Collaboration: It’s About Space as Much as Culture

By | 2017-08-21T19:33:14+00:00 December 23rd, 2014|Startup Culture|

The open office can foster team-building and collaboration, nurture a strong culture and save on rent, but it has its downsides. Noise levels and lack of desk privacy can lower productivity and creativity. So how do you take the best of open-space design and ensure collaboration without decreasing productivity?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, here are seven tips to creating a great space:

Balance private and public space

Companies are realizing that they need designated areas for group brainstorming, one-on-one meetings, solo work and socializing. The amount of space your company needs will vary by the type of work your company does. The more independent projects, the more private space is needed. The more projects that require a quiet, distraction-free environment, the more private space. The more group projects, the more collaborative furniture arrangements you need to bring people together. Variety can also be the spice of life. By providing different types of work zones, you can give staff members the option to change up their environment throughout the day. You can also allow employees to work remotely.

Locate public space to maximize interactions

Having people walk through public space to get to individual desk systems encourages interaction. One layout that works well is when private space surrounds public areas.

Make space multipurpose

Public space can be used for meetings, brainstorming sessions, quick check-ins or even double as work space for mobile workers. For example, make sure your kitchen area has wifi so people not only eat there, but also can hold meetings or use it as a work space. Widen hallways and add a couch and a whiteboard.

Equip rooms for collaboration

Wifi, video conferencing, teleconferencing and whiteboards can make public space more collaborative. Make sure enclosed private space is large enough for an extra chair so two people can sit together in front of a computer screen. File-sharing technology such as Google Drive or Dropbox facilitate collaboration both in public and private areas.

Allow personalization

Personalization of your work environment accommodates different work-style preferences. Some people thrive in a bustling environment, others don’t. Your preference for quiet or bustle can also change based on what you’re working on. Research by Steelcase, turnstone’s parent company, confirms this. The best collaborative spaces have designated areas that support solo work versus collaboration, such as group brainstorms, one-on-one meetings and socializing. Arrange the office with different zones to give employees the option to change up their environment throughout the day. You also may want to allow staff to work remotely when it makes sense.

Make everything count

The devil is in the details and accessories. Lighting, acoustics, ventilation and temperature matter. A comfortable employee is a happy, productive and creative employee. Natural lighting is better than fluorescent. Acoustics can dampen the distracting noise of open space. And yes, even temperature can improve productivity.

Reduce interruptions

In an open-space environment, people are more likely to tap you on the shoulder and ask for your opinion. This can be great for collaboration, but it also can be corrosive to productivity. Not to worry, there’s an app—and a physical tool—for reducing these distractions. Flockd, for example, sits on your desk and warns people when you don’t want to be interrupted.

Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer, a marketing research company targeting small business. Geri is a regular Forbes contributor, consultant, Kauffman facilitator and the author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Building Your Business Without One.