New Workplace Kit of Parts: Transition Spaces

Clive Wilkinson Architects introduces the four critical transition spaces in-between the “hot” or active and “cool” or quiet spaces in the New Workplace Kit of Parts.

Image by Clive Wilkinson Architects

In this four-part series, we explore the New Workplace Kit of Parts – a suite of 12 spaces reimagined for new ways of working. In reflecting upon the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an opportunity to rethink the workplace – what parts have we outgrown and what new opportunities can we embrace. Developed as a framework to adapt to each organization’s unique needs and constraints, these 12 spaces highlight how the human experience of work will change in the long-term post-COVID-19.

In Part 1 of this four-part series, we considered the key drivers to the workplace – Collaboration, Serendipitous Encounters and Connection to Community and Culture – and the different types of knowledge workers – Anchors (in-office workers), Connectors (hybrid workers), and Navigators (remote workers). In Part 2 we also established that the new workplace should include the full energy spectrum of “hot” or active spaces to “cool” or quiet spaces and everything in between. These in-between spaces are integral pieces of the puzzle and are loaded with functionality to support new ways of working. The Reception, Park, Avenue, and Booth are purposeful transition spaces within the workplace that encourage serendipitous encounters and recharge employees between activities.

Image by Clive Wilkinson Architects

Reception: The First Impression

The Reception is the front doorstep of the office, where the organization makes its first impression. The primary functions of the Reception are to welcome employees and guests and ensure their safety. In the post-COVID-19 era, it is not only a security checkpoint but a health checkpoint as well. We envision a curated procession through two distinct reception zones.

The first is a safety zone for security and health screenings. We recommend digital kiosks with sensor technology for scanning IDs and temperature checking. There could also be hand sanitizer and mask dispensers if desired. It’s important to ensure employees and guests feel comfortable and trust that health and safety is a top priority. The safety zone does not need to be staffed, but there should be clear sight lines from the second zone through touchless sliding doors.

After being cleared and buzzed through the doors, employees and guests will be greeted by a host in the second welcome zone. After being away from the office for so long, a smiling face upon entry will be even more appreciated. The host station should therefore be front and center, and we recommend seated and standing-height sections to meet the individual at eye level. This warm and inviting space should reflect the company culture and also include cozy lounge furniture for guests to wait. Monitors on the wall can keep people informed with the daily schedule, announcements, and even what spaces are available within the office.

Image by Clive Wilkinson Architects

Park: The Outdoor or Indoor Natural Oasis

The Park is where employees can recharge in a natural environment and feel connected to the community. Incorporating nature  helps relieve stress and mental fatigue, support focus and encourage overall mental well-being.1

An outdoor Park is ideal, but if outdoor space isn’t available, a Park can be created indoors by bringing in plants, outside air through natural ventilation, and daylight through windows or skylights. Exposure to daylight has been proven to have a substantial impact on mood, circadian health and productivity.

A water feature is a great addition to enhance the sensory experience, but if budgets don’t allow, even just the sound of running water can lead to reduced stress. To protect an outdoor Park from light rain and avoid glare, companies should consider incorporating an awning or trellis above to mitigate the elements. Accessible power and a variety of seating should be provided. This will encourage employees to utilize the Park throughout the day, for a quick break in between activities or for a longer period of time.

Image by Clive Wilkinson Architects

Avenue: Multi-Functional and Dynamic Circulation

Perhaps the most multi-functional space in the Kit of Parts is the Avenue. It is the primary, unifying circulation route through the workplace, connecting employees to each other and to the various spaces within. We recommend locating main destinations like the Plaza along the primary circulation route to provide visual interest and aid in wayfinding. The Avenue should be clearly and easily identified from all corners of the office with special lighting or unique floor, wall, and ceiling materials.

People from across the organization pass through the Avenue, leading to serendipitous encounters. This is one of the key drivers to the workplace, especially for the two types of more mobile workers, Navigators and Connectors. To support these casual interactions, standing-height surfaces with stools are incorporated throughout. Employees can quickly touchdown with their laptops or chat with colleagues before or after meetings. Lockers and cubbies for personal storage can be integrated under these surfaces or into the walls. Office supplies and printers are also located here instead of being a tucked away in an enclosed room. Finally, water bottle fillers not only provide quick access to water but also encourage “water cooler talk” between colleagues.

Image by Clive Wilkinson Architects

Booth: Impromptu, In-Person Collaboration

The Booth provides the perfect spot for informal, impromptu interactions. Booths are always popular in restaurants, and we’ve found this rings true in workplaces as well. There’s just something about sinking into a comfortable, high-back booth. The high backs are not only comfortable but also highly functional – they do an incredible job of absorbing sound when collaboration gets a little loud. A variety of shapes, sizes, and accessibility should be provided, ensuring that everyone can be included. The Booth can be built-in or a piece of furniture to allow for more future flexibility.

While virtual connectivity to remote colleagues or clients will be incredibly important in the new workplace, the Booth is designed specifically for in-person, technology-free collaboration. There are no monitors but plenty of surfaces for laptops, notepads, and coffee cups. This is also an opportunity for bold color and graphics since there’s no need to worry about the background being distracting on a video call. We recommend the Booth be placed along the Avenue for easy drop-ins. Sensor light fixtures could even be installed on the wall or suspended above to indicate with a particular color which are available.

Putting it all together

The New Workplace Kit of Parts has been developed as a framework to flex to unique business needs, office size, budget and locale. These space types are not focused on short-term, pre-vaccine solutions – they instead aim to highlight how the human experience of work will change in the long-term post-COVID-19. We envision the new workplace to have more diversity and choice in where employees can work than ever before. The workplace should have a well-balanced energy spectrum to support the various worker types from in-office Anchors to remote Navigators.

Moving away from the one-size-fits-all office, the Kit of Parts provides specific “hot” spaces for collaboration and “cool” spaces for concentration. The Reception, Park, Avenue, and Booth are essential “transition” spaces to regroup or recharge in-between tasks. They also encourage serendipitous encounters along the way which is one of the key drivers to the workplace. Up next is the last of our four-part series, where we will look at the “cool” or quiet spaces. These spaces are designed to support individual focus and restoration and play a critical role in achieving a well-rounded and fully supportive workplace.

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1 Kant I, Beurskens a JHM, Amelsvoort LGPM Van, Swaen GMH. An epidemiological approach to study fatigue in the working population: the Maastricht Cohort Study. 2003:32-39.

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