Ep009 Robyn Hawke – Creating functional workspaces enhancing brand and productivity | FAQ Business Podcast

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We are back to guest episodes in episode 9, with our host Jane Tweedy interviewing award-winning Interior Designer Robyn Hawke, Founder of Inspired Spaces. We had such a great conversation about how she overcame self-doubt to win an award, her great tips for how workspaces influence brand and productivity which feature in Part A.

We continue the conversation next week in Part B creating productive workplaces and business lessons, from Robyn who’s been in business for 16 years, as well as some actionable education for you to apply in your workspace.

This falls under our inspiring leaders and businesses like you pillars. 

Disclaimer – All information provided today is general in nature. Please reach out to Jane or Robyn for personalised advice. Robyn’s details appear at the bottom of this section.

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FAQ Business Podcast Ep9 transcription Robyn Hawke Interior Designer

00:01 – Jane Tweedy Introducing Part A Creating functional workspaces with Robyn Hawke of Inspired Spaces

Welcome to the FAQ Business Podcast. Our episode Today is actually part A of a two part series and we will follow with Part B next week. This was because we were speaking to the amazing Robyn Hawke from Inspired Spaces, and she had so much amazing stuff to tell us about the way interior design impacts our health and our wellbeing and makes our businesses more profitable and improves the brand. And she’s also a business like you. So she’s had some really interesting stories, so she’s got a lot of great things to say.

So Part A is going to cover a bit about the self-doubt side of things. Her amazing award-winning we’re going to talk about the function of an office space and how to make them your own. She also talks about branding and quite an amazing story about how the branding mission got expanded to make an amazing office space.

If you’re a follower of the FAQ Business Podcast, you’ll be pleased to know our episode Today features a wonderful guest, Robyn Hawke of Inspired Spaces. Welcome, Robyn.

01:06 – Robyn Hawke

Thanks, Jane, for having me. I’m really excited.

01:08 – Jane – Lots to hear from this award winning business interior designer and business owner of 16 years

Cool. We all know interior design is all about adding and chopping a few expensive pillows. Right? So what does this have to offer you as a business owner? Well, Robyn is an inspiring, award winner working on multimillion dollar jobs, being in business a whopping 16 years. So has a lot to teach you as a business like you. And to top it off, she will add some insight into how your workspace, whether home or office affects your productivity, your branding, and ultimately your bottom line.

01:42 – About FAQ Business Podcast

Welcome to the FAQ Business Podcast for business owners covering four pillars, actionable, education, inspiring leaders, businesses like you and thought leadership where we challenge your thinking.

Hosted by myself Jane Tweedy, I am Founder and Lead Trainer of FAQ Business Training where we want to avoid you getting ripped off or ripping yourself off. We’ll feature an amazing diversity of guests with lots to educate and inspire you. Let’s jump into today’s episode of the FAQ Business Podcast.

02:18 – Jane – What drives you Robyn?

I mentioned in the intro all the amazing things we’re going to talk about today from this inspiring business woman. How about we first hear a bit about what you love doing and what drives you, Robyn?

02:28 – About Robyn Hawke – Loves anything creative, design, architecture and nature 

The Cathedral of St. Sophia is a former Orthodox cathedral, later – a mosque, now – a museum; a world-famous monument of Byzantine architecture, a symbol of the “golden age” of Byzantium.

Okay. What I love doing is design anything creative. My whole entire life has been spent creating things, whether it was creating my own clothes and making my own clothes from the age of eight to ten years of age, even making my own school uniforms to go to school at that time. Anything from painting fabrics, applique, designing, seeing art, exploring architecture. It’s always been about creativity. So that’s what inspires me to give me the drive to keep going. I love looking at things, whether it be in nature or the built environment.

03:07 – Robyn – Inspired by disabled daughter and learned to live for today

I love creating spaces. I love designing things. I love architecture and anything that’s about creating something for someone to enjoy. What drives me? Probably one of my inspirations is my daughter as you know, my eldest daughter is severely disabled and she has achieved so much that the doctors didn’t do. And she is probably what is my inspiration to keep going. 

“She has taught us to live for today and not tomorrow.” 

So don’t worry about the little things. Don’t let them put you down, etc, deal with them, solve them, get on and move on and live every moment of your time as much as you possibly can to the fullness that you can.

