Supporting collaborative workstyles with the modern office

If you had to do an office survey, it would prove that over 85% of people need a partner or assistance to carry out their work. Indeed, collaboration doesn’t just happen in meeting rooms, but should be happening all the time - at desks, in passageways, on skype, or even just through informal and spontaneous meetings or chats.

How does one go about equipping the office for the “we” rather than the “I” way of working? In today’s working environment, we are focused on collaboration more than ever before.

People are always communicating. Smartphones also allow people to communicate more often and in different ways. You no longer need to be stationed at your desk to receive a call but can be mobile while still getting your job done.

Offices need to keep up with the new and demanding ways of working, and it is vital that workspaces support the collaborative trend. To effectively work this way, an office needs to cater for different kinds of working styles.

The first type of work style is “I work” – this requires quiet, private space. It is often where experts need to work. A space where people can focus without constant interruptions. The second type of work style is “You and I work” - this involves work between two people and relatively simple communication. The third type of work style is “we work” – this type of work involves a team of people working together.

It is the highest level of work in that it usually involves multi-tasking, and various disciplines are intertwined. It also very often involves people from different locations. Steelcase recorded that 70% of workers waste 15 minutes just looking for a space to sit - before they can work or hold a meeting, and 24% waste up to half an hour.

Clearly, this means that we have to look carefully at the way in which workspaces are impacting productivity, and make the necessary changes. At most companies there are standard, static workspaces and meeting spaces with very little choice of where and how to work.

 Most meeting facilities need to be booked in advance, which means that people need to plan how they work for the day and doesn’t allow for spontaneity. Technology also impacts how we work. How would it transform a person’s day to be able to connect on a tablet or smartphone and hold a conference call from any space in the office - rather than having to book a set space days in advance?

Organisations can address these problems by redesigning their workspaces around the following “workstyle” principles:

1. Focus on the main activities. Employees need space to be able to concentrate and focus, and they need space for social exchanges e.g. passageways, meeting and training rooms. These can also be ‘Think Tank’ areas.

 2. Allow for a variety of different sized workspaces and different technologies in various rooms. Collaborative work happens in spaces that accommodate a group of four to eight people - physically or virtually - or in a larger team space where people can still see each other. Internet access is always very important.

3. Provide collaborative tools – such as whiteboards - which allow people to record ideas, illustrate their thoughts and allow others to visualise what is on their minds. These tools provide information persistence and shared knowledge.

4. Give project teams their own dedicated space – it is great for project teams to have a unique space where they can strategise (not a space that is shared with clients and needs to get packed up every time). It gives a project its own identity and allows others to share in the knowledge.

By sticking to these principles, a more collaborative – and ultimately more productive – office culture can be achieved.

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