With limited space and limited budgets, offices have to get creative with their use of furniture and work surfaces while maintaining an area conducive to creativity and work flow. When purchasing new structures or furniture for the office, first ask, how can this space work smarter and look better? How can you best support your workers.
Workers have more freedom over when and where they do their work than ever before. If employees have the choice to perform their work away from the office, the value of the workplace (i.e. real estate) becomes critical. While companies reduce real estate costs by employing hot-desk for mobile workers and generally smaller footprints throughout, greater emphasis is placed on shared individual and group settings. With a collection of settings to support varied modes of work, a well-designed office will draw workers into the workplace facilitating productive collaboration, fostering informal communication, and promoting learning through the sharing of ideas.
Approach to office design is based in an understanding of the work process, the communication patterns, and the essential tools and technology of the users. A design specific to your office space combines knowledge and research in the pursuit of improving the performance of the space and the experience of the workers. For example, the Nonaka and Takeuchi model outlines four primary modes of work and the ways knowledge is created and transferred in an organization. The process is a spiral and the modes reference the aspects of focused, collaborative, social, and learning.
By satisfying all of these aspects in office design, employees may be provided with a variety of spaces that will support their needs throughout the workday in a fluid way. The private spaces support individual focused work, the collaborative spaces support meetings with appropriate digital and analog tools, and the social spaces support spontaneous interaction. Learning occurs in each of these spatial types but can also be planned to support formal training.
Investing in a new way of working may solve for more than individual work and an occasional meeting. A well-functioning office design can increase employee satisfaction and retention as well as improve workplace learning and productivity.
Source: Barbara Goodspeed is an interior designer with more than twenty years of experience in the field of commercial office, hospitality, health care, and retail design. She specializes in creating collaborative and multi-functional work environments. A recent project from which she draws experience is the Steelcase WorkCafe,’ opened in August 2011. Barbara lives in Cascade, Michigan and provides design consultation to Allard Design, LLC in Spring Lake. Photos provided by Barbara Goodspeed and Arjun Kartha