Ep010 Robyn Hawke – Productive workplaces and business lessons (Part B) | FAQ Business Podcast

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In episode 10 we continue on from Episode 9. Part B features our host Jane Tweedy interviewing award-winning Interior Designer Robyn Hawke, Founder of Inspired Spaces. We continue the conversation in part B about 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, actionable education 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 Ep010 transcription Robyn Hawke Interior Designer on Productive workspaces

00:01 – Jane Tweedy – Introducing part B productive workplaces and business lessons with Robyn Hawke of Inspired Spaces

Welcome back to the FAQ Business Podcast. Today we are joined again by Robyn Hawke completing her session about interior design and its impact on office productivity, branding and the wealth of the business, which is quite surprising but a really interesting discussion. She’s also going to talk a bit more about the business like you aspects and also, of course, bring in a productivity hack. So as a recap in part A, Robyn talked about her self-doubt. She talked about how she was a business on the side as a mum and turned that into a business with the mum on the side and how that impacted her business.

She talked about the way that we can bring brand into your office space and an amazing story about how she effectively added to the brand’s mission. She also talked about what makes a functional office space, including in your own home or in your business.

01:01 – Jane – Today part B we cover nature, colour therapy and legal considerations

Today in part B, we’re going to go over nature, colour therapy, legal considerations, working from home in a space like a garage, the crazy WHS obligations in Australia, plus collaborations and of course, her productivity hack and some actionable education. Hope you look forward to today’s episode of the FAQ Business Podcast. Our episode today features a wonderful guest, Robyn Hawke of Inspired Spaces.

Welcome Robyn.

01:31 – Robyn Hawke

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

01:34 – Jane – Award winner, multi-million dollar jobs, 16 years experience

Well, Robyn is an inspiring, award winner working on multi-million dollar jobs. Been 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.

01:58 – Jane – FAQ Business Podcast welcome

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.

02:34 – Robyn – Natures view and stress levels

Proven that a view to nature improves your wellbeing and if you can’t see it in reality, even pictures of nature, if it be artwork or murals, will decrease the stress level in an office.

02:51 – Jane – Desk placement – do you use nature’s view?

I was going to ask you about the view to nature thing? Because I was actually thinking about this a bit earlier before we came on that you see some people when they put the window behind them and put their desk in the middle of the room facing away from the window. But with that view to nature comment, is that kind of being counterproductive?


03:10 – Robyn – can use artwork to substitute

I suppose it depends on the reason why they did it. Is there a glare issue? Is there a fact that what they’re looking out at is not nice? Is it because they’ve just got to make the room functional? So you could mitigate that by having some artwork or something that has nature on it.

Jane – Or even a mirror maybe to reflect it.

03:32 – Robyn – Big overseas companies believe in Feng Shui for profitable business

So a lot of your Asian clients and companies will even, there’s even been reports of big companies will actually move their physical site because the Feng Shui isn’t positive to a profitable business, and you either really believe that or you don’t. But it’s about being the general principle about the Feng Shui is having enough open space that the energy can move to all parts of the space.

Jane – Fair enough

03:59 – Robyn

With that then you’re throwing your colour psychology.

Jane – Yes.

Robyn – Okay.

Jane – Very different with different nationalities.

04:06 – Robyn – Colour psychology and business or workspaces

Yes. And as a general rule, say orange, for instance, will create talking and eating and all that. So that’s a good colour to be having in your breakout areas and for that sort of thing. And again, use the classic example, McDonald’s. They do red and orange look how much they turn over, how much noise is associated with that space. I mean, a lot of it’s to do the finishes as well. But that’s that. If you need an area where people need to be much calmer and brought in, then you use your blues and your greens and that.

04:37 – Robyn – Successful businesswoman use the pinks and purples

And then there’s also the psychology that’s associated with colour. How many accountants offices have got the navy blue or the royal blue, the white and they might throw in just a tiny little bit of red just a little bit. I had another company who broke three years ago, they broke the stereotype. Their actual logo is pinks and purples, which goes right away from that. But it’s run by two very, very, very successful businesswomen.

Jane – I was going to say that they are female brand with the pinks.

