Creative Lead, Kailee Lane, is one of the newest members of the team at Woodhouse Workspace. We were fortunate enough to talk with her recently about the move and her near 15-years experience in the industry.
WOD: Start off by telling us about yourself, your background and how you became involved with the workspace sector…
KL: “I grew up in Hertfordshire and throughout my life I have always had easy access to London, being so nearby, which kick started my love of the built environment and exploring new places, materials and detailing.
That being said, I had a very academic upbringing, and the arts were seen as more of a hobby than a life plan, so I studied Literature, Business Management, Sociology and Psychology at College. I soon discovered that all those subjects worked well with my passion for creativity and enrolled myself in to evening courses in interior design alongside my college studies. When learning more about the design industry I realised it is far more than a hobby and I could create my own future using my passion for design and my knowledge in business, sociology and psychology.
Getting involved in workspace design was a bit of a happy accident for me, my university degree included a year working and gaining real life experience, and with a huge selection of companies partnering with the university I chose one of the leading workspace design & build companies at that time. I have always been fascinated by how the design and concept of a space can effect people’s mental health, productivity, and overall wellbeing, so workspace design became a passion, or even obsession very quickly for me.
When I graduated I got straight back in to workspace design and I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some incredible designers, especially in those earlier days of still learning & growing.
I’m now in my 14th year as a workspace designer and I’m still completed obsessed, I never have the same day twice and the development of the industry in that time, especially the past few years has been an inspiring journey.”
WOD: Can you tell us a bit more about your recent move to Woodhouse and what your role there consists of…
KL: “My recent move to Woodhouse was inspired by the pandemic. I realised while in lockdown that my own work/life balance and mental health had been taking a bit of a back seat in recent years and while at previous employers, which is ironic considering I advocate for those exact things for my clients and in my designs. I needed a change and Woodhouse have such a caring, family style culture that really inspired me. My role at Woodhouse as Creative Lead is still very much in the thick of it in terms of workspace design and taking clients on the journey from start to finish with their requirements. We see ourselves very much as a culture partner in everything we do for our clients, especially with the world of work changing so much recently so the role consists of delving deep into a client’s ‘needs’ and challenging them to see what is going to help their people thrive and in turn their business to thrive also. Creating beautiful spaces and presenting to clients is one of my favourite parts of the job, I love the buzz of a presentation and client feedback and developing the designs alongside them. I also manage the concept design team here and we have a really strong team, so the day to day of their workload, allocating projects, training, and mentoring is something I enjoy, helping people develop their personal design styles and skills, in the same way I had mentors in my earlier career, is incredibly fulfilling.”
WOD: What key issues are most relevant to your client base at the moment?
KL: “One of the key issues we are experiencing from clients at the moment is finding the balance of returning to the office and working from home, without people feeling forced. The ‘new normal’ of hybrid working is here to stay and clients are working hard to maintain their connection to their people and their culture. Some clients will have whole teams that are working from home most of the time and some that are more office based and it is really finding that thread to keep them all feeling together and connected as people no matter where their primary working environment is.
Another key issue for clients more recently is inclusivity and neurodiversity. These are terms that have sadly only been bought to the forefront of many minds recently, but they cannot be ignored, and workspaces really must be looked at to ensure they are equipped for all people, not just one or two stereotypes.
Sustainability is of course a key issue, but more so from the client’s side now also. In previous years it had been more from our side of the fence, and we’d be informing clients of the steps that should be taken on their projects in terms of sustainability, but now we are seeing clients understanding that this is a key issue for them also.”
WOD: Of these issues, which do you find most interesting and challenging?
KL: “I think in a way, the first two issues go hand in hand, and I find it fascinating being part of a client journey back to the workspace and what that means for them. I have always been a human-centric designer but even more so now than ever before. The challenge of getting to know the people that make up a company and doing so in a meaningful way, throwing out the assumption that if they all work for the same company, they must all be similar people is essential, because this just is not true. The pandemic has empowered a lot of people to truly be themselves, and not just a cog in a machine, because they have felt comfort in their own surroundings. This now means that designing a workspace that people want to go to, and feel excited to go to, is about deep diving into all personality types, every person’s needs and this very much includes neurodiversity, equality and inclusivity of disabilities, gender identity, demographic, and age to name just a few. This to me is incredibly exciting and fulfilling, especially when we see that end product of the design working hard for the client and having a positive impact on people.
That being said, of course sustainability is hugely interesting to me, and I love knowing that my designs are not creating more of a problem, but this is something that I intrinsically do now and have done for a long time. In my opinion there really is no excuse with the products out there now to design anything that has a negative impact.
One thing I do find incredibly interesting in relation to sustainability is bringing this back to the human element, I’m always looking for the more human angle to subjects and showing clients how the sustainability journey of their project will positively affect their people is a big tick for me. This could be the quality of the air in their workspace, the story behind the materials chosen and the morale aspect or even looking at the health benefits to the people using the space as a result of the design.”
WOD: Can you provide any examples of recent projects you have worked on, or are currently working on? And tell us what makes them stand out to you…
KL: “I am currently working on a few really interesting projects and watching these clients get excited about the prospect of new working styles and a more positive future has been such a highlight for me.
These projects stand out to me because the clients have really bought in to human-centric design along the journey with me and they are asking the question ‘what can my workspace do for me…?’
This way of thinking has given these projects a sense of hospitality and each space has a bigger focus on wellbeing, socialising, collaboration and being a beacon for the employees to want to go to.
Colleagues are planning their days to all go in together and work as a team and have the office act as a hub, it is all too easy now to stay at home, not pay for the commute or to take back the hours spent commuting to balance your home life, so the workspaces I’m creating at the moment really have to be a place people feel drawn to and excited for.”