If the office is to survive, it must transcend its traditional role as a functional workspace and become an attractive destination that employees are eager to be in.

In the more than three years since the pandemic, the world of work has undergone a major transformation. Hybrid working has become the new normal. However, not all companies have had success in encouraging people back to the office. Having employees return to the office and having them choose to be there are two distinct challenges. 

To create a meaningful workplace that delivers value to the business and its people, the office needs to be more than just a physical space where work gets done. It needs to become a destination in itself.

This is where the concept of the destination office comes in.

A destination office is a workplace designed with the needs and desires of employees in mind. It’s a place that offers an experience beyond the traditional work environment. And a place where people are not only motivated to come to work but genuinely excited about the possibilities that await.

By creating a destination office, companies can differentiate themselves and create a desirable workplace culture that sets them apart from competitors.

But creating a destination office is not as simple as adding a few pool tables and a couple of sofas. It requires careful planning, design, and execution to ensure that the office meets the needs of employees while also supporting the goals of the organisation.

Back to the Office: A Game of Tug and War

Hybrid work is here to stay. But despite people relishing the flexibility it gives them, the transition back to the office, even just a few days per week, has been challenging.

Employers have good reasons for getting people back, such as preserving company culture and addressing potential engagement and talent retention concerns. And some workers are more willing than others. However, to encourage more people back, the office must be transformed into an enticing space that is worth commuting to.

A New Hybrid Era 

The world of work has changed. Technological advancements and the Covid-19 pandemic have accelerated the shift towards remote and flexible work policies. 

More than three-quarters of UK employers now offer hybrid working through either formal or informal arrangements.

Organisations recognise that employees don’t need to be physically present in the office to be productive. And workers are enjoying having more autonomy than they did before.



Still, Occupancy Levels Remain Low

But despite many workers only needing to be in the office for a few days a week, the transition back to the office has proven to be a challenge, with occupancy levels remaining lower than pre-pandemic levels. 

For some companies, resistance from workers has become a significant obstacle, especially where they’ve taken a structured or rigid approach to employees ‘required’ days in the office. 

For example, when Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook announced workers would need to come into the office at least three days a week, including Tuesdays and Thursdays, a group of workers launched a petition, arguing that the strict approach to flexible working risked stifling diversity and staff wellbeing. 

Employees have become accustomed to the perks of working from home: a stocked kitchen, membership to the gym of their choice just around the corner, and the flexibility to address personal tasks during the workday. Why would they want to return to the office and lose out on all of these things?

However, some workers are more likely to come into the office than others, with leaders and Gen Z having more of a presence. 

Gen Z workers are also more likely to feel that the value of the workplace has increased over the pandemic than other generations. Building relationships along with learning and career development opportunities are a big part of why they show up. 

In many cases, where people have the option, they are making more intentional decisions about why and when they go into the office. Leesman, an employee experience measurement firm, calls this ‘purposeful presence’. 

What this means is employees consciously consider their motivations for going to the office - be it a crucial meeting, the need for direct interaction with their boss, or a quiet space away from home distractions - instead of just going automatically.

The Case for Bringing Employees Back to the Office 

Organisations certainly have good reasons for wanting their employees back in the office. One of the primary concerns is that too much remote work could lead to a decrease in employee engagement. This could potentially make workers more inclined to seek better pay, improved conditions, or career advancement elsewhere.

And these concerns are not unfounded. Research conducted by Steelcase indicates that those who prefer to work remotely for more than two days a week are significantly more likely to leave their company within the next six months.

On the other hand, those who enjoy working from the office were found to be more engaged. They feel more connected to the company’s culture, are generally more productive, and are less likely to leave. This suggests that there is a correlation between office work and employee retention.


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“By changing the work environment and giving people what they need and want, organisations can create a better work experience and improve these outcomes.”


So, What do Workers Want?