03:48 – Robyn – It’s all about exploring and losing yourself  

And what I love to do in my spare time? I love to read, I love theatre and movies and going to the beach. So again, you can see from all my loves, they’re all creative. It’s all about exploring it’s about losing yourself into some sort of fictional story or losing yourself into a building or even losing yourself into nature.

04:08 – Jane – How has being a carer impacted your business? 

So you mentioned about having a severely disabled daughter and I know how important she is to you. How has that influenced you starting out into business and things? How has that impacted it?

04:19 – Robyn – Business was just a work from home side interest

Okay, to be honest, when I first started the business, it actually was something to do whilst I was her main carer. She was still living at home. She moved out the age of 30. She’s now 34. So for 30 years I was her main carer. And my husband was the main income earner, and it wasn’t male or female roles. It was the fact that he earned the most money at the time and she had ten specialists, which we saw privately. So our bills were huge. So obviously it made sense that he was the one to stay at work.

04:56 – Robyn – Suddenly business became the main source of income

But then about five years ago he became ill and so then he had to resign from work, retire from work. And now I am the main breadwinner. So that’s impacted how the business is I’ve had to turn the business on it’s head in the last five years, because prior to that, if we made a profit great we went on a nice holiday. If we didn’t make it, it was something to keep me going whilst I was looking after her and doing all her hospital trips, doctors, etc.

Now that I’m the only income earner in the family, it’s really changed how I do it and made me really think about how the business functions.

05:37 – Jane – Working mums are often hard on themselves

That’s awesome. And I think that relates to a lot of people. I deal with a lot of mums who don’t have disabled children. They have three children under five or something crazy, and they wonder why they’re not getting enough done in their day, but they’re being so hard on themselves. It’s such a big job when you’re being a carer for somebody.

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05:53 – Robyn – Belief in yourself key to success

Yeah, and you doubt yourself and you don’t think of yourself. I think the biggest thing is now I actually think of myself as a business woman who’s actually a mum rather than a mum who had a business, and I think that change in thought process is the key to making the business even more successful than what it is.

06:12 – Jane – Business has now won awards

Awesome. So it seems that you’ve really come into your strides then, since you’ve made that switch into the being the business with the mum on the side, almost. You’ve won many awards. So you’ve 2020 Most Outstanding Interior Design business in the Hills District finalist and a number awards this year. So did you enter awards previous to this? And why or not why not?


06:37 – Robyn – Had previously not entered awards due to self-doubt

Hadn’t entered any single business award prior to this. The reason being is self-doubt. It was I’m not a business woman. I’m not worthy of this. Who am I kidding? Right. And then I don’t know the previous years, it was always oh, so and so entered and so and so won. Wait a minute. I think I’m as good as they are. So last year, I entered for the first time and one I couldn’t believe entering the first time and winning on the first time. 

07:14  – Robyn – Belief in yourself as running a business, supporting family and staff

So, yes, I’m kicking myself I didn’t do it sooner, but it was the self-doubt. I’m not worthy enough. And I think this is probably a female attribute. I’m generalising, but I do think that tends to be a little bit more of a female attribute. And it’s probably again to think that I was a mum with a business on the side. And now my thought process is no, I’m running a business. I’m supporting my family. I’m supporting the economy. I’m supporting three staff members. So therefore give myself kudos and actually agree yeah for someone who has had no business background, no business training, I’m doing damn good.

07:53 – Jane – Inspiring others to have belief in yourself 

You are doing amazing. This is why I get people like you involved in this, because I think it’s so inspiring to other people that potentially are still in that first camp. They are still that the mum with the business, and they have that self-doubt, and they don’t know whether they can take it to the next level. And then you look at someone like you and go, hell, yes, you can take it to the next level. You can become the breadwinner for the family. It’s not about having to step in the background all the time.

08:18 – Robyn – really I’m innately shy

No. And it’s again, the self-talk and the self-doubt. I tell people who meet me I’m innately shy and everyone goes, Come off it. You’re not shy.

Jane – Yeah right.

08:31 – Robyn – have to work at putting self out there

But I am. It’s a skill that I’ve learned over the years to cover up. But I am an innately shy person, so I have to work at it all the time to put myself out there. And I think that innate shyness has probably been the precursor to the self-doubt. Yeah.

08:50- Jane – People see you as bubbly and effervescent

I’ve met Robyn through networking for probably about the last five years. And when I see Robyn, I do see her as a bubbly, effervescent person, that’s always one of the first people to talk to people and all that sort of thing.

09:02 – Jane – walking into a room full of people can be challenging!

But as you say, that’s something you can learn. It’s something you can adapt to. And you might be surprised, but I’m the same if I walk into a room full of people I don’t know I hate it. Yes. I’m just like, oh, my gosh. Is this someone here? I know someone I can talk to because I feel really. You just feel out on a limb.

09:24 – Robyn – had to overcome it to be successful

Yep. And it’s a skill that I just had to overcome. If I was going to be successful, I had to overcome that. And anyone can do it. I was the kid that cried because my mother went to the toilet and I couldn’t see her.

Jane – Oh, no.

09:41 – Robyn – so yeah we can overcome it

Yeah. I was the kid that sat in the background and wouldn’t say boo because I was so shy. So we can overcome it, which is amazing.

09:51 – Jane – have awards helped you financially?

That’s really impressive. So you’ve already mentioned that the awards that you’ve entered and become a winner of have helped you with your self-confidence. So from a business side, have they helped you financially, has it won you more sales?


10:05 – Robyn – awards have validated me with self-limiting belief

It’s given me kudos, and it’s validated me. So it’s validated me in my self-doubt to say yes. I’m good. I’ve really pinched myself that. My clients love to say, oh, I got an award-winning designer to do that. And yeah, it just gives me. I think it’s just the validation whether it’s impacted my bottom line. I don’t know. There’s too many variables to actually say that with this pandemic, things are gone crazy. I mean, business at the moment, I have never been as busy and in fact, we’re booked out till next February, March at the moment.

10:45 – Jane – global crisis and house prices up a third?!

I just can’t get my head around the whole concept. We’re in a global pandemic global financial crisis associated with that, because all the people out of work and all the amount of money that’s been given by the governments to people and all that stuff. And yet house prices have gone up a third in a year. And you’re like what?

11:02 – Robyn – living and working from home 24/7

Yeah, we’re taking advantage of it whilst we can. I think the bubble will break when travel, I know travel has opened up, but once it opens up and people feel safer about travelling. So I think we have a year of this nice, this is my guess, a year of this bubble of people have got money that they would have spent on overseas trips. So they’ve been living in their home. They’ve realised being in the house 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, the shortcomings.

So now are addressing it and they realise the impact that their environment has had on their wellbeing. So they decided that I’m going to do something about it. I’m quite sure in twelve months time we probably would have gone back to our normal routine.

11:48 – Robyn – really need to employ extra staff

But that, as a business owner puts me in a quandary, I probably need to employ extra staff, but it’s going to take me six months before they’re fully productive. Will I then in six months time have to put them off because of the unknown. Now it wasn’t for a pandemic and we were this busy, it would have been easy. Yes, I need more staff and we go along that way.

12:17 – Jane – is this a permanent demand or inflated demand?

Yes. The podcast I just did was on about hiring people because it is a major issue a lot of people are going through at the moment, and people think it’s only at when you’re hiring your first employee that you have problems. But there are other bottlenecks in your business, and obviously you’re one of them now. And particularly when you’re at that question mark, is this a permanent demand or is this just an inflated demand? Because like you said, people are going, oh, my house that I’ve been confined to looks like rubbish. I need to fix it.

12:47 – Robyn – can’t afford the time to train staff

Yeah. And I think that’s where my thing is. And then I have this moral thing. I don’t want to bring someone on and then say to them, six months time, I don’t need you. I have an issue with that. People are going to be committing for me and do the best for me I feel like I got to do for them. And then the irony is we’re so busy that we probably can’t afford to take anyone else. I can’t afford to take the time to train them.

13:15 – Jane refer FAQ Business podcast episode 8 about hiring and outsourcing

Yeah. And that’s exactly what I talk about in that episode is the fact there’s no fairy godmother, with a little wand waving it around and suddenly tada new person all fixed, I’m like, no, you go backwards before you go forwards.

