Bringing Marrakech to the Workplace

Colorful Moroccan style lanternsHave you ever been sitting at work wishing you were somewhere else? Perhaps on the beach, sunbathing with a cocktail? Thinking anywhere would be better than where you are right now.

Along the way, we all have experienced the feeling that we are spending way more time at work than at home and that the balance is out of kilter. Even if you are only working the normal 8 hours a day (if full-time), that in itself is ⅓ of your day being spent at your work place. Many of us love our work and are happy for the most part but for those who find the work environment hot, cold, suppressive, uncomfortable, noisy or chaotic, how productive are you?

If you could write a wish list, what would you ask for from your employer to improve your work experience? Does your boss listen to your suggestions and is open to change?

Many companies try but are so often held back by a closed mindset… “We’ve always had it this way; it’s a waste of money; our customers and clients expect it to be traditional; why change – it has always worked for us in the past“, and so on.  Do any of these comments sound familiar? I wonder – do your customers have the same expectations and perceptions? Have you asked them lately?

The point is – times and expectations have changed and companies are now attracting the next generation of people to the workplace.  The twenty-somethings are a completely different beast to the fifty-somethings!

The up and coming generation are tech savvy, creative, assertive, quite laid back and are used to operating in an instant world.  So, have you thought how you are going to attract new personnel, keep them, get them to conform and follow the past trends, stay focussed and productive and survive the fast pace of technology?

If you are going to get the best out of them, encourage well-being and prevent burn out, the workplace must reflect their needs as talented individuals.

The best place to start is to ask yourself the following:

  1. Have you identified your company’s personality?
  2. How do you want your customer/client to see you?
  3. Are you inspiring, collaborative, problem solving, customer service driven?
  4. Are your personnel happy and productive?
  5. Have you asked what it is that they want or need?

Following a recent visit to Skyscanner at their office in Edinburgh, I discovered that they have asked these questions and in response have developed a colourful, productive innovative design concept for their office interiors globally that reflects their business ethos. Here in Edinburgh, they are 400+ personnel strong. Their retention and productivity rate is high.

Skyscanner staff are creative and their work environment supports and promotes individual talent and teamwork in a very practical and functional way. If it is not working for the individual or the team as a whole, it is unlikely to be working for their business, so they change it.

As soon as I stepped into the reception area, I was visually bowled over with the warm and creative atmosphere. The workplace is transparent, the colour palette vibrant, promoting energy and the furniture varied and functional. It is all about the staff, their needs, and their experience. They have work stations, open-plan areas, closed meeting rooms, zones for quiet coding work or areas for chatty sales discussions. They have breakout pods for one-to-one meetings or stand-up meeting areas for quick sessions when connecting with their overseas colleagues. They have gallery kitchens on each level, a staff cafe, chill out areas with a table tennis table, a fussball table, and an X-Box Station. They have egg chairs for solitary quiet time and more. In short, they have choice.

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Some of their stand-out design features are:

  • Natural light
  • Ambient light solutions
  • Fabric dividers assisting with zoning and acoustics
  • Treadmill for exercise
  • Flexible seating e.g. lounge chairs for comfort; egg pods for isolation; booths for 1 to 1′s; adjustable chairs for work stations; bean bags for chill out…
  • Cable-free integrated technology

Everyone works on a laptop and moves to the appropriate space for their task.  Designated hot desks for visitors, known as ‘landing decks’, are kept reserved and are made obvious with signage. Currently, they are trialling a new breakout space with a travel theme depicting Marrakech (images below). This progressive attitude really taps into their love for travel, their business, and their employees. ‘Design doesn’t ever stop still and finish’, says the Ewa Mleczko, their office manager.  It is always evolving and needs to be upgraded at times to remain fresh and progressive, aligning itself with the nature of the company.

Marrakech Breakout Room














The comfortable nature of this room allows staff to break away for small meetings, to host visitors, or to conduct interviews. The eclectic nature of the furniture provides a more homely feel but the colours are still in keeping with the company decor. The room has integrated technology, such as an iPad docking station, laptop wireless connections and a large monitor screen on the wall allowing video conferences to take place, as well as a practical feature of a white board for brainstorming on the opposite wall. The room can be reserved electronically. Once the trial period and an assessment as to the success of the room has been completed, final design tweaks will be made. At the moment, the room is proving to be well used and enjoyed. No doubt, a new theme will refresh this space in time. Design possibilities are endless.

Every business will have its own requirements and personality to explore. The style of Skyscanner might not work for all. However, being a little open to new ways of working could be a positive step for many of us, and tapping into the needs of your personnel will be enlightening.

Question… have you decided where you would rather be? Marrakech perhaps!

Moroccan wall decoration

On that note – let design, colour and light into your environments and energy, enthusiasm and buoyant mental health will be the reward.


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2 Responses to Bringing Marrakech to the Workplace

  1. jane.chrumka says:

    Thanks Claire for your comments. Yes, it is a fun space and I understand that the employees love it. Different Skyscanner offices throughout the world have their own take on things and tend to personalise their spaces. The breakout room in Edinburgh may well change from time to time to reflect different needs. Skyscanner has the attitude of refreshing and updating from time to time, to keep things current and vibrant.

  2. Love the Skyscanner office! I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times. It really feels like a fun, vibrant and inclusive place to work.

    I haven’t seen the breakout space, so thanks for showing that. Do they intend to change the decor every so often to reflect other places in the world?

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