The pandemic caused many people to re-evaluate their priorities and aspirations. They questioned how happy they were in their current role and what they really want from their jobs and workplaces, with some voting with their feet.

While offering hybrid work options and higher salaries are important factors, they alone are not enough to make a substantial difference. 

The Steelcase survey revealed that while employees like the autonomy of remote work, they also value the sense of belonging that comes from having an assigned desk in the office. In fact, when asked to choose, more people said they’d prefer to have their own workspace in the office and fewer days working from home.

The office improvements that would motivate employees to come to the office more frequently include more individual privacy, an assigned workstation, larger individual space, and personal ergonomic furniture.

The overwhelming message about hybrid work is that people come to the office to collaborate and engage in social interactions. And this isn’t untrue. Yet the research says they also want the office to help them get their work done and provide privacy for focused work.

When asked what office improvements would motivate employees to come to the office more frequently, the top answers were about individual spaces. 

Research by Gensler supports the notion that many workspaces fail to cater to employees’ actual needs:

“The workplace doesn’t seem to be working for the critical work activity in which employees spend most of their time - working alone, 34% of a typical work week.”



What workers truly desire is a workplace that supports various types of work, including private work and collaboration, while also fostering a sense of purpose and belonging within the organisation.

Based on employee preferences, there are four essential spaces that employees seek from their office environment:

  • Personal spaces - Giving people control over their privacy and comfort.
  • Collaboration spaces - These are flexible settings equipped with mobile tools and technology to support in-person and distributed teams of all sizes, from one-on-one to large groups.
  • Social spaces - An intentional mix of shared and individual spaces to foster a sense of community and belonging. 
  • Learning spaces - High-performing, adaptable spaces to deliver integrated learning opportunities for in-person and distributed groups. 

Taking inspiration from the neighbourhoods we love and want to be in, the office can strive to create a vibrant and energetic atmosphere that fulfils our inherent need for a sense of belonging. By incorporating interconnected spaces that support different work styles while fostering a community feel, offices can encourage people to return.

Research by Gartner also reveals that employees are seeking a dramatically better work experience compared to pre-pandemic times. They refer to this as “The Human Deal Framework,” which encompasses five components people desire from work: deeper connections, radical flexibility, personal growth, holistic wellbeing, and shared purpose.

“Ultimately, people want to feel valued by their employer and feel a sense of belonging to their organisation. And the workplace can play a crucial role in fulfilling these needs.”

Optimising the Workplace Experience

 With employees looking for a better work experience and their voices louder than ever, some companies are going to great lengths to ensure they deliver. 

Companies like Dyson, Netflix, Uber, and LinkedIn have appointed Workplace Experience Managers (WEMs), or variations on the title, as permanent additions to their workforce.

Vacancies for these positions are cropping up more and more frequently. In 2019, there were 4,500 open WEM positions. As of August 2022, there were more than 19,000 listings.

Some of the things WEMs may focus on include:

  • Helping to create a welcoming and inspiring workplace
  • Facilitating change and leading initiatives 
  • Supporting a diverse and inclusive culture 
  • Prioritising employee wellbeing 
  • Using data to plan and track strategic change.

A WEM helps to optimise the workplace experience in real-time, enabling companies to create more dynamic and responsive workplace environments that continually meet employee needs - before it’s too late.

With organisations struggling to attract and retain talent and the power firmly in the hands of employees, WEMs could become a familiar presence in the modern workplace.

The office is vital in helping employees feel part of the organisation and fostering a positive workplace culture. But it’s got to be worth the commute.

Why would people commute to the office only to sit on video calls in an open-plan space? Or to find themselves without a quiet, private space for heads-down work? 

Organisations need to transform their offices into enticing spaces that employees feel are worth the commute. They need to create a working environment that people will choose to be in over any alternative. 

But what does that look like?

The Rise of the Destination Office

The destination office is an enticing space in which employees are eager to work - a place they choose to be, rather than need to be.

The destination office is more than just a place to work but rather a destination in itself.  

