How can a workplace design impact and enhance collaboration in a business?
This need for collaboration within organisations has arisen from a number of factors. With portable technology and the younger generation making their move from university into the workplace, it has become less common to be fixed to a desk from 9 to 5. People have the ability to simultaneously work on parts of a project together, often from home or a coffeeshop. This culture has informed the way that people work and increased the need for communication within a project.
Many of the manufacturers of office furniture have led the way in researching workplace culture and the social factors that influence the new way in which people work within an organisation. This research has informed the way offices are designed, by understanding the needs and preferences of people in the 21st century. The role of the interior designer is playing a huge part in the way that offices operate. This has come as employers are realising the importance of the relationship between staff wellbeing and their productivity.
There is a very fine balancing act when it comes to designing for this style of working. We need to be careful that we don’t just jump on the bandwagon and try to follow a trend because we think it is ‘cool’ and ‘that’s what everyone else is doing’. This kind of mentality results in student union style cafes and lounges that no one really knows what to do with; wasting space and hindering productivity. This is when the importance of information comes into play. We need to understand an organisation’s goals in terms of style of working and the way people are used to operating. Ask questions like ‘what type of work do people do?’, ‘can they be versatile and work on a laptop, or do they need a permanent work station?’, ‘are there work groups or teams who require collaboration areas?’. There is no point in forcing people to change their style of working if it can’t be done and it is important to understand that not everyone is the same. Ultimately, what someone’s job is will determine their style and needs for working.
We recently had the opportunity to implement a collaborative environment to provide better communication between the sales and marketing and research and development departments of a company. The aim was to encourage employees from other sites in the UK to use the space in order to relieve the popularity of their London office that we fitted out in 2017. As designers, it was music to our ears to hear that they wanted to encourage the staff to work more freely, as we could step away from the usual, get creative and potentially have a positive effect on both the company and the individual people who work within the organisation. We were lucky that we had plenty of space to work with which enabled us to divide the space into zones. We created a central, communal kitchen and breakout which flowed into collaboration and hot desking areas. The showcase was the ‘airport lounge’ concept which we implemented in one of the main, high-traffic areas. We wanted to provide the staff with all of the utilities that they need to do their day job, whilst providing breakout and collaboration areas to encourage them to step away or have a chat.
By introducing a statement modular seating unit with integrated tables at work height, we are giving users the ability to come away from their desks and work productively and comfortably. Acoustic pendants and felt panel curtains soften the space to make it feel comfortable and homey while still retaining the feeling of a workspace by the integrated power on the tables and within the soft seating. It is a great environment to rest a laptop and the free-standing chairs and a statement movable whiteboard make for opportunities to have informal meetings with colleagues.
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