05:13  – Robyn – Female branding thing to break away and stand out

And it was a female branding thing. And the graphic designer was female as well. And it was like, let’s break away the norm let’s stand out from the crowd and they did it, right. And it also built because they use the diamond as their branding and also fitted with that because diamond, purple, royal.

Jane – Yes.

05:35 – Robyn – Inala and colour therapy to help disabled adults

It all goes with that. So affiliation with Inala. And we donate a lot of our time to Inala, which is for disabled adults. And they’re based on the Steiner philosophy. And they use a lot of colour therapy. So when they were doing their precinct, where my daughter goes for her day placement, I helped them with that.

And it was based on what the function of each of the spaces were with the colours. So did we need to bring the client in because they were everywhere. They were all over the place, well, then we do that with that. If they were so introverted and wouldn’t do anything, then we’d put them in the room that has the oranges and the reds, etc. Very much into colour therapy.

06:16 – Robyn – Biophilia is connection with nature, add plants to office

And that goes back to even like everything you have on crystals and things like that as well is biophilia now that’s a new thing. And that is people’s connection with nature, wanting to seek out nature. So one of the simple things you can do is put live plants in your space. Textures that are related to nature, etc. So that’s the next big thing in office design is about connecting with nature and bringing in the value of plants and nature, etc.

Jane – Yes. I’ve tried to put a plant to my office it hasn’t been that successful because it keeps getting bugs all over it. And I’m like, oh, I’m over it. I think it’s going to go now.

06:53 – Robyn – Clean, organised and well designed offices are productive workplaces

Yeah. And just one more thing to go with this is when you do the well being. If your office is really well designed and has good organisation that reduces stress. You know yourself, if you’ve got a clean desk, you walk into a clean desk and you go, yeah, I’m ready to go.

07:08 – Jane – Can we just knock down walls to improve our workspaces?

That obviously affects your productivity and makes everything better, which helps economics. So that’s awesome. Okay, so this all sounds brilliant. We go, yes, we want to do something with our office space. So can I just go and knock down walls and just make something new happen? What are the legal requirements?

07:27  – Robyn – Need Complying Development Certificate (CDC)

No, no, no. In front of work, health and safety, for sure. Okay. You have to get a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) is usually all you need because the actual original building is usually have the DA (Development Approval) already done. Unless you do that. And in that there is a whole number of series you got to do so. For instance, with access and mobility, you must also incorporate the Australian standards 1428.1 standard, which outlines everything in terms of accessibility, doors, things. For instance, you have to have the door 120 mm off the wall so that when the door can open fully to have an egress space of 850mm.

08:07 – Robyn – Must adhere to specifications for safe fire exits

So in emergency, the door is fully open, a wheelchair or a couple of people can get out at once. There is things like you’ve got to have behind the reception desk, 1500 space, so that it means that anybody who’s in a wheelchair can get and turn around in there any space that is exit to a fire thing must have 1200 square, I’m talking millimetres here, square space that they can walk out. So that means that if people are converging on a fire exit, they can all go.


08:38 – Robyn – Must have all electrical, mechanical and engineering signed off

You have to have, for instance, what they call a fire egress at any point from the furthest point to the closest exit, it must be no more than 20 metres. And that’s not as the crow flies, but as the way you walk around the workstations, you’ve got to have fire exit signs. You’ve got to have wayfinding signs, your handles on the doors have to be between nine and 1100 millimetres off the ground, have to then have all your electrical, mechanical, engineering all have to sign off on that they are meeting that.

09:13 – Robyn – Will walk away from job not CDC approved

So all those things are part and parcel of it that you’re doing it. So, look, minimum, you’re up for probably 15 or $20,000 in fees if you’re doing structural change. Yeah. If you’re doing some structural change, I will walk away from a job if they’re not going to do a CDC for an office.

Jane – Yeah.

Robyn- I feel so strongly about it that I will walk away from it.

09:46 – Jane – What about converting garage to work from home office?

What if you’re going to do something like a work from home and you’re going to convert your garage into your office?

Robyn – Okay. Look, and it depends if you’ve got staff there.

Jane – Yes.

09:56 – Robyn – Check with council about business requirements

Versus if you haven’t got staff, if you’re working from home and converting to office, you probably need to check with Council about a home business requirements. If what you’re doing with that, you certainly do need to make sure that you’ve got adequate ventilation, heat and cooling. You’ve got easy exit spots. It’s these big organisations that are really, really important that they cover themselves because there are so many variables that go into it.

10:25 – Jane – Now have to provide disability access whether you need it or not

Well, I remember the laws changed in Australia a few years ago, and it now requires you that if you are changing the internals of a premises or whatever and you’re on the first floor, you now have to provide disability access to the first floor. So a lot of people are getting caught out because they’re thinking, oh, that’s a perfect location for my business. And yet, no, no because if you make that change to make it work for your business, you’ve actually got to somehow provide access up the stairs.

10:51 – Robyn – Would never get wheelchair in but still had to be wheelchair compliant!

Yeah. And look I had an office, it was a small office in North Sydney. The only access was a small, narrow cement stairs. There was no lift. The irony was it was a lawyer who used to do immigration law for visas, etc. We actually had to make that entire office wheelchair compliant, yet there is no way anyone in a wheelchair could get up there.

Jane – Oh, my gosh, that’s ridiculous.

Robyn – Yep, yep. And that was why the building was earmarked to be demolished in ten years. That was why the rent was so cheap. And we argued with the certifier saying, look, there’s really no way anyone will, even if you put a wheelchair lift, it was going to go. Is it right that it’s like that? No.

But however, it’s an existing building. It’s an existing building and that’s the decision that you have to make now for you. Now, for that client, because she’s doing visas and etc. And unfortunately, reality is if you have a disability is not a great chance that you’d be allowed in anyway. And that sounds absolutely horrible to say. But that’s what life is.

12:05 – Robyn – Think about the business and accessibility when planning

For instance, we’re discussing yesterday, my husband had to take my daughter to a special needs dentist, but it was at Willoughby and no parking. It’s a special needs dentist. So it means that a good 50% of your clientele are going to be, at least in wheelchairs. They’re going to have mobility issues. They got disabilities that you’re not going to be going to that sort of dentist and paying, we’re talking a huge premium to go to that sort of dentist. And I was like, why? They just didn’t think about when they moved there, and all it does is make my husband really, really angry.

Jane – I’m so sure it does.

Robyn – Yeah. Because he has mobility issues as well. So he’s trying to take my daughter with mobility issues. He through his illness, has mobility issues and trying to get to a space that’s supposed to be for special needs. That is not thinking ahead.

13:00 – Jane – Pick a place that suits audience and clientele

That just to me seems obvious. Like, pick a place that has good parking, good access if it’s for that audience. But like you say, if your clientele is absolutely not going to be disabled because of whatever reason, because I had one that was more of a pilates studio or something like that. And it was like, well, they weren’t really going to have those type of clients. And I had another one that potentially could have had disabled clients, but she was more than happy to go to them. So there was no need for them to come to her office.

13:28 – Jane – Not stopping disabled coming but might give them another option

So you’re kind of like, well, there’s ways around it to make sure you’re not stopping the disabled coming to you like, no, you’re giving them another option. A better option saying I’ll come to you. So you just look at it sometimes and go the brains behind it like, you can understand that they don’t want to discriminate against the disabled and things. And I’m sure given your history with your daughter, you would 100% want that. But there’s a reality here as well, right?

Robyn – Yeah. Well, the reality is we’re working with buildings, this office one we’re doing at the moment, is 40 years old.

Jane – Yeah, it’s hard.

14:03 – Robyn – Costs sometimes outways gains to meet todays standards

And so there were certain areas that we could only refurbish. And even though we would have liked to have made them bigger, we haven’t been able to. Because the flow-on effect of what we would then have to make to meet today’s standards was huge for a very small gain in what we were going to achieve. So that is some of the limitations so when people actually look at an office space, they’re just looking at it.

14:36 – Robyn – Example of moving bathroom and accessing plumbing

If you’re in a big office space, it’s not like, oh, yeah, I want to move the toilet here, but it’s not just a matter of moving the toilet there. Where is your plumbing? How do we access it? Can we draw a core? Can we do a core hole into the cement slab? Yeah. You got to then x-ray the slab to find out where all the supports are. So there’s a lot of variables to go into just doing it. And people don’t realise that.