It’s a space offering a workplace experience that makes employees feel valued, engaged, and excited. And a space designed to foster connection, productivity, creativity and innovation like never before.

As Suzanne Mehta at Cushman Wakefield writes: 

“As we no longer need to “go to work” to be working, today’s office buildings need to serve as unique destinations that motivate and inspire people to go into the office; to connect with likeminded people, learn new things, feel connected with the brand and culture of their company and increasingly have access to amenities and services that support their life and wellbeing at work.” 

What this looks like in practical terms will vary depending on an organisation’s goals, culture and values. It may encompass collaborative spaces, dedicated workstations, social spaces, green and outdoor spaces, lounges and relaxation areas. Amenities such as cafes, gyms, spaces to learn and connect, and even on-site childcare could be available. 

By providing convenient amenities that can’t be easily replicated at home, the destination office provides a compelling reason for employees to travel and spend time in the workplace.  

It creates an immersive experience that prompts positive relationships among colleagues and helps attract and retain top talent. It also helps employers demonstrate an understanding of employee needs, building positive relationships within the workplace and with the organisation. 

The destination office concept can mean many things to many people. For us, it’s about creating moments that matter in the workplace and those stories of interaction, collaboration, and celebrating victories - these are the reasons that people come into our workplaces. It’s also about having community spaces that generate and showcase the culture of the company. Having spaces for hosting events and for our clients to come and innovate with us.

Lewis Barker, Director of Workplace Services EMEA at ServiceNow


Why Create a Destination Office?

In the short term, creating a destination office is about getting people excited about coming to work.

When you have a vibrant office space, you foster a strong company culture, encourage learning and promote the exchange of fresh ideas between teams. It’s a win-win for social and professional growth while also boosting staff wellbeing and morale. 

Looking ahead, creating a destination office is about future-proofing your business. You want to attract and retain top talent in your industry, and that means providing spaces that nurture both productivity and happiness. 

The demand for these kinds of environments is high. And the research shows us that when people like being in the office, it results in better outcomes for both employees and employers. Ultimately, investing in a  destination office is an investment in your company’s success.

The 12 Pillars of a Destination Office

1. Wellbeing

A destination office promotes employee wellbeing by incorporating features that support physical and mental health, such as natural lighting, ergonomic furniture, green spaces, and wellness rooms. Art and other design elements could be incorporated to create a stimulating and inspiring environment. On-site gym facilities and fitness classes may also be available to employees to support their physical well-being.

Spaces for hobbies or personal development can transform the office into a place where workers can nurture well-rounded lifestyles, pursue their passions, and build connections with like-minded others.

2. Sustainability

A destination office embraces sustainability principles to minimise its impact on the environment. It incorporates eco-friendly practices, such as energy-efficiency lighting, waste reduction and recycling programs, sustainable materials and furniture, and green initiatives like rooftop gardens or solar panels.

By prioritising sustainability, the office demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility, aligning with employees’ growing concerns for a greener future. 

The destination office may even pursue a BREEAM,  LEED or SKA certification.

3. Amenities and Services

A destination office provides a wide range of amenities and services that enhance the employee experience. From on-site cafes and restaurants to fitness facilities, yoga studios, wellness rooms, childcare facilities, and dry cleaning services, the office becomes more than just a place to go to work but a place that merges work and lifestyle.

4. Technology Integration

A destination office seamlessly integrates technologies to improve the employee experience. This can include robust IT infrastructure, high-speed internet connectivity, video conferencing capabilities, collaborative tools and smart office systems that allow individual workers to book desks and control the lighting and temperature around them.

Technology integration enables efficient communication, hybrid collaboration, and seamless workflows, enhancing productivity and connectivity among employees, both within the office and with remote teams.

5. Design and Atmosphere

The physical environment of a destination office is carefully designed to create a positive atmosphere. It may feature natural lighting, biophilic elements, comfortable furniture, inspiring artwork and branding that reflects the company’s values and culture.