You can find the podcast here: https://faqbusinesstraining.com.au/ep008-jane-tweedy-hiring-or-outsourcing-help/ 

13:27 – Robyn – and then they leave

It’s hard work and then you just get them up to scratch and then they leave.

Jane – That’s not so good. But anyway.

Robyn – That’s the nature of business.

13:38 – Jane – Robyn has presented at seminars and written for magazines

It is absolutely. I also note that as part of your amazing interior design skills, that you’ve also been key presenter at some seminars. You are a resident writer for the Sydney Home and Living Magazine. You’ve been published in several magazines. You’ve been a podcast guest and things. These are awesome accolades. Did you put your hand up for these, or did these people approach you? How did that work?

14:00 – Robyn – first seminar was standing room only and increased from there

It’s a bit of both years ago, we used to do the Hills Home and Living Expo. Now, when they first started, I approached the person that was putting on and said, oh, you’ve got any seminars? Do you mind if I do it? And he said, oh, yeah. And I think he gave me one spot, but my one spot was standing room only. So then the next year he gave me two spots. And then I think the year after that, I was doing four spots.

Jane – Oh, wow.

14:28 – Robyn – presentation not an issue as I can answer any question

That was amazing. And all of them were standing room only filled up. I approached them and then they kept coming back to me. That is an advantage in my past life being a teacher. So presentation is not an issue for me. It’s get up the confidence is there. And because I taught design for 20 odd years and now went back and studied it for interior design. I know my area backwards, so to stand up and talk or don’t worry, if someone throws me a curly question, I’m sure I can answer it.

15:03 – Robyn – sometimes call me or sometimes just send in before and after 

So it’s not a problem. Things like the podcast, some I ask. Some people have asked me to do it again with publications and magazines. Sometimes I just get random phone calls, like from the Daily Telegraph with their home magazine. They’ll often ring me for a quote and then go, oh, can you give us a picture or some things? Sometimes I’ll just send over what I think is a really good design because I love before and afters I’ll send them over to them and do that. So it’s a bit of both.

15:30 – Robyn – brought up to be modest now have self-belief

I think you’ve got to reach out. And that’s the part again where for me, my generation, I was brought up where you didn’t sprout how good you are. You have to be very modest. You never go I’m a wonderful designer I’m wonderful this. And so it’s taken a lot of thought process and work to actually get past that, I’m allowed to go out and say, I think this is good please publish it.

15:56 – Jane – shyness does not mean you can’t present

Yeah. And obviously part of that is the confidence building. But it also does show for those people that if you’re listening and you’re a really shy person, shyness does not mean you can’t present. Shyness does not mean you can’t go on stage. And I think some people equate the two as being the same thing and they’re not. And you can get on stage. And if you know your topic inside out, you can blitz it. It can be amazing.

16:18 – Robyn – well known comedian shy unless on stage

I was reading somewhere, I don’t know, I can’t even think of it some well known comedian and they said they are so shy that they’d be hard pressed to hold a conversation with someone outside the stage.

16:30 – Jane – Richard Branson avoids public speaking using a sofa

Well, it’s like Richard Branson when Richard Branson does a stage talk, he never stands up and talks to the audience. If you watch any of his things he does he sits down on a sofa and talks to the individual that he’s being interviewed by. But he can’t stand the whole public speaking thing. And that’s the thing. You’ve got to work out what your strengths and your weaknesses are and work out how you can work with them or overcome them to transform.

Robyn – Definitely.

16:56 – Jane – transformation of a company’s persona using interior design

Interior designers working table

So speaking about transformation, one of the things that you mentioned when you gave me some about you information was this quote. Our key business focus is on redesign and creating the physical branding of a company’s persona. So can you explain how you go about identifying that company persona and how you display that in their physical environment when you’re doing their interior design?

17:20 – Robyn – Get to know the business, mission statement, culture and values

Okay. So for a business, the first thing we do is we ask about and it’s a bit bizaar some people sort of push back. Why do you need to know my business structure? Like, what are you trying to spy on it? So no I need to understand your business structure. I need to know what your mission statement is. So we’re very big on what the company’s mission statement is. We’re very big on what their culture and values are. And we visit the space. So we walk into the existing office space and just get a vibe.

17:50 – Robyn – trying to find the vibe, energy and happiness 

You know how you walk into a room or you walk somewhere, like the other weekend we were at Kirribilli. We went and saw the Queen Symphony thing at the big top. And we had dinner at Kirribilli and I parked the car and I was walking up the street and the vibe that was coming out of that street, the energy, the happiness was just amazing. Yet you try to describe it to someone and they go, oh, you’re crazy. And that’s what we try and find out.

18:18 – Robyn – boutique service provider or industry leader?

What is it like in an office block? Do I walk into this office and do I feel this vibe? Do I feel this happiness vibe, or do I think, oh, my god, I’m looking at the clock. When is 5:00pm coming? I’ve got to get out of here. So that’s what we look for. We also talk about their target market. We talk about who comes to the space, who uses the space. What do they see them portrayed as do they want to be seen as a boutique service provider, or do they want to be seen as an industry leader?

18:47 – Robyn – talk with the marketing person to understand values and branding

And all those things are really important. We also talk to, if they’re a big enough company, we will talk with their marketing person. We understand the ethos and the values and the reasoning and the concept behind all the branding. So we understand all those sort of things.

19:04 – Robyn – Branding e.g. The Reject Shop vs Tiffany’s

And we believe in a holistic approach. I think you’ve heard me say that we provide physical branding for your business. Branding is not just about your letterhead and your business card. It’s about the whole environment and the classic example of there’s an expectation when you walk into, say, The Reject Shop on what you’re going to see versus if you walk into a Tiffany shop and what you are going to see. That is what is it telling you?

19:31 – Robyn – work environment and brand image

So your actual environment is portraying an image to your potential clients, to your staff. And people don’t realise that they don’t realise that they’re cementing their brand image by their environment.

19:46 – Jane – small things make a big difference

Absolutely. And it can be something really tiny. There’s a lady’s place I went to and she was marketing herself. She had the word Luxe or something in her business name. And she had this luxe premises inside. But outside, she had a sandwich board with a handwritten stuck on, on an A4 piece of paper onto the sandwich board. And I just think you’re just completely blowing your brand out of the water by this tacky sandwich board. Get rid of it.

20:12 – Robyn – invest in something that is seen

Yeah, but invest in something that is seen. And that’s what I say to people when you’re starting out. If you’ve got a lot of people coming to the front end, invest in that as a starting point. And then maybe you move on to the second one. But it’s still just as important to invest in your staff as well. So we believe in that. So we do subtle things like, obviously, you can do your feature wall and the colour of the brand. That’s obvious. But we tried to be a little bit more creative.

20:41 – Robyn – diamond represents strength of the brand so used in the interior design

So, for instance, I had one company and their branding was based on a diamond, and they’re based on a diamond because they provide quality. They’re long lasting, and they’ve got great strength and they’re here. So they had the diamond so I actually designed their reception desk based on the shape of a diamond.

Jane – Oh, wow.

21:01 – Robyn – concept based on information from client mission statement and culture


Okay. All the strips you put on the glass walls, the safety strips that you’ve got to have. Well, we put the diamond as a safety strip. We had furniture, and we had a couple of reception chairs in part of the colours of their branding. So we do it like that. And we also do it, whenever we design, we design with a concept in mind. And the concept is based on all that information that we get with the client in terms of their mission statement, the culture.

21:35 – Robyn – working on large five story commercial building

So I use at the moment, we’re actually designing quite a large, actually, we’re working on a five storey building at the moment, for a commercial one. Bottom basement is just a basement. We’re doing half the bottom floor, just doing a bit of a tidy up on the first floor, the second floor, we’re doing complete fit out and 1300 squares. And we’re hoping to go through council. We’ve got a DA into council to actually put a rooftop garden in.

22:00 – Robyn – dynamic connections concept 

Now with that company after doing that, we created a concept. And if you bear with me, I just want to read out what this concept was. Now it’s a security company. I don’t want to give too much about this company because obviously they’re a security company. But, we created the concept of dynamic connections.

22:19 – Robyn – concept drives interior design and inspiration

And I’ll just read what it says when I said, so I said to them, when we design, we create a concept and the one for your head office is dynamic connections. Which translates to a company that is proactive, energetic in the world of security. You connect not only with your staff, but with your clients through an integrated approach. Although each department is an entity within itself. Without the dynamic connections, their effectiveness would be compromised. This concept will drive the design, creating direction and inspiration.

