From the sound of it, you’d probably think not, but according to new research by the Harvard Business Review it may be just what you’re business is looking for!

Whilst the traditional paradigm of office design and the shaping of a staff working environment eschewed a  ‘heads-down, no talking, minimal disruption‘ approach, the emerging perspective focuses on harnessing collaboration, interaction and teamwork whilst maximising the utilisation of the workspace to facilitate such encounters.  As stated by Scott Birnbaum, a vice president of Samsung Semiconductor, “[t]he most creative ideas aren’t going to come while sitting in front of your monitor” .

So, the concept here is one of utilising the workspace as a strategic tool for productivity and creativity, not viewing it merely as a space for housing employees. Whilst such a concept initially seems like the reverse of conventional office design thinking, such forward-thinking business giants as Facebook and Google have already embraced such notions in their various headquarters and campus site with the former planning a single, mile-long room to house its employees at one site to maximise interaction and chance encounters between staff that may just spark a great idea.

While a recent study by Strategy Plus estimated that office usage peaked at around 42% at any given time during a working day, this, in terms of the emerging paradigm, should not be seen as an argument for ‘downsizing’ space, but rather the harnessing of the ‘redundant’ space as a creative tool.


So what does this mean for office interiors?

The degree at which such principles are adopted can vary significantly, dictated by such factors as budget, building layout, budget, staff levels, types of work etc and can fall anywhere on a scale from ‘strategic coffee machine’, placed in the centre of office space for example as opposed to hidden in a corner, to the aforementioned Facebook approach.

The creation of such ‘collision spaces’, where employees ‘collide’ with co-workers and interact, in its simplest form is the creation of any space where workers are channelled, by design, towards face-to-face contact with other workers.

Whilst this can be achieved in a wide-variety of way, for further reading and some specific examples, please see our previous article Creating Collaborative Space in Office Design HERE.


But what is the evidence, does it work?

We can hold-up great examples of the ethos used by Amazon at their Seattle HQ, Facebook, Google, AT&T’s Foundry etc … all forward-thinking and innovative, and of course successful, businesses but it can be difficult to appreciate how their approach, on such vast scales, can be scaled-down to smaller business environments and if it is tried, does it bear fruit?

A useful example to answer that question is a study undertaken in Las Vegas by Jennifer Magnolfi initially to analyse the impact of co-working space in a converted set of buildings that housed nearly 200 business entities (from sole traders to start-ups and established businesses) with the largest being online retailer Zappos.

The study data identified “a 42% increase in face-to-face encounters, a 78% increase in participant-generated proposals to solve specific problems, and an 84% increase in the number of new leaders—participants who initiated work and collaboration and developed project scope and objectives“.

Furthermore, a study of 1500 co-workers by Deskmag found that 75% of respondents had found their productivity had increased since working in a collaborative working environment.

Whilst much research is still ongoing into the emerging collaborative approach to workplaces, with the workplaces themselves being physically designed as a facilitator and promoter of such action, such thinking is very much shaping modern office design and must be a major consideration for all businesses when looking for an office refurbishment or to refit their premises.