Designing for a More Productive Shared Space | Design for the Future
The office cubicle has gone from an open office concept to a pop culture icon. While the cubicle’s original design intended to promote workplace flexibility, it eventually became a symbol of oppression. The American comic strip Dilbert and the film Office Space (1997) forever shaped our negative feelings about cubicles. And let’s not forget the office cubicle scene in the movie The Matrix. Those grey, felt-lined prison cells left people quietly crying inside as each hour crawled towards 5 o’clock. It’s safe to say that everyone loathed the prospect of sitting in a cubicle for two or three decades.
Even the inventor of the cubicle, Robert Propst, expressed disdain for the very thing he introduced to the modern workplace. Propst is quoted as saying: “The cubiclizing of people in modern corporations is monolithic insanity.” Fortunately, present and future generations may be spared from the torture of the Action Office. Phenomenal transformations have been happening in workplaces globally; the tables have turned and employees now have the winning hand. Presently, trends in corporate headquarters designs show that organizations view productive shared spaces as a win-win for everyone involved.
The Popularity of Flexible Shared Spaces in the Workplace
Shared spaces and coworking became a full-blown industry in 2019, completely disrupting commercial real estate like nothing before it. And while terms like “shared spaces” and “coworking” might be replaced within a decade, the concept seems permanent. The pejorative attitude towards the traditional “open” office design transformed flexible shared workspaces from being a “movement” or a “fad” to becoming the new norm. In other words, today’s workforce not only prefers flexible, shared coworking spaces but expect them.
In a report published by All Work in May 2019, statistics show that flexible, productive shared spaces have become the workplace design of choice. The global market value for these types of workplaces was anticipated to be worth $26 billion this year. Coworking spaces in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York comprised a little over 44 million square feet of commercial real estate. To put that in perspective, that is around 47 percent of total commercial real estate in the urban United States. Though, in all fairness, those six cities do have a significantly concentrated workforce population, much of which originates from suburban and rural areas.
However, commercial real estate in suburban areas have experienced an uptick in the number of shared workspaces. They now comprise roughly 63 million square feet or 2.5 percent of the urban market. The expansion of shared workspaces beyond urban centers into the suburbs signals strong demand.
A Few Crucial Tips for Designing a More Productive Shared Space
Jamie Fertsch, director and co-founder of Xdesk, told business.com that productive shared spaces aren’t about being able to move from point A to point B faster. Instead, productive workplaces are about getting stuff done efficiently while maintaining reasonable levels of happiness and well-being. Fertsch further explained that unexpected things or events often have the most significant impact of efficiency. In order to make your shared space more efficient, productive, and innovative, consider the following:
- Your organizational culture
- Factors influencing your employees’ happiness and well-being
- Evaluate the overall shared space design
- Find an individual desk setup best suited for your environment
Below are a few more shared workspace and coworking designs that should boost productivity, as well as employee happiness and well-being.
Clearly Define Your Organizational Culture
One of the top mistakes made when designing new or renovated workspaces is focusing too much on the physical layout. It’s not to say that physical layout isn’t important—it is. Nonetheless, cultivating a strong culture that influences employees to get excited about the organization’s mission must come first. This is achieved by showing them they’re essential to realizing that mission; that they’re the ones who make the organization what it is in the first place.
Raven Beria, the founder of brand consultancy firm Brandalaxy, told Business News Daily she believes company culture is key to a more efficient workplace. Beria also pointed out that technology and office layout mean nothing without a clear vision or defined values. A well-established culture is the foundation of every successful organization. Beria states that efficiency begins with a positive mindset, good communication, and cultural alignