The office environment is now the frontline of employee engagement, with businesses everywhere investing in their working spaces for the benefit of staff.
The right working space will improve productivity and the bottom line through a series of benefits that we’ll detail below.
What is a collaborative workspace?
Typically, these spaces occur when employees from across different businesses, in addition to freelancers or contractors, work together. Sometimes they might involve different departments within a business working together to cross-fertilise ideas.
Different businesses will use these spaces in their own, unique ways, but the key is that collaboration will naturally occur because of the way in which that space will have been designed.
Collaborative workspaces are almost invariably open workspaces. That is, rather than having lots of small and closed-in offices, or pods, there will be large open-plan spaces with the ability to flex on the layout of the room.
There may be a mix of seating and meeting space furniture that takes different working needs and situations into account.
For example, there might be a fixed bank of desks with PCs and typical office equipment for a day spent working in one fixed space. There might be a second bank of networked desks where employees can use their laptops flexibly.
Another space might have modular office furniture available so that people can come together and have meetings or conversations that foster idea-sharing and innovation.
The key here is that the furniture and space will facilitate this kind of spontaneous collaboration and allow it to happen when ideas are about to take shape. In this way, the office facilitates the kind of working practices that productive businesses want to achieve through flexibility.
Are collaborative spaces naturally open-plan offices?
Sometimes, but not always and not fully. Today’s working spaces are designed around the needs of the businesses that own them. Some are likely to combine a mix of traditional offices and meeting rooms for privacy and for quiet, and also to suit introverted workers who prefer calm.
Open spaces will exist to facilitate meetings and collaboration. Breakout areas will encourage rest and conversation on-site, rather than encouraging team members to go offsite.
One thing that does unite these spaces, however, is that they tend to be top-of-the-range and built to the latest design standards.
Businesses will usually use interior designers with specialist skillsets in business spaces. These professionals will ensure that the right furniture is bought, the right layout is planned, the right lighting is factored in and the right colours are chosen to stimulate certain moods and energy levels.
What are the benefits of getting this space right?
The benefits are varied and can include:
- The flexibility that stimulates innovation and creativity
- Lower costs, through a reduced need to pay for fixed desking, and the ability for small businesses to access flexible collaborative space in prime locations
- The ability to create agile ‘labs’ that work at the speed of the business
- Great locations, including cities such as Manchester which have invested in superb collaborative and flexible office space, both in purpose-built and renovated former industrial buildings. These are particularly popular with the city’s media, creative and service industries.
- Rapid scalability – both up and down, according to your business needs
- Ready networking with other talented individuals
- Tech-ready spaces with advanced digital infrastructure and a ‘plug and play’ model for rapid use.
Are collaborative and open-plan spaces for everyone?
Many businesses will also look to develop open-plan offices in a bid to support their creativity, innovation and flexible collaboration.
Again, these can be highly valuable – but certain groups of employees may find open spaces more challenging. These tend to include:
- People who work in jobs which require individual focus and detailed concentration
- Introverts who work at their best without distraction
- Individuals with certain disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum, who may find excess noise difficult and troublesome.
The best approach?
Every business will have its own office space needs which are likely to evolve flexibly, combining different types of modular, open, closed and collaborative space to encompass all needs and situations. Get this right and your office culture, and productivity will thrive.
What’s more, you will be one step ahead when it comes to engaging with your Gen Z and millennial workers, in particular, who value this way of working.
If your office is still cordoned off, grey, uninspired and tired, then it’s time to embrace the newer modes of design and collaboration, enabled by digital technology, to reap the benefits of innovation, productivity and collaboration.
More on workspace, offices & premises
For more on offices and business premises, try some of our other guides;
- A Start-Up’s Guide to Co-working
- How to Create an Inspiring and Productive Office Space
- How to Find the Perfect Business Premises
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