22:52 – Robyn – connections created with visual image of connecting circles

So what we’ve done with that we then created that into a visual image, and we’ve got a variety of circles, all connecting. So we’ve got all these pods connecting. So by themselves, they’re an entity. But together, they’re a whole company. So we’ve translated that into the design. So we’ve got areas within the thing. We’ve got actually using round pods for breakout areas. We’ve got the circles happening in the flooring. We’ve got areas divided by ceiling gardens.

23:25 – Robyn – this all comes together to create the persona and branding

That is what we’ve done. So we’ve taken all that information from their mission statement, from their culture, talking to their marketing people, understanding who they are and what they want to be seen as created this concept called dynamic connections and use that to drive our design. And that is all then coming together to create the persona and the next level of their branding.

23:52 – Jane – the dynamic connection wasn’t part of the brand initially?

Wow. That’s amazing. That dynamic connection piece. That was not part of their initial brand concept?

23:57 – Robyn – this took a lot of background information and research

No, that is something we have developed, understanding all that background information with that. So it was about my staff getting in contact with the marketing, my staff interviewing the owner, doing a lot of research on the internet about the company. So we do a lot of back end to really, really understand it. And that’s what makes us stand out from, say, a typical shop fit out person. It isn’t just come in and throw in a few workstations. This is understanding how this business runs and how we can do it. Okay.

24:36 – Jane – interior design is more than puffing pillows!

I really get now that interior design is a lot more than just puffing pillows.

24:40 – Robyn – a lot more than tossing cushions!

Yes, a lot more than tossing cushions, that’s for sure.

24:46 – Jane

Selling houses or whatever. And we just get that impression. That’s all they do. Just toss a few pillows around chop, chop, and that’s done.

24:53 – Robyn

That’s it. And maybe a vase of flowers as well.

24:58 – Jane – from Robyn “our ability to manipulate space is our key strength”

Of course, you’ve gotta have something fresh there. You’ve also mentioned another quote from that you gave me was “our ability to manipulate space is our key strength, which translates into beautiful, fully functioning spaces”. So is this why you named your business Inspired Spaces?

25:13 – Robyn – creative industry had to have a creative name

Main reason I did Inspired Spaces was I wanted something that indicated something creative, like I used the example like we always used to joke, my father’s name was Barry, and we used to go, oh, he’s going to set up Barry’s Burgers. And I just felt like Robyn Hawke Designs was a bit like the Barry Burgers scenario. We’re a creative industry. I felt like I had to have a creative name.

Jane – Perfect.

25:38  – Robyn – want people to feel inspired in their spaces 

It took me over six months to come up with this [name]. Brainstorming, I’ve had other selections and they had already been taken. And then it was just all about I didn’t want to put something that was going to pigeonhole me into residential or commercial. So it was about that. And then it was like, what do I want people to do? I want them to feel inspired in their spaces. So hence the name Inspired Spaces, which we have copyrighted [trademarked]. Awesome, because I noticed a lot of big businesses will start to use it as taglines.

26:12 – Jane – What make a workspace fully functioning?

Very clever. So what makes a workspace fully functioning?

26:16 – Robyn – functional and productive workplaces

Okay, I think to understand and again, I’m going to use a quote here interior design has been defined by the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications as “the art and science of understanding people’s behaviour to create functional spaces within a building through creative and technical solutions”. So basically, it’s a blend of creativity, technology and spatial planning. That’s what makes it functional. That means we take into account things like noise transfer. So the biggest issue, we’ve all gone several years ago, I went to this open desk plan, but no one’s thought about you’re trying to have a conversation with the phone.

27:01 – Robyn – noise pollution is really important

And how often do you get on these call centre’s and you can hear someone in the background talking. So the noise transfer acoustics, the echo. We were talking about the echo even before we started recording this. That’s really, really important. Noise pollution is a huge singular workspace that people don’t think about. So the job we’re doing, the security one I’m talking about, we’ve got all these big open areas, but we’ve got actual pods, acoustic pods that are based in a sound in a circle where people can go in and have their private phone call conversations.


27:34 – Robyn – never enough storage even in a paperless office

We’ve also got acoustic chairs to mitigate that. Number one is adequate storage. No one thinks about it. Everyone goes, oh, we’re going to paperless. Sorry. Have you ever seen a paperless office? Never, ever. So you’ve got to have storage.

