now focuses on the people side of space, and coaches organizations from the conception and transition through developing new, more effective environments. 

She believes measuring success needs to be a blend of both qualitative and quantitative data. It’s important to consider findings from the hard numbers that are easy to measure, but also the less tangible factors. We are human beings, and how we feel at work is just as important as access to useful space. And while space occupancy and utilization metrics are so important, we must also focus our design and strategy on the less obvious factors that impact our workforce. 

Kursty talks about how the most important factors in terms of a company’s physical space go back to the people the space serves. It’s important that we remember the fundamentals of what we’re trying to achieve. We’re trying to create an environment where people can thrive. As a workplace leader, it’s imperative to really try to understand what your people need – and then to not be afraid by the answers. Our physical environment has a powerful pull on how we work and how we behave, and workplace leaders have a chance to impact that pull for the better. 

Employee Engagement & Enhancing Workplace Experiences With “The Happiness Guru”


Kelly Duff | Employee Engagement Leader at Allstate

“For me it’s about creating these really great places to work. There’s wellness efforts, there’s socializing and gaming efforts, and all these really fun things that employees like to do. But the culture for us is really about what we’re learning from one another and how we can be better.”

Known as “the happiness guru” at Allstate, Kelly has spent most of her career as the voice of the workforce in office and facility management, managing spaces and employees experiences at work. She works to put people in the right places and believes working to develop a functioning layout makes all the difference in the effectiveness of a space.

Her role allows her to see the strategy that goes behind shaping these environments, she’s experienced both things that work and things that haven’t. At Allstate, Kelly said there are two areas where they focus their efforts in terms of developing a desirable workplace. Providing wellness and a purposeful open environment. 

She jokes that the open floorplan is both the “best thing that ever happened and it’s the worst thing that ever happened”. At Allstate they took the open concept idea and created a layout that worked for their teams. They assigned spaces or “neighborhoods” based on various Chicago areas to each department, and placed them in areas of the building that made sense. Departments that frequently interact are near one another, and groups like accounting, that need quiet solitude are placed away from the chattier departments.

How did they figure this out? They took the time to ask questions and collected data on their usage needs. Kelly suggests to other workplace leaders to not make assumptions – take the time to figure out the numbers and determine what your people really want.  After all, “you’re creating the playgrounds where productivity thrives.”


Mike Petrusky

Mike Petrusky is host of the “Workplace Innovator Podcast” and Director of Events and Growth Marketing at iOFFICE. He joined iOFFICE in March of 2018 with a mission to energize the company’s live events. He is a dynamic speaker, podcaster, and seasoned marketer who has a passion for sharing iOFFICE’s unique brand of thought leadership to CRE & FM leaders in the digital workplace.

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