15:02 – Jane – Three things 16 years in business has taught you

No, it’s frustrating. So let’s just turn a little bit here and we’ll just look at the sort of business like you aspect. I don’t know if I mentioned it at the start, but Robyn has been in business with Inspired Spaces for 16 years now. So that’s a really good knock. You must have learnt a few things over those years. So what would you say? Your top three things that helps you to stay in business for that 16 years?

15:26 – Robyn – Education, Education, Education!

Education, education and more education. I think coming from a teacher.

Jane – Dream on my podcast.


15:35 – Robyn – Come from teaching background so value education

I think coming from a teaching background, I’ve always valued education. I’ve come from teaching and I know you’ve heard me say before I come from a teaching background where the nature is to give away information. That is what you do. You give, give, give because you’re enabling people to progress. And one of the hardest things that’s been for me is the fact that my intellectual property is my creativity. And as soon as it leaves my mouth, that’s it.

16:10 – Robyn – Attend workshops, networking groups that are about education

You can’t take it back. It’s not like a product. Well, you didn’t pay me for that product. I’m taking it back. It’s gone. So that’s been one of the things. And I think the education has been not necessarily, I mean, I went back after I quit teaching and did three years full-time study. I needed that. I needed that for my qualification. I’m not talking about that. Yes, but attend workshops, attend network groups that are about education. I’m not talking about the ones that you go just to get leads.

16:40 – Robyn – About the education of your business

I’m talking about ones like our IBN Inc network group. Whereby the whole time it is about, every time you go there, it’s about an education about your business, whether it be about your website or about using social media, etc. That is so, so important.

16:57 – Robyn – Develop systems and procedures

Next thing is developing systems and procedures. Learnt that one the hard way. One of my staff members, her sister died unexpectedly, young sister, not ill, unexpectedly. So one day she was here. The next day she was gone overseas for eight weeks.

17:18 – Robyn – Had to systemise business, screen grabs, video recordings, etc

She left and I realised she knew certain parts of my business that I had no idea about because we hadn’t systemized it. So when she returned, we have now got everything, we’ve done screen grabs, we’ve done video recordings of how to onboard, and that. So when she left to set up her own business, the new staff member, we had all that and she’s been able to work through each of those parts. She knows how to onboard all our clients into the system. She knows how to set up their Archicad file, etc.

17:56 – Robyn – Use templates for proposals

So that one and having templates, which I think we’ve mentioned heaps of times before or you would have, is that your templates for your outlook, you get an inquiry and it’s this or here’s your proposal. So that’s already set up with the samples of what they get, etc, etc. So that’s already there.

18:14 – Robyn – Keep up with technology

And probably the third one important thing you’ve got to keep up to date with technology. Up until the pandemic you wouldn’t see me on video. Absolutely would not see me on video. Now I do zoom calls, teams, meetings all the time. Don’t give a stuff about how I look anymore. I’ve gotten over that and that thing. And then, for instance, you’ve got to keep up to date with technology. Now the Archicad, the CAD program we use, which is super expensive like $10,000 a licence. I started studying on that on version 8 we’re now up to version 25.

Jane – Wow.

18:51 – Robyn – Keeping up with technology we become faster and can offer more

So by keeping up with that technology, one we become faster and two we can offer more. So we’re now like we just tended to just offer because of the time constraints, we would just offer 3D line drawings. Now we’re getting to the ability, we’re not quite there, but we’re nearly getting to the point of nearly providing coloured rendered 3D images as a standard inclusion. Not quite there, but the technology has improved enough that it doesn’t take our computers out for 24 hours to do it, whereas previously, we couldn’t use the computer for 24 hours while this was happening, while this is processing.

So keeping up to date with technology is absolutely vital.

19:38 – Jane – Did you ever want to quit?

Perfect. Was there ever a time in that 16 years that you’re going that’s it had enough and calling it quits?

19:44 – Robyn – Did that with teaching!

No, because I did that with teaching.

Jane – Okay. Awesome.

Robyn – I’ve been there, done that. And the day I walked out of teaching was the day that my life just, ohhh, yeah.

Jane – What you needed to do it.

20:00 – Robyn – I do what I love now

I needed to do it. And it was fantastic. And of course, now I’m doing what I love. So it’s never been once in that time have I thought, why am I doing this?