27:49 – Robyn – safe workplace and easy walk flow

There is easy walk flows. Can I get from point A to B relatively easy without falling over 10 million things. Okay, probably no one is up to date equipment. Nothing worse than working there and making it integrated. At the moment, we’re allowing the office, we’re deciding, that just the one floor, we have over 100 people that has to be incorporated into that.

So we’ve got to work with the electrician, the data people, the AV specialist. To make sure that our designs can accommodate it. So that all the soft wiring that goes with the workstations is comparable with the data that the electrician’s putting in. And how do we control that data? How do we make it so that we haven’t got cords running everywhere? So then there’s all that safety thing.

28:40 – Robyn – distinction between the front and back of the office 

I’m a big one for a distinction between the front end and the back end of an office. There’s nothing worse to walk into an office and feel like you’re invading someone’s space. You’re in the wrong space. So I’m a big one to have a distinct back end. And also, that helps you with perception, because, you know, if you flat out meeting a deadline, a space can be busy. There can be noise, etc.

29:04 – Robyn – make staff and visitor access easy

Now, a client doesn’t or a customer doesn’t need to see that they don’t. So again, this office design that we’ve done, we’ve actually designed it so that there is two boardrooms and a meeting room. Visitors or guests can access without having to go to the back end of the business. Whereas the staff at the back end can access it easily the other way.

29:30 – Jane – working from home and walking through the house


Like people that have work from home offices. Right. And you can have one near the front door or with a outside access. It makes such a difference than having to walk through their house.

29:41 – Robyn – wouldn’t want clients coming through house

Yeah. I work from home and I’ve got to work with what we’ve got and our house is 1970’s so it wasn’t designed for offices. So I don’t have many people coming to my home anyway because I go to the client, but I will not meet anyone in my own home because I want to keep that distinct. However, if that had been at the front of the house and I didn’t need to walk through, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t mind reps coming, etc. 

30:15 – Robyn – and now we need to think about Covid safe

What else do we need? Are things like what makes it functional, lighting, air quality, air quality control. And now the new one’s Covid safe.

Jane – Of course.

30:27 – Robyn – people want to feel safe to come back to the office

Yeah. I had a past client ring me the other day saying, where do I go to get the dividers between the workstations? Like I’d finished designing that three or four years ago. That has been a huge impact again on wanting people to feel safe. People aren’t going to come back to the office if they don’t feel they’re going to be safe. So all those things together make a functional office.

30:54 – Jane – what impacts does the interior design have on wellbeing

There’s a lot of things to make it functional, but it all needs to work together. And that’s the thing that makes it functional. So you mentioned about also, in your wording to me, the value great design has on your wellbeing, both in terms of health and wealth. So what are the impacts that design has on your wellbeing, okay.

31:13 – Robyn – everyone responds to their environment (home or office)

We think about how many times you walk into an environment and you respond to that environment, even though this is not office, but think of it in your home. What room in your home does everyone gravitate to and what space becomes a junk space and then everybody will have a favourite area. And it could be because it’s got great furniture, it’s got great lighting or it’s got heating and cooling, got a great aspect. Or maybe it’s the location because it’s the central part and everyone can that applies to an office as well.

31:50 – Robyn Hawke – workplace productivity increases when we feel good

Everyone is the same. You have this feeling that you walk into a space and it either encompasses you and gives you a positive feeling or it gives you a negative feeling. So if it’s going to give that a negative feeling, you’re not going to work productively, you’re not going to feel good. You’re going to have stress, mental stress, etc. And we also realise too, that I think we’ve all heard Sick Building Syndrome from like, like about 20 odd years ago. They built all these office blocks and not considering air quality and the impact of that.

32:21 – Robyn – office environment affects workplace productivity

And that is so true, about that. And we now know the importance of air conditioning systems and things like Listeria and making sure that their maintenance was often done, maintenance, etc that’s all thing. And then there’s been another study done, and I’m trying, so what I’ve been trying to do is, in my mind, I know definitely 100% the office environment will affect your productivity, your profit, the wellbeing.

