Keti Malkoski is co-author of The Power of Workspace for People & Business, a book explaining why workplace change management and 'co-creation' with employee participation is an imperative component of a new workspace outcome.

A Principal of Schiavello's People and Culture consulting, Malkoski is also an organisational psychologist who has consulted to large companies in Australia in the areas of workspace strategy and change.

Architecture and Design spoke to her about adding value in the workplace, how to cater to diverse workplaces and how psychology can be used to gain a better insight into workspace design.

What are the top three most important things that add value to a workspace?

Workspace stakeholders need to consider the workspace holistically to create value: understanding people and cultural needs, and balancing these needs with supportive spaces and technology. 

If I had to select only three elements that add value to a workspace, I would draw from my research and experience. Value-adding workspaces must promote relationships between people and create communities; enhance physical and mental health and wellbeing through comfort and movement; and ensure that all working styles are supported with adequate spaces for focused/concentrated work and interactive/collaborative work.


150609_Schiavello3-1.jpgFacebook Singapore by Siren Design, featuring Schiavello's sit-to-stand workstation system, Krossi.

Workplaces can have very diverse people. How can companies cater to such a diverse group of people in workspaces?

To support workforce diversity, we need to create workspaces that are conducive of work and life integration. We need to create workspaces that are flexible and can respond to the task and personal needs of employees, in addition to the sub-cultures expectations that they work within. We need to empower employees – with adequate control and support – to understand their diverse working needs and provide them with choice in spaces that supports their diversity.

How have you used your background in psychology to help create better workspaces?

The success of workspace change is highly dependent on people and cultural considerations: the psychology of workspace. Dr. Vischer [co-author of The Power of Workspace for People & Business] and I understand the way people feel, think and behave at work, and within work environments. In our book, we apply our knowledge and experience in organisational psychology to improve workspace strategy and change.


What misconceptions are there around psychological impacts on employees in their workspaces?

People have emotional reactions to workspace change and sometimes these emotions are considered entirely destructive, however this is not always true. The most basic and least recognised emotion is fear: fear of the unknown; fear of rejection; fear of failure; and fear of blame. Even fear in workspace change can become a positive and motivating emotion in employees if it is identified and managed positively in a structured change management programme.

What is one thing you would like companies to stop doing in their workspace design?

One bit of advice that I have is that one size does not fit all when it comes to workspace approaches. Organisations should take the time to understand their workforce – now and in the strategic future – and collaborate with key stakeholders to ensure that they select the right workspace and that the change is embedded into the organisation.

150609_Schiavello2-1.jpgBHP Billiton by Geyer and Schiavello

What does the ideal workspace look like to you?

Because I have a background in psychology, I would say a workspace that considers the human side of work and recognises that connections between people and relationships are important; a workspace that creates a sense of place and promotes a united and engaged culture; and a workspace that fosters ‘a sense of belonging’ and community.

By promoting this positive ‘feeling,’ organisations can improve effectiveness: employees that feel that they belong are more satisfied and motivated to perform better. Employees that belong to a team also have a sense of purpose, are aligned in values, and work cohesively towards shared goals. They feel that they are a part of something meaningful, contributing to their work identity and perceptions of whether they ‘fit in.’ Belonging has long been recognised as a human need that contributes to our self esteem, helping us feel valued and cared for.

150609_Schiavello4-1.jpgTransurban by HASSELL and Schiavello


150609_Schiavello6-1.jpgPdt Architects by Pdt and Schiavello. All images via Schiavello