Jane – Awesome

Robyn- And I can say that honestly.

20:13 – Jane – Biggest learning in those years?

Awesome that’s amazing. So what has been your biggest learning over those years?

20:18 – Robyn – Importance of collaboration and alliances

The importance of collaboration and alliances. You can’t do it all. So if you want to grow, if you want to make an income that can support your family, you can’t do it all. So I had one lady who was working for me who moved to Queensland with her husband. So she still does a lot of my social media. She was a designer. She knew how I worked. She loved that. So it was a win win for her because she was moving up there with no work. We do that.

So she works out and we work together on that. She does a lot of it a lot of times. I don’t even know what she’s putting up, which sounds bad, but we’re so in synced. But there’s other times where I’ll say, okay, here’s a video before and after. I want a whole series on this video and talk about kitchen design, about bathroom design, and we’ll link it that way. I’ve given a young girl who is straight out of College. She does casual work for me. So come on site for styling and measure ups and that.

21:22 – Robyn – Outsourcing and collaborating things that take up your time

But she’s also looking after the Instagram for me. And I’m outsourcing that. Collaboration with other people for window treatments. That’s not my focus. So I outsource it to someone else whose focus it is. That is the part of it. You can’t be over everything. You can’t be expert at everything. So outsource the things that give you grief and take up your time or not making your money when you put your time to it.


21:53 – Jane – Not competition, but community

So it definitely sounds like your approach is not competition it’s community. So you do some mentoring and you also run a group called The Designer Chicks. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

22:04 – Robyn – The Designer Chicks is a group of women to share information

Okay. I run this group with another lady. It’s about a group of women, obviously, from all genres of design. And the whole concept is about that we come together and we share information. We become the board of directors for each other. And we have people who are landscape designers, architects. We’ve got artists. We’ve got stylists, we’ve got curtain window treatment people. We’ve got decorators, we’ve got graphic designers. What else? Feng Shui specialist.

22:35 – Robyn – Bring in experts, sometimes reps, sometimes workshops

So what happens is that we all come together and we run these group and Lucia and I bring in experts like you’ve been presenting to us. Sometimes we’ll run it and give our expertise on what’s happening with business and how to deal with it, etc. Sometimes we’ll bring in reps. Sometimes we just workshop what people haven’t, we call it chicks of the round table and they bring up any issue they’re having and we brainstorm with that. So I’m a big believer that no one owns a design. So if that product wasn’t available, would I have designed that? If you hadn’t made that comment, would I have thought to go along that way?

23:14 – Robyn – Design is a collaboration

So design is a collaboration. Is it impossible to say to one person designed that because they can’t. Because if that material wasn’t available, you may not have been able to design that. So that is what my thing is, a bit like, know who your competition is, embrace it and help each other. And everyone else is slightly different. And our strength is not the tossing of the cushions. Our strength is the spatial planning.

Jane – Exactly. And you’ve got other people in the group that are cushion tosses.

23:50 – Robyn – Design industry unregulated

Yeah. In a nice way and not denegrating the cushion toss or whatever, because everyone has their own thing. I notice the problem with the interior design industry is unregulated. So because you’ve got an ABN, you can call yourself a designer. And that is the big thing I think there should be a redemarcation about what each one involves. And no one is more important than the other. It’s just so that people know what they’re looking for.

24:18 – Robyn – Use experts to create productive workspaces

So in any one job, I’ve got a job whereby I’ve been the designer. I’ve brought in the window covering person. The landscape has been in. The stylist will come in. Our photographer moved to Melbourne, so we haven’t got her anymore. We haven’t got a photographer but normally we would have brought that photographer in.

24:36 – Robyn – Don’t be scared of competition – believe in yourself

So that whole group we’ve brought together. Now there’s all those jobs those people wouldn’t have done if they were scared of competition. And competition doesn’t have to scare you. And there’s always going to be someone better than you, bigger than you. But you got to believe in yourself.

24:54 – Robyn – Share information if you work by yourself

And there’s people out there who are brilliant at marketing, and they’re better at marketing. Doesn’t mean they’re a better designer, but they’re better but that’s where they’re kudos and kudos to them for business wise and the same here. So if you’re sharing this information and if you’ve got most of these people work by themselves, it’s only a few of us that have staff. If you’re working by yourself and you hit a blank wall, we have a private lounge on Facebook. They hit a blank wall.

