Remember the feeling of running outside for recess when you were in grade school? 

In those 15-minute breaks between lessons, anything was possible. Whether it was scaling the tallest playground structure or finally making it across the monkey bars, the thrill of challenge and accomplishment was intoxicating. When the bell rang, summoning you back inside, you could hardly wait for the next recess break…

Today, our work days often feel more like the academic lessons, with the recess bell bringing us back to the office on Monday mornings. We only feel the sweet release of a “recess” on Fridays or as we leave the office for vacation.

But what it we had more of these “recess moments” throughout our work days instead?

One of the hot new buzzwords of 2017 is “placemaking” – a people-centered approach to the designing and activating public spaces based on the needs and desires of the surrounding community. Here in Sacramento, we’ve seen a number of amazing examples of placemaking recently from the Wide Open Walls mural festival to the Major’s office sponsoring the Creative Economy Pilot Project micro-grants to encourage creative ideas across the city.

While the concept of placemaking has primarily been used around public community spaces, this creative concept has some powerful applications for our workplaces as well. Let’s explore the concept of placemaking in our workplaces so we can create spaces that inspire positive work and increase employee engagement, much like recess! This one is for managers, freelancers, emerging leaders, entrepreneurs, and executives alike.

Recreating Recess

Imagine what it would be like to wake up so inspired to go to work because you loved the way your office made your feel, just like recess.

While a majority of workplaces are functional and even designed with employees in mind, many still feel sterile or are missing a human engagement element that so many of us crave (and we may not even realize how much we crave it because it’s been missing for so long).

So I ask the leaders and managers this simple question: If the physical space and emotional ethos of your company culture promoted more employee engagement and productivity, what would be possible for your team?

This is corporate placemaking: designing the common areas of our workplaces to welcome authentic engagement and inspiration and break up the monotony of corporate culture.

Essentially, it’s recreating recess.

Three Steps to Activate Your Workplace Culture

Embracing corporate placemaking requires our leaders to be visionaries and ask “what is possible in our spaces to elevate employee inspiration and create a more motivated culture?”

It goes beyond simply buying a ping pong table or bringing in free lunch on Fridays. It’s an overarching ethos that shapes your company culture, making your space a place people want be part of, not just show up to work.

Make your space a place people want be part of, not just show up to work.

Here are three steps to activate your workplace culture as you become a corporate placemaker.

STEP ONE: Assess your current employee aspirations

Here, you go beyond meeting basic needs by digging deeper into what motivates your individual employees and their teams. If you’re a manager, take your direct reports to coffee and really seek to understand what makes them show up to work (besides a paycheck!). By gaining a better understanding on specific drivers, you’ll begin to see what ideas would make the biggest impact for sustaining engagement.

ASK THEM: If you could wake up tomorrow and one thing was different about your work, what would change that would make it a place you’d never want to leave?

STEP TWO: Align resources with ideas

Once you have an idea of what would make a difference for your employees, consider what it would take to make these ideas happen and continue on sustainably. What human and physical resources are available? What other sources could you leverage or access? What seems impossible, but might just work? Who do you need to have in your corner to secure these resources?

ACT INTENTIONALLY: Identify three people in your organization that could help you access the necessary resources to take the first step forward. Invite them to lunch or schedule a meeting to share your ideas.

STEP THREE: Activate with awe and wonder

Our human consciousness craves to be engaged and inspired. To be invited into an experience. That’s why it’s so easy to escape into media when our surrounding world ceases to produce moments of profound awe and wonder. Similarly, most of our offices have some common areas that could be more inspirational. Maybe it’s a waiting area near the entrance or even the back of a bathroom stall door. What areas exist in your everyday that have the potential to transform how you feel while your work?

ACTIVATE NOW: Choose one common area to transform using one of the inspirational ideas and supporting resources you’ve already identify. Start small and notice the difference.

What if you’re a smaller, local business without a big budget? Or maybe you work from home or out of a coworking space like me. Then here are a few ideas to try:

  • Think of 10-20 words that inspire you to work better and create a visual display
  • Buy a small indoor fountain or essential oils diffuser to bring more flow and wellness into your space
  • Change your phone and desktop wallpaper to be a quote or motivational saying that inspires you. Update this every month.
  • Buy a gong or pair of Tibetan cymbals and have someone play them every time you accomplish a goal
  • Paint your office door a bold color that makes you smile
  • Choose a theme song each week and play it when you start your day
  • Decorate the inside of your elevator or office door with quotes that inspire you

How will you be a corporate placemaker?

Be the Revolution,

Leslie Bosserman, M.Ed., CPCC

Executive Coach + Lifestyle Strategist for Millennial Leaders + Managers

Originally published at on December 1, 2017

More About Leslie

Leslie M. Bosserman, M.Ed., CPCC, is an Executive Coach + Lifestyle Strategist designing customized leadership solutions for Millennial Leaders and their Managers. With a background in strengths-based leadership development and applied positive psychology, she runs a multi-disciplinary practice called Lead With Intention where she coaches, trains, and consults with clients around the world.

Leslie works with a variety of clients ranging from top executives at worldwide corporations to creative entrepreneurs and non-profit teams. She is an avid artist who also enjoys traveling, karaoke, cooking ethnic food, writing in local coffee shops, and practicing yoga.

Leslie lives in Northern California and travels internationally for coaching, organizational trainings, and retreat facilitation. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Medium or send her an email at [email protected] to learn how to partner together.


  • Leslie M. Bosserman

    Founder and Executive Coach

    Lead With Intention®

    Leslie M. Bosserman, M.Ed., CPCC is an Executive Coach and Lifestyle Strategist for innovators and creative professionals leading dynamic and diverse teams. As a creative thought leader, Leslie has spoken at TEDxEustis and is currently writing a book on a decade of research around the science of Emotional Endurance. After working for a decade in higher education and student development, Leslie launched Lead With Intention® – a boutique coaching and consulting practice that specializes in leadership coaching, customized training, and organizational strategy for clients and their teams around the world. She collaborates with a range of creative professionals from entrepreneurs launching their startups to executive leaders at Fortune 500 Companies. Leslie is committed to enhancing her local community and co-created and launched The Makers Place™ with her husband. As the regions first coworking space with onsite childcare, this innovative multi-use space supports parents who need a professional workspace along with flexible childcare options. She also currently works as the Director and Site Supervisor of Mini Makers™ Preschool. Leslie has also served locally on the leadership team for TEDxSacramento as the Event Coordinator and volunteered as a coach for emerging female leaders through The Women's Impact Alliance (formerly The Coaching Fellowship). As a two-time UCLA alumna, Leslie graduated with her Bachelor’s in Mass Communications (B.A.) and a Master's of Education (M.Ed.). She is also trained as a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) through The Co-Active Training Institute, international leaders in Coach Training and Leadership Development. Before becoming a Professional Coach, Leslie worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she taught leadership and diversity classes as well as ran a campus-wide Leadership Certificate Program for over 500 students, faculty, and staff members. She also has worked professionally in residential life and academic research at UCLA and in Public Affairs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under the U.S. Department of Energy. Leslie loves to travel and explore new places and has visited over 30 countries, including living abroad in the Middle East for a year where she volunteered at local schools in Amman, Jordan with her husband. She is an avid artist and creative who also enjoys karaoke, cooking ethnic food, supporting local coffee shops, and practicing yoga. Leslie is a novice pickleball player and an expert bargain shopper! She lives in Northern California with her husband and three young children, and travels internationally for coaching, organizational trainings, and retreat facilitation.