It also means moving away from cold colours that signal “it’s all business here”, to warmer neutrals with a nod to the natural world that provide a similar level of comfort to the home. These elements contribute to a welcoming and motivational ambience for employees.

6. Flexibility

Flexibility is critical to addressing occupancy fluctuation for hybrid work and is essential to the destination office. Flexibility is about more than just creating spaces for collaboration, individual work, socialising and learning. Workers need access to a range of meeting spaces, for example. Pods provide a quiet area away from distractions for a worker conducting a video call with a remote co-worker.

In contrast, meeting rooms and booths offer a space for active and generative meetings amongst in-person or distributed teams. Different teams will also use spaces in different ways. Some may engage in focus work at fully equipped workstations with high-performance task seating, while others may prefer to gather informally at a communal table. The office must support all these ways of working.

7. Inclusivity

In the destination office, spaces are planned with  an inclusive design mindset, with diverse settings,  a range of furniture and technology solutions, and attention paid to spatial perception and sensory  control. Everyone should feel valued, productive  and engaged from the moment they enter the  office to the moment they leave.

8. Personal Space within the Communal Environment

Even in a flexible work environment, maintaining a  sense of personal space is important. Lockers can  play a pivotal role in facilitating this, bridging the  gap between personal space and communal  environments, offering employees a space to store  their personal items and work-related materials  securely. This means they can choose any available  desk or workspace when they arrive.

Making the workspace their own also helps facilitate the sense  of belonging. This could mean allowing employees  to bring in plants or personal mementoes to make  the space their own, as well as allowing them to control the space’s lighting, temperature, and  privacy levels to suit their personal preferences. 

9. Collaborative Spaces

A destination office should include designated areas for collaboration and teamwork, such as meeting rooms, project spaces, and open-plan areas that encourage employee interaction and  knowledge sharing.  

These spaces should be fitted with furniture that allows for a range of postures, from sitting and standing to leaning and perching, as well as seamless technology to display work, brainstorm ideas, and connect with remote teams. 

10. Focused Workstations 

Recognising the importance of individual concentration and productivity, the destination office should include designated workstations or quiet areas where employees can focus on tasks requiring deep concentration without distractions.

Pods, booths, and workstations separated by acoustic screens and panels give employees options to choose a space that suits them. 

11. Social Spaces

To foster a sense of community and encourage social connections, the destination office should incorporate lounges, breakout areas, and communal kitchens where employees can relax, socialise, and build relationships with their colleagues.

Research shows that 65% of what employees learn comes from co-workers. And when people can connect and build relationships, it increases trust and gives people more confidence to take risks and be creative.

The more opportunities employees have to engage with others, the better it is for them and their employers. 

In addition, amenities like gym facilities, fitness classes, or community gardens offer employees an opportunity to connect on a  personal level outside of “work mode”, further strengthening bonds.

12. Learning Spaces

Learning spaces should be integral to the destination office, offering high-performing and adaptable environments that provide integrated learning opportunities for in-person and distributed groups.

These spaces demonstrate a commitment to continuous growth and development within the organisation.

They should have the right tools and technology to facilitate active engagement, collaboration and exploration.

Destination Offices Around the World

22 Bishopsgate, London, UK 

“A mini-village office packed with amenities” 

22 Bishopsgate is the largest commercial office development in London, boasting 1.3 million square feet across 62 floors, and was designed to promote community, interaction and employee wellbeing. The mini-village office features a wellness studio with a  gym, fitness classes and meditation rooms, a food market, a fresh juice bar, and multiple gardens and outdoor terraces. The building is set up to support both individual work and collaboration, with various flexible workspaces, meeting rooms, and communal areas to socialise. It’s even 100% dog-friendly! 

