Q&A Ollie Plastow, Director at Consensus

We recently took the opportunity to sit down with Ollie Plastow, Director at Consensus, to learn more about his business, projects and the importance of addressing employee wellbeing in the workplace.  

Consensus Workspace is a commercial fit out company based in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, with a second office in London. The team offers over 25 years of expertise and specialises in retail and office interiors, working with leading architects, designers and building professionals all over the UK. Our clients include infrastructure, transport and real estate conglomerate The Peel Group, commercial real estate services company CBRE, national top end serviced office provider Orega and accounting giant Deloitte. 

What is your business ethos?

To create professional design-led workspaces of the highest of standards for our clients. It’s all about helping people be happy and healthy at work.

Why is it important for business managers to consider the mental and physical health of their employees?

People spend so much time at work – if they can’t feel relaxed and comfortable then they won’t perform effectively. It’s a practical consideration as well as an ethical one as it impacts on people’s lives and the business’s bottom line. The last 12 months have brought big changes to the way we work and while many have embraced working from home, the office remains hugely important. It nurtures company culture, it helps team bonding and it provides a sociable outlet, which humans need. Workplaces need to welcome people and provide a feeling of security and trust.

In what ways can interior designers incorporate employee health in their designs?

Colour and texture is key. Our own boardroom has been filled with colours from the Dulux Colour Futures palette. The pinks and mauves are warm and welcoming and move away from the intimidating cliché of the boardroom. We have a thick multilevel loop carpet tile and this all works together with the aim of evoking a feeling of home, comfort and familiarity.

Opening up the workplace as much as possible is very effective. The removal of dividers and interior walls will help with ventilation and fresh air. Clever use of plants, paint effects, flooring, and furniture means that these elements, which already provide a role, can now create working areas within one larger space, helping people to feel more comfortable. It’s about giving people space while also keeping them connected.

What products can be specified to assist in supporting a healthy workforce?

Plants! Biophilia – the use of nature – is proven to have a positive impact on mental health, with American psychologist Eric Fromm first coining the term in the 1970s, describing what he saw as an innate love of nature in humans. Studies have shown that office workers’ quality of life can be enriched by office landscaping: even if plants have no formal function, they lift the mood. Sustainable materials. Standing desks. Ergonomic chairs. All business owners should also provide fresh fruit and lots of water, access to exercise and apps like Headspace.

In what ways are employers looking at employee health in relation to people returning to work after the COVID19 restrictions?

It’s about striking a balance and recognising that while some people are chomping at the bit to get back to work, others may feel anxious. Employers we know are liaising closely with their teams to see what will make them feel comfortable, and this is including staggered work shifts and combining homeworking and office work. It’s also about making small changes to layouts, with dividing walls being removed, one-way open plan areas being created, and spaces being opened up to allow people to remain socially distant without it feeling uncomfortable.

What will be the ongoing benefits of businesses addressing health in their workplace now?

We should all be looking at the long-term health of our employees. At Consensus, we are passionate about the health of our team as we want people to stay with us. If employees’ mental and physical wellbeing is prioritised, they look forward to work, perform better and remain loyal. This is about company and community, as well as economy.  It is about creating a space and culture where people can thrive, feel safe and be productive.

Could you tell us about 2-3 projects where you have created healthy workplaces?

We have created a number of office spaces for Orega. Orega offices are spread all over the UK and each one differs very slightly from the next, because of different building specs, demographic requirements and date of completion – but they all bear the hallmark of good taste, with contemporary styling and functional, well thought out, spacious facilities. Orega offices are all about innovative office solutions with the highest level of customer satisfaction.

We completed their Old Bailey site in London and worked with them on their serviced offices in Glasgow. We’ve just completed their Bristol office, which was 400 workstations spread over two floors in a Bath stone Art Deco building.

Calderpeel Architects have an office layout which has the flow and zones described above: informal seating, an open plan kitchen and dining area, social and quieter workspaces and a leisure area. Large windows flood the space with light and natural materials and plants feature heavily.

What do you have planned for the future?

Growth. We’ve just won a large contract at MediaCity UK and have our busiest year yet ahead of us. We’ll be expanding our team and continuing with what we do: creating workspaces that encourage mental and physical health as well as creativity and productivity.

Contact Consensus Workspace


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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