Think One-Size Fits All in the Office? Think Again.
The future of the office is flexible. When the open office trend skyrocketed this decade, companies across the world took down cubicle walls and opted for wide open rooms where workers could choose where they worked. The intention was to encourage collaboration and creativity. The results? Mixed opinions. Some enjoy the possibilities of impromptu conversation and choice of where to work, but others crave more privacy and space to focus. The truth is open offices are not made for all types of work. The workplace needs a combination of designs and a range of spaces to accommodate the needs of employees. A flexible office plan is ideal for companies with a wide range of departments and different styles of work.
One of Steelcase’s solutions for how to improve collaboration in the workplace is zoning. Zoning is mindful that open, collaborative offices need a balance of enclosed spaces for quiet work and phone calls. This technique results in a flexible office plan, which targets areas of the office for specific functions, allowing workers to choose where they want to work, choosing the best space for the type of work they’re tackling that day: focused, social, learning or collaborative.
What spaces are a must-have for your office?
Collaborative team spaces for idea generation
Innovative companies are sticking with some type of open office design in order to spark unexpected conversation, bonding and thinking as a cohesive, cross-functional team. One of the best ways to spark this type of work is with standing-height tables. This type of table encourages people to gather around, rather they’re sitting or simply walking up to chat briefly and share. When people walk up to join the conversation, they’re eye-level to the people sitting, which is crucial for having an effective, healthy conversation. Eye contact can do a great deal of work in propelling the conversation forward, allowing people to understand one another more clearly. It also expresses respect for the other person.
Solo retreats for focused think time
One of the concerns of implementing an open office plan is that people won’t be able to find quiet spaces for intense concentration. Having a wide space without walls or barriers to stop sound from spreading can lead to disengagement and dissatisfaction. The success of a flexible office plan relies on having spaces where workers can find respite and recharge. There are plenty of ways to create office quiet spaces while still maintaining the strengths and possibilities that open offices offer.
Diadic (two-person) spaces for feedback and processing
According to a Gallup poll, the majority of millennials in the workforce require more feedback than any other generation, but only 19% say they receive routine feedback. Planning brief, frequent interactions to check-in or reflect on work is integral to the wellbeing of employees. In the same poll, Gallup found that the most engaged workers were ones who met with their manager at least once a week. Providing a space where people can touch base and feel some privacy without being completely secluded or pressured is the best way to allow these brief meetings to flourish. A more residential setting with two lounge chairs and a coffee table, for example, creates a warm, safe environment where people can have a relaxed but engaging conversation.