25:24- Robyn – Ask for help to solve your problem


They go, I can’t solve this design problem. How would you design it? Or I’m looking for A, B or C I cannot find it anywhere. Or my normal builders booked out. Can you recommend someone else? So it’s not taking away from your business it’s actually enhancing it. I think if you take that attitude with whatever industry you’re in that’s a positive.

Robyn – That’s perfect.

25:49 – Jane – Love community over competition

Yeah. I love that. And I’m very much the same approach. It’s community over competition. And as you know, when I have presented at IBN Inc for instance, sometimes there’s been five business coaches in the room.

Robyn – We all have a different take on it.

26:04 – Jane – Others have strengths we don’t have

100% and that’s the thing we all have our space and we’re not competing. In fact, we refer to each other because we have things that the other person has a strength that we don’t have. So it’s your attitude, right? It’s your mindset. It’s the way that you think and the way that you act.

26:19 – Robyn – Too far so refer it to the Cronulla team and vice versa

Yeah. Like there’s a team of two designers in Cronulla and we, is probably one of the companies that does exactly what we do but for me doesn’t matter how big a job it is Cronulla really is too far if I’m going to do the job properly, if you go to be on site, etc and vice versa. So I get an inquiry for Cronulla I flip it to them. They get from here, it comes back and some people go why? Well, by the time I factor in toll costs, petrol, and that to get to Conuula probably and back I’m up to $30 or $40 just in tolls.

27:00 – Jane – View our connections as opportunities

Plus 3 or 4 hours opportunity cost of your time. I mean, Hello. This is adding up. And that’s what people have got to remember. And having those connections that you can refer to, because either you’re not the expert in that area, it’s too far away from you or whatever other reason is perfect. Why not have these people we can connect with? So I think that’s brilliant.

27:20 – Robyn – You then look bigger than you are

You actually look like a much bigger organisation than what you are.

Jane- Exactly. You’ve got contacts.

Robyn – Yeah.

27:29 – Jane – Five business lessons for productive workspaces

So just to finish up today, can you just give our listener that’s listening in five things they could do right now to improve their workspace or improve their productivity and wellbeing, because of their improvements to that workspace.

27:43 – Robyn – Start with reception area and view with open eyes


Okay. So we’ll start off with the first one on the assumption that you got an office space and a reception area. If you have a lot of visitors to your reception area or a lot of visitors to that space, I would concentrate on that first. What I suggest you do either get someone as a trusted friend or go in with open eyes with a notepad. And as you walk through the door, what is the first thing you notice? Is it the signage? Is it the cracked floor? Is it the dirty chairs or is it those uncomfortable chairs, or is it the really nice comfy chairs I want to sit in? What is it you see? Do I see a crowded space? Whatever. So do it with open eyes.

28:24 – Robyn – You don’t see faults in a space

You become so used to what you got that you don’t see the faults in a space. And I use the classic example our very first home my husband and I ever bought was an old Californian bungalow, and we’ve done it all up except for one room where we obviously newly married you run out of money, have a child, you got none left. And when we first bought the house, it had purple carpet, burnt orange curtains and blue green walls. Beautiful.

28:55 – Robyn – People see what we have become accustomed to

Yes, we actually got rid of, obviously the curtains and the blue green walls. That was easy, but we just didn’t have the money to get rid of the carpet. And then people would turn up and walk into this back room because it was our entertainment room and the jaw would drop because they’d see this bright purple carpet and it’s like, oh, yeah, our carpet.

29:16 – Robyn – Ask someone trusted to be honest with you

We’ve forgotten about it until we could afford to get rid of it. But we had overlooked that limitation. And that is why sometimes it’s better to get someone a trusted friend or someone that you can’t take offence. It is someone who’s willing to be honest with you and do it. So it could be simple things like, I’ll go replace the thing or I get my chairs cleaned or I’ll go and buy a couple of new chairs. That is what I do.

29:47 – Robyn – Invest in an ergonomic chair for you and your staff

For your staff. If you’ve got staff, invest in a really good ergonomic chair, right?

29:54 – Robyn – Don’t go cheap get as it could cost you down the track

Yeah. No going cheapo, Kmart, Reject special, it’s going to cost you more in health claims down the track than it is. Now, it’s difficult when you’ve got, like, for the one, the big office, we’ve got 100 odd people. We couldn’t send the person into each person to do their own chair. However, we did know they told us the client told us that they’ve got several very large people that need to pick a chair. So we’ve made sure that we’ve got a series X number of those chairs and we’ve done it.

30:30 – Robyn – Chair needs to suit the person

But for my own staff member, I said, you’ve got X amount of money to spend. The only requirement is it’s black so that it merges in with the office. Now, the chair she’s chosen, I hate I just couldn’t sit in and that my chair that I chose that I find so comfortable I sit in all day she hates, but she’s short and I’m tall. So that’s another thing if you’re buying, like, we got to buy 100 and you can’t send 100 people in just to choose a chair, just not legit.

30:59 – Robyn – For a large workplace maybe get something adjustable

So we made sure, for instance, the ergonomic chairs they can push out if you got longer torso or they can bring in. So those sort of things so invest. What would seem like a lot of money at the moment that I’m talking you’re looking at 4 or $500 minimum to get a decent chair and just do it. This one can apply to so that one is the ergonomic chair where you’re working from a home office or an office space.

31:24 – Robyn – Biophilia – the importance of nature in the workspace

And so is this one the biophilia, the importance of nature. Add pot plants, and even if you can’t grow them, even fake are still helpful.

Jane – Well, this little one here that I have at my desk.

31:39 – Robyn – Can actually hire plants for your office for minimal cost

But it also brings a smile and that ideally, obviously because your air quality is improved by actual plants. But if you’re in an office, you can actually hire plants and we’re talking minimal dollars a week, like $20 or $30 a week where they supply the pot, the plant, and then if it dies in six weeks, they replace it right.

Jane – Where do I sign up for this?

Robyn – Places out there like that? So a lot of my things will do that. They’ll do that because don’t have to rely on someone remembering to water the plants or someone to do this or someone to do that.

32:21 – Robyn – Greenery in a space makes you feel better

It’s just done and it’s done. Now, as soon as you add greenery to a space, it helps you feel better, feel good.

32:29 – Robyn – Fresh coat of paint cheap can do yourself

Okay. Another one is do you need a fresh coat of paint? Because it’s something most people can do themselves and then go back to the colour psychologist again. Why? What is it you want now? For instance, my office is white. And the reason being it is white, which sounds a contradiction because I’m an interior designer, is because we have so many colours that we can’t have.

32:51 – Robyn – Think of what you want to do in workplace when choosing colour

We don’t want a strong colour. Like I’ll say, if I use yellow, for instance, if I have yellow office, then the colour that if I was trying to choose a white or put colours together, that’s what it’s at. So I’ve got white, because then it gives me a better space to see colour in its true light. So think of that.

33:10 – Robyn – Consider supplying coffee machine and fruit

And then simplest one, consider supplying a coffee machine and fresh fruit if you’re in an office. I was doing a little bit more research on here, and I think it was the boss, the HR boss of Yahoo said, you need to think of your office as a communication tool, not as real estate.

33:31 – Robyn – People meeting are more creative

And the more times that the people can meet, actually collide basically, calls it a collision of people from different departments. The more creative you’re going to be. You’re going to be more creative than sitting in front of a monitor.

33:46 – Robyn – Teams who don’t talk may meet at coffee machine

So the coffee machine is that where you integrate where you might have your sales team here and you might have your marketing team or your accounts, and they never talk or never meet and they all think they’re each other’s jobs more important than that. Have this coffee machine is where they meet. That’s like, how is your weekend? How is your kids this, this. What about this idea? That idea. And that is very simple.

Jane – We always called that the chat around the water cooler.

34:19 – Robyn – Can also rent coffee machines they do the up-keep

Yes, the old water cooler. Now its the coffee machine. and again if you’re a bigger, slightly bigger place, I know people like Nescafe and obviously other ones. You can actually rent the machines and they again they do the upkeep. They do everything. Again that’s one less thing you have to do with that.

34:40 – Jane – Whats your productivity hack or tech tool?

Awesome. And how about we just wrap up today with I like to get our guest to provide a productivity hack. And obviously you’ve been giving some during the session, but can you just give us a final productivity hack or a tech tool that you use in your business?

34:52 – Robyn – The old hand written ABC list

Okay. Mine is the old ABC list. It’s the ABC list that’s not on your computer. It’s not an electronic diary. It’s actually on a piece of paper. A4 paper A-B-C, A is the list of things that has to be done by close of business today. And essentially, you don’t go to bed until it’s done type thing. So you’ve got to be realistic. There’s no use putting on there that you got write four proposals on your A list today. It’s not going to happen, right? So it’s about putting that there. You then do the next important thing in your list.

35:31 – Robyn – A is for today, B is for upcoming and C least urgent

And that’s your B list. And then your C, probably are usually your more longer term goals that you should be working towards. The whole theory is what you finish A and then the next day, part of B goes on to A, and then part of C goes on to B and the actual physical effect of getting a big red texta and crossing through what you achieved is perfect. And for me, it’s not just a tick, meaning it’s like you just cross it out. It’s done, been, gone.

36:09 – Robyn – Not productive without the list

When I stopped doing that, I’m not productive. When I do that the day before I am so productive, I get through so so much work that way.


36:17 – Jane – So simple anyone can do it

And it’s something so simple and anyone can do. So there’s nothing stopping you from doing that right here right now. So that’s awesome.

36:24 – Robyn – It’s pen and paper as you get to tick it off

And it’s pen and paper, no electronics, because you’ve got to get that physical feel of achieving it by just crossing it out or ticking it off.

Jane – Well, thank you, Robyn, so much. I might have to spread this over two podcasts.

Robyn – Because actually we didn’t even get through half of it.

36:45 – Jane – How can people contact you?

We’ve gone through a lot today so we’ve gone through a lot of stuff about the actual office design, the productivity side of it, the design, but also the business like you stuff, the things that made you a success in your business. So if anyone wants to get in touch with you because they want to have your amazing interior design skills, or maybe they just want to have a bit of a chat because they’re really inspired, how should they get hold of you?

37:08 – Robyn – Free 15 minute discovery call

Okay, the best way is just to give me a phone call, have a free 15 minutes discovery call 0401 068 670. And if you’re interested, I’ve actually picked your interest in the importance of an office as an economic strategy, not an expense. On my Inspired Spaces YouTube channel there is a video called Office Design Case Study, and yes, it goes for about eight minutes to put it on double speed. Click here to access the video.

37:41 – Robyn – Productivity increases profit

It goes in depth as to how this is an office that we’re using as a case study, why we designed it the way we did and the philosophy behind why we did it and how it functions and have a look at that. And that goes again a lot into what we’ve been discussing today about how productivity increases your profit, increases staff morale increases, etc.

38:06 – Robyn – Case study of 6 workstations increased to 24 workstations

And this particular case study is a classic example. I did their very first office for them. It had six workstations within 18 months because that office was so effective, they outgrew it, and then the next office we now have, I think, 24 workstations and four offices and meeting rooms, boardrooms, etc. And they’re all integrated and that is a classic example of how a really great office design can increase your business in 18 months. So it’s not just to know how the owners it’s all these other things as well.

38:43 – Jane – Thanks Robyn and thanks for listening

That sounds amazing. So definitely something worth checking out. I just want to say thank you so much, Robyn, for your time and for just being so open and so sharing with us today. And I really thank everyone listening. And hopefully you have got some great tips out of today and look forward to seeing you again on another episode of FAQ Business Podcast.

Robyn – Okay, thanks for having me. Bye bye.

39:07 – Jane – Please subscribe

Thank you for listening in to today’s episode of the FAQ Business Podcast. Today was part B of a two part session with Robyn Hawke of Inspired Spaces. If you did miss part one, please go back and check it out. It was our episode 9 of the FAQ Business Podcast. Catch you again soon.

Thank you for listening to today’s episode of the FAQ Business Podcast, available on all good podcast services. You can subscribe today FAQ Business Podcast or directly on Apple iTunes. IHeartRadio or Spotify. Subscribe. Follow. Share and we’re 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

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