Also designed to be environmentally sustainable, it boasts green walls and roofs, a greywater recycling system, and an energy-efficient building management system.  The building was developed by AXA IM - Real Assets, who see the building as a “blueprint for the future of office spaces” and an example of how workplaces can be designed to meet the evolving needs of employees. 

The JJ Mack Building, London, UK 

“London’s smartest and most sustainable building” 

The JJ Mack Building is an exciting new development that hosts a range of amenities to make the workplace experience more enjoyable, including a rooftop terrace with views of the city, a cafe and restaurant, and a gym.

Labelled London’s smartest and most sustainable building, it’s packed with intelligent high-tech systems designed to improve employees’ well-being and enable a fully sustainable operation. It’s been rated  BREEAM Outstanding. 

The entire building’s performance can be tailored to the precise needs of the individual worker. A bespoke JJ Mack app gives workers touch-free access from the front door to their desks and allows them to set lighting and heating control to their preferences.  

The building uses sensors to monitor the air quality and adjust ventilation accordingly, ensuring that employees have access to fresh, clean air at all times. The lighting system is also intelligent, using motion sensors to detect when rooms are occupied and adjust the lighting accordingly.

The building uses sensors to monitor the air quality and adjust ventilation accordingly, ensuring that employees have access to fresh, clean air at all times. The lighting system is also intelligent, using motion sensors to detect when rooms are occupied and adjust the lighting accordingly.

The Edge, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 

“A smart building designed for wellbeing”  

The Edge is renowned for its innovative design and advanced technology, earning the title of “the world’s most sustainable office building” when it opened in 2014.  

The 40,000 square metre office space is designed for wellbeing, with natural lighting, indoor air quality sensors and personalised temperature controls. The building promotes a sense of community and collaboration with ample communal areas, cafes, and even a rooftop terrace with panoramic views.  

These features combine to make it a unique and attractive destination office that motivates employees to come to work and enables them to be productive in a sustainable and healthy environment.

Alibaba Xixi Campus, Hangzhou, China 

“An incubator for technology” 

Alibaba’s global headquarters at its XiXi Campus is home to more than 20,000 employees. More than just a campus, it’s a hotbed for all things technology. Employees are inspired by new innovations being tested all the time, from self-driving cars to automated hotels. The on-site Alibaba museum features a history of the company’s growth adds to the experience. 

Other amenities help to promote productivity and well-being. A central park and rooftop garden allow employees to relax and recharge. A state-of-the-art fitness centre, yoga studio and meditation room encourage employee health and wellness. Many restaurants and cafes also cater to employees’ diverse dietary needs and foster a sense of community.

The campus also features cutting-edge technology, including an AI-powered virtual assistant that can answer employee queries and control the building’s lighting and temperature. A mobile app also helps employees navigate their workday. 

GooglePlex, California, USA 

“A creative playground” 

Google’s headquarters is known for its innovative design and extensive amenities. One of its most striking features is the innovative architecture, which includes a series of interconnected, colourful buildings and outdoor spaces that promote creativity and collaboration.  

The campus boasts a range of facilities, including fitness centres with workout equipment and classes, basketball and volleyball courts, walking trails, parks, gardens, and cafes. Employee perks include free massages, haircuts and dry cleaning services. There’s even an extensive transport system, including shuttles, bikes and electric cars to help employees get around, adding to the overall experience. 

Tips for Creating a Destination Office

How to Transform Your Office Into a Destination Your People Are Eager to Be In.

Know what your people want - and ensure their needs are met

Knowing what your employees need and want from the workplace is the first step to creating a work environment they will be eager to be in. Surveying your employees provides a powerful means to gauge their views about what they are looking for, which is crucial for moving forward. What do people want from the office? What amenities might they use? 

When employees feel that the work environment fulfils their needs, they are more likely to spend time in the office, are happier, more productive, and more likely to stay at your company.

“Much of the expansion and contraction of offerings comes from user-based insights – a deep understanding of what is important to the employee base, and then doubling down on those specific areas. Companies are seeing the benefits of designing amenities programs based  on employee feedback instead of chasing trends.”