32:50 – Robyn – justifying return on investment (ROI)

But what we’ve been trying to do is find quantitative information to justify that. Not just that qualitative, because at the end of the day, you have your chief financial officer or your accountant going oh bottom line I’m outlaying X amount of money what’s my return on investment?

33:09 – Robyn – how do you quantify staff morale?

And it’s very hard to quantify it, because how do you quantify staff morale? How do you actually quantify even productivity and creativity? It’s really difficult. But there was a study in England that they found that employee workplace is responsible as much as 24% of job satisfaction. So working in a great designed office contributes to 24% of their satisfaction in their job.

Jane – Wow.

33:38 – Robyn – does your workspace make you feel good? 

Okay. So that is really, if you’re in a space that makes you feel good, if you’re in a space that you’re prideful to go in are you happy to invite people to that space? Are you proud to invite them to that space? Do the staff want to turn up and go, are the staff, for instance, another indication that maybe your workplace isn’t good the time hits 5:00 and there’s not a single person left in the office.

Jane – Yes, everyone wants out.

34:06 – Robyn – good culture and great design = happy staff

Everyone wants out, they’re not there for the end. Whereas if it’s a good workplace with a good culture and a great design, they’ll stay that extra ten minutes to put the final sentence into that paragraph or whatever. Okay. And they may not necessarily be time watching to do that. So that is really important.

34:23 – Robyn – high ceilings for creative brainstorming

And there’s things like looking at do you want your people to be creative and they’ve actually proven that if you need creative brainstorming ideas, they should be in a room that has high ceilings so that you’re not confined. Whereas if you need something to really concentrate, say, maybe like the accountant area doing the financial figures, you might put bulkheads in those areas so that they really.

Jane – Put them in a jail cell?

Robyn – Not quite but anyway.

34:50 – Jane – Thanks for listening to part A, part B to follow next week

Thank you for tuning into today’s episode of the FAQ Business Podcast. As mentioned at the start, this is part A of two parts. Part B will follow next week and we will continue the discussion talking about nature, colour therapy, the legal ramifications of making changes to your workspace, working from home in garages, the crazy expectations in some of the requirements for disabled people. Collaborations and a productivity hack, as well as some actionable education. So we’ll see you next week for Part B of the amazing session with Robyn Hawke of Inspired Spaces.

35:33 – Jane – thanks and please subscribe

Thank you for listening to today’s episode of the FAQ Business Podcast, available on all good podcast services. You can subscribe today via faqbusinesspodcast.com.au or directly on Apple iTunes, iHeartRadio or Spotify. Subscribe. Follow. Share and where able to, review our podcast or leave us a comment on either YouTube or our blog page. Thanks for helping us to help you. The small to medium businesses who are growing and want to make a difference. Look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the FAQ Business Podcast.

Our episode featured Robyn Hawke, Founder and Interior Designer of Inspired Spaces

Robyn Hawke is a fully qualified Interior Designer, Founder and Director of Inspired Spaces Design Pty Ltd (est 2005).

Award-winning – 2020 Most Outstanding Interior Design Business Hills District – finalist in several awards 2021.

Extensive knowledge of design theory and practice, enhanced by a long background in teaching design in a previous career.

Inspired Spaces key business focus is on residential and more recently commercial redesign and creating the physical branding of a company’s persona. Our ability to manipulate space is our key strength which translates into beautiful fully functioning spaces.

Inspired Spaces work with people who value good design and recognise the value great design has on your wellbeing both in terms of health and wealth.

Robyn is a mentor for other designers and runs a group in Sydney called Designer Chicks.

In addition Robyn has been:

  • Key presenter of seminars at numerous expositions, and industry representative for HIA trade show
  • Was resident writer for Sydney Home and Living Magazine
  • Published in several magazines
  • Regular podcast guest
  • Been a judge for Hills Design Awards
  • Recognised with community awards for the disabled

Robyn’s links are:





About FAQ Business Training

If this is the first time you’ve come across us you may want to know who we are! FAQ Business Training has a mission to educate and empower small business owners to learn enough to do it yourself (DIY) or outsource with confidence. We do this via face to face training in Western Sydney (currently all training is provided online), speaking at conferences, events and networking groups and we have launched our online school and membership, offering online courses and webinars to appeal to a global (English speaking) audience. Connect with us on Facebook or LinkedIn.


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