Over the past five years, the paradigm of modern office design has undergone a radical transformation. This new focus on collaboration has completely altered the way businesses and their employees go about their daily work.
The transition — a product of new technologies and a philosophy of collaboration — has created a new standard of office environments bearing hardly any resemblance to those of a decade ago.
As more companies profit from a collaborative reconfiguration, more are taking the leap – often without looking – and losing touch with the ever-vital needs of individuals.
Spread Apart, Drawn Together
Today’s workforce is becoming increasingly mobile. However, despite the growing percentage of workers who no longer require a fixed desk to perform their jobs, there exists a parallel trend of integration that’s keeping employees close together.
The same rapid advances in technology that have enabled mobility have also dramatically increased global competition. This requires companies to pool their resources and collaborate in order to stay afloat.
That’s why so many companies have embarked on spatial overhauls of their floor plans in recent years – to create the best environment for innovation.
Studies have shown that collaboration usually produces more novel and well-considered ideas than individual work, thereby benefiting from the multiple viewpoints and dialogue of concepts only a group can provide. The end result: more meetings, more group projects, and less time in between.
We Space, Me Space
While the collaborative configuration has been a highly successful model for many organizations, some companies have taken serious missteps in the transformation. In these situations, companies overzealously convert their workspace to facilitate group work, some nearly to the point of complete exclusion of individual work.
Despite good intentions — such as encouraging more introverted employees to reach outside of their comfort zones — these types of radical conversions can feel unnatural.
The benefits of putting a group of team-oriented creative minds in arrangements of constant dialogue are indisputable; nevertheless, even the most extroverted employees require some time and space for personal reflection and concentration.
Nearly every employee will occasionally need some space where he or she can withdraw from distractions and focus on a particular task, so it’s crucial to remain attentive to the needs of the individual when planning for the team.
The key to navigating the transition from a workspace of individual offices to an open, collaborative environment is providing employees with the choice of space. Different people work better in different settings, and different work demands different environments.
Ideally, employees should have access to a variety places for individual and collaborative work and be able to transition easily from one to the other. For instance, employees are more likely to utilize a conference space if it’s located near their usual work area.
One way to achieve an ideal balance of space within the workplace is through zoning. In this model, the office is structured into various sections to provide employees with varying degrees of stimulation to fit their particular task at hand.
The office can be organized with a central core of public workspaces, which can be utilized by mobile workers and teams of employees collaborating on group projects.
Moving outwards from this social core, spaces become quieter and more exclusive for focused individual work. In the most personal spaces, employees should be able to customize all aspects of their environment — such as lighting, sound, temperature, and posture — to maximize their productivity.
Finding Your Balance
The best collaborative work environments all start from the ground up. They have a professional design that incorporates all the unique characteristics of a company to produce an intuitive and aesthetically pleasing environment that harnesses employees’ full innovative potential.
There is no standard way of adopting such a change; to achieve success, each organization must develop its own personalized solution.