Cushman Wakefield

Pilot New Environments  

Testing out new workplace settings helps companies minimise the risk of any investments.  

Using insights from staff surveys, you can map out new ideas for the workplace before running prototypes and pilots to test them, rather than diving head first into a  complete office refurbishment.

  • Scenario development: Create virtual walkthroughs or 360 walkthroughs to visualise new concepts for the workplace and how they could look in your space.
  • Prototyping:  Test out those scenarios with prototypes. 
  • Run pilots: Take learnings from the prototyping into the pilot. Test a full solution amongst a larger group of workers and run it for a longer period - up to three or six months.  
  • Measure success: Gather feedback from surveys and direct observations. 

Piloting helps to identify any issues or challenges and provides an opportunity to make necessary adjustments before a wider rollout. It also allows for employee feedback and input, which can improve the overall success and adoption of new workplace environments.

Additionally, piloting can demonstrate the benefits of new environments and secure buy-in from stakeholders.

Labs to Inform the Workplace of the Future

Barclays X Labs 

Barclays recognises that the way we work is evolving quickly and are committed to providing the best workplace experience available. Barclays X labs were created to help them rethink and redesign their workspaces. The labs, currently running at four locations across the UK, are used to test different work mode settings, support structures and settings.

Five modes of work currently being tested in the labs are: 

  • Collaboration - spaces to solve problems and get creative 
  • Connection - spaces for unplanned check-ins and networking 
  • Deep workspaces - where full concentration is needed 
  • Delivery - spaces for heads-down and power-through work 
  • Fast and furious - spaces for a pit stop individually or with others before heading to the next task 

The Deloitte Hybrid Meeting Lab

The Deloitte Hybrid Meeting Lab is a unique workspace created by Deloitte Netherlands to help companies transition to hybrid working. It’s designed to help businesses overcome hybrid working challenges and facilitate collaboration and communication between in-person and remote employees. 

The lab features cutting-edge technology and advanced audio and video equipment to ensure high-quality, uninterrupted communication, including microphones, cameras, and displays. 

It’s also designed to facilitate collaboration and creativity among team members, with flexible and customisable workspace layouts and various interactive tools.

Deloitte uses the lab to test and develop new working methods, such as combining remote work and in-person meetings, and to help clients create their own hybrid work strategies. The lab is available for use by Deloitte clients and partners and is also used to train Deloitte employees on hybrid working practices. 

By creating a dedicated space for hybrid working, Deloitte hopes to help companies create a better workplace experience for their employees and to stay competitive in a rapidly changing business environment.

Get Leadership on Board

Getting leadership on board when designing a destination workplace is crucial because it helps to ensure buy-in from the top down.

With support from leadership, it may be easier to allocate the necessary resources and budget to create a workplace that meets the needs and desires of employees. 

Leadership can also help set the tone for the rest of the organisation, helping to create a culture that values employee experience and engagement. 

Leaders can also provide valuable insights into what is most important to the company and help ensure that the workplace design supports those priorities. This alignment can lead to better outcomes for the organisation, including increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and retention.


The concept of the destination office recognises that the workplace needs to be more than just a functional space. 

The world of work has undergone significant changes. As businesses adjust to the new normal and bring employees back to the office, it’s crucial to create a workplace that employees choose to be in rather than just requiring them to be present for part of the week.

To achieve this, companies must understand the needs and wants of their employees to offer amenities, services and a work environment that can’t be easily replicated at home. 

The benefits of creating a destination office are numerous. It can help differentiate a company from competitors, improve workplace culture, enhance employee engagement and productivity, and attract and retain talent. 

Taking action to transform our offices into enticing spaces that employees consider “worth the commute” is not just a desirable option but a necessary one. The potential costs of not giving employees a compelling reason to return to the office outweigh any investments required for office transformation. 

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