The state of the art

Richard Costa

Every business has something that makes them distinctive, compelling, stand out, move faster, and compete.


Workspace plc, a real estate investment trust, is a case study in successfully setting out a compelling proposition for long-term stakeholder value creation. It is the outcome of a collaborative effort with corporate communications and reporting specialist Gather. Over decades, Gather has honed its approach into a proprietary method focusing on four expectations. Each is analysed across three drivers, measured through 36 criteria. This thorough process won Workspace the Mid-Cap category at the prestigious IR Society Best Practice Awards. So, what can we learn from Workspace?


“Legitimacy” is the extent to which an organisation plays by the ‘rules of the game’, legal and social. Gather addresses the following: – Your guiding star and your rock: purpose, culture, and values. – The significance of your stakeholders and your business ecosystem. – Your stewardship, governance, and accountability.

Purpose and Values

Workspace devotes prominence early in the annual report to explaining how the company’s purpose – to give businesses the freedom to grow – helps create a culture that puts stakeholders at the heart of the business and how they, in turn, inform the business strategy.


Too many annual reports underbake the significance of stakeholders to the success of the business. Workspace goes beyond ‘engagement boilerplate’ to articulate how stakeholders provide the insight to make strategic decisions. Furthermore, the company manifests the goodwill to build the broad alignment necessary to co-create a shared future.

Stewardship and accountability

Workspace’s annual report demonstrates how the company’s governance contributes to its long-term success. The narrative consistently reinforces how every level of the organisation is responsible and accountable for preserving and strengthening stakeholder confidence. Concrete examples showcase the support for the workforce.



“Credibility” is providing authentic and clear information and fulfilling your commitments.
Gather addresses the following:
– Your understanding of the market you operate in.
– Strategy and risk: how you turn adversity into opportunity, responsibly.
– How you create long-term stakeholder value.

Market dynamics

Workspace showcases a confident understanding of the operating environment, a strategic mindset, and forward-looking leadership. The narrative describes the business’s market trends, what sets it apart from competitors, and how that increases resilience and opportunity. It is a contextual piece that builds confidence in the strategic management and governance of the business.

Value creation

It is refreshing to see a careful description of how the business generates and preserves value over the longer term. Most often, readers are presented with a graphic that conveys little information. Workspace details the strengths that help it generate value and lets its stakeholders describe the value created in the first person.

Strategy and risk management

Workspace’s strategy is simple, but its description reveals the lightness of touch is only apparent. The narrative carefully unpeels a sophisticated, authoritative plan. Each of the three strategic pillars consists of three parts. The reader is presented with clear priorities, achievements, and future goals for every part.


“Trust” is your stakeholders’ willingness to be vulnerable to your actions. It is a high-quality, fragile relationship that takes time and effort to build but can be destroyed quickly.
Gather addresses the following:
– Non-financial and financial achievements, performance, and growth.
– Balancing short-term and long-term achievements.
– Impact, as opposed to plans and targets.

Financial and non-financial performance

The pages devoted to strategy and performance successfully connect non-financial measures to strategic goals. The commentary proposes a causal relationship between nonfinancial indicators and financial and non-financial outcomes. The approach reflects the numerous relationships and interdependencies affecting the business, including risks, uncertainties, and market trends.

Long term vs short term

The FRC’s 2022 Guidance highlights, “In recent years, there has been growing concern that entities are focused too much on short-term profits, to the potential detriment of long-term success.”Workspaces‘ “Being sustainable” strategic pillar promotes long-term value creation over short-term gains.


Workspace makes a persuasive case for the positive impact inherent in its business model. The report includes plenty of data on “decarbonising” ageing buildings and indirect data on contributing to revitalising communities and the London economy by regenerating stock and catering to small and medium-sized local enterprises.


If communication focuses on what to say and who to say it to, “engagement” shines in the feedback you seek. It’s down to what you want your audience to think or do after reading the report. Clear objectives lead to a good communication strategy and successful engagement.
Gather addresses the following:
– Clear messaging and a logical, cohesive narrative.
– Precise and concise content (graphical and written).
– The medium of choice and user experience (online and in print).

The IR Society Best Practice Awards judges described Workspace’s report as “a glorious page-turner.” “The design of the report was really easy to read and fun and demonstrated how they support all stakeholders.”

The annual report is designed to provide a great experience whether you are leafing or clicking through it. The language is direct, the photography adds a layer to the narrative, and the graphic design organises, clarifies, and helps access the information.

Workspace has created an annual report that transcends its best-in-class status to be a leading example for all.

A version of this article appears in the IR Society journal “Informed”.

If you’d like to discuss this, or any other subject, please get in touch with Richard Costa, Senior Corporate Communications and Reporting Consultant at

We’d love to know what you think.


Richard Costa

The state of the art

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