Creating Collaborative Space in Office Design

A new trend is emerging in office interior design that is indicative of a shift in thinking from providing a space in which workers can be productive towards providing a space that promotes and enhances productivity, a shift from the passive to the active workspace.

At Paradigm Office Interiors we always strive to be at the forefront of office interior design and innovation and such a ‘paradigm’ shift in approach throws-up many new challenges, as well as avenues for creativity, as its influence begins to move from being ‘insider’ discussion piece to informing the requirements and thought processes of clients when considering office refit and refurbishment projects for their workplaces.

Some useful considerations regarding such a concept are outlined below:

 

The removal of assigned seating (hot-desking)

Whilst the concept of ‘hot-desking’ has been around for a number of years, it was, until recently, seen as a rather stigmatised concept. This, in part, was due to its introduction in the pre-paperless office days where the inconvenience of unassigned desks would lead to much carrying/moving of paperwork and associated equipment by staff and the resultant time wasted in ‘setting-up’ every time a new workstation was to be occupied.

However, with the prevalence of IT in the modern office, along with the resultant propagation of paperless workplaces, it’s a highly feasible approach with minimal disruption to members of staff.

One of the key principles in its favour is the increasing movement towards offices being seen as ‘collaborative spaces’ with interaction between various members of staff, and departments, increasingly being seen as crucial to the development of a business and its creative processes. With hot desking, staff get the opportunity to integrate and network with staff from throughout an organisation which previously wouldn’t have been possible with designated offices and seating plans leading to staff feeling more ‘part of the whole‘ in an organisation as well as opening-up the workforce to greater collaborative effort and discussion.

 

Reconfigurable Desks

With mobility, flexibility and collaboration being key ingredients in the modern office space, office furniture also needs to adapt. 

As opposed to the traditional approach of fixed workstations, often in regimented rows, the merging trend is for configurable desks that can, almost akin to jigsaw pieces, be moved and adapted for the use of the workers so when collaborative workspace is required, for example, they can be turned and configured together to allow for team work.

Skullcandy in their Zurich office are a high-profile example of this concept in action with the layout of desks corresponding to the requirements of the workforce at any particular time.

 

Overlap Zones

With collaboration they key to the modern workplace, the move away from regimented areas within a workspace for different groupings of staff is being challenged by the introduction of overlap zones. That is, by the design of office specifically focusing on creating spaces for staff to ‘run into each other’ and thus facilitating conversation, collaboration and the sharing of ideas etc.

A recent study by the University of Michigan revealed that “creating opportunities for unplanned interactions among employees both inside and outside the organization actually improves performance” which is further enhanced by the removal of walls and other office barriers to promote ‘visual connectivity’ as opposed to isolation and compartmentalisation.

 

Recreational Space

Whilst traditional thinking was that workspace is ‘for work’, and situations form this core function should be avoided in office design, thinking is now moving towards the benefits of providing space and facilities to foster ‘letting off steam’ for staff which, research has shown, promotes a sense of ‘well-being’ among staff which, in turn, fosters greater productivity and creative thinking.

Whilst the best-known approaches to this are probably Facebook and Google with their extreme examples of recreational installations (such as interior slide chutes and games rooms), more and more businesses are utilising the concept to foster organisation well-being and creativity by installing ‘quiet spaces’, music rooms and soundproofed rooms for playing computer games.

 

Superdesking

We’ve mentioned above a couple of options when it comes down to the workstations / desks used by staff – hot-desking and reconfigurable desking –  but there is a third  approach to consider that ties-in the collaborative elements of modern office design with the utilisation of office furniture.

The ‘superdesk’ concept is to provide a large ‘single desk’ around which a large number of staff are sat.

Whilst New York City-based interactive marketing firm The Barbarian Group have taken this concept to the ‘Nth degree’ with their 4,400ft2 desk that sits 170 staff, the concept is easily scale-able to all sizes of office space and promotes the feeling of ‘team belonging’ and ease of collaboration and interaction.

 

Environmental Flora

There are numerous examples of research showing the benefits of increasing plants/greenery in the office such as a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association which found that “adding plants and greenery in an office can help increase employee productivity by 15%“.

Such upturns in productivity from the introduction of plants to the workspace are seen as the result of them providing the staff with a more aesthetically pleasing environment and promoting a sense of well-being and tranquillity.

Again, the incorporation of plants in an office space can be done on a grand scale, such as the indoor orange grove in Google’s Tel Aviv hq, or a more modest one with the creation of planted areas and their careful utilisation throughout the working environment.