As we begin to welcome more people back to the work environment, we find that many work environments are not designed to support casual conversations, collaboration, or brainstorming. In fact, most work environments do not support innovative work methods at all. Many traditional office buildings make extensive use of cubicles or offices which may be fine for individual work, but they do not support teams and encourage collaboration. Conference rooms are often hard to secure or unavailable and they are only available for a limited period. What is needed is a more flexible environment that better supports teams, fosters collaboration, and inspires more open thinking.
Explore Ways to Enhance Teamwork
Exploring new ways to enhance teamwork and foster collaboration provides an opportunity to examine your current approach and build a workspace strategy. We encourage you to experiment to learn how to achieve the types of exchanges you want: trying various office configurations, testing pilot floor plans before renovating the entire space, and exploring the impact of small tweaks. This approach will help you equip employees with the spaces and technologies that best support your needs.
It is best to start the process by establishing a general budget for the project and begin determining how much space each person needs: both at their workstation and elsewhere in their team space. Typical personal workspace needs vary between 25 and 100 square feet. It is tempting to “pack” people into small personal workspaces in favor of larger common areas, but people still need their own space and teamwork will suffer if it is not provided. Consider the type of work done in the personal workspace and the tools required, for example, telephone, laptop, or desktop computer workstation, desktop video, drafting or design tools, etc. Think about the various seasons of the year and the impact on the physical workspace (coats, boots, umbrellas, motorcycle helmets, etc.).
Consider Team Activities
When enabling collaborative teams, consider the various activities they will need to conduct in their spaces. People will need to handle phone and video calls and emails, and some may be personal or sensitive in nature. Teams will often make use of collaborative tools like whiteboards, flip charts, bulletin boards, video conference equipment, large screen monitors, video projectors, and projection screens. Implementation of these tools will require extra planning to remain unobstructed and useable. Ventilation becomes very important when there are many people and equipment sharing a single space.
Elements like natural light and appropriate workspace lighting, temperature and air flow, noise, traffic flow, comfort, ergonomics, and refreshments are important considerations. Hard working people and teams can be enabled or discouraged by the spaces in which they work. Obstacle removal is also a key function to consider. An astute designer or manager will determine objects that inhibit team performance and remove them.
COVID-19 certainly has had an impact on the collaborative work environment. Although many companies have been successfully getting some types of work done remotely and over video, teams are struggling with the collaborative work that creates new ideas and solves complex problems. Many team members are missing the experience of working together – face-to-face – in spaces that are designed specifically to foster creativity, ideation, and innovation.
Create a Work Environment to Be Productive and Grow
For your organization to be productive and grow, you will have to evolve now and for the near term to meet the new requirements of the post-COVID workplace. It is a challenge to balance the need for compelling spaces with the need for safety but coming together in the workplace to socialize and collaborate is what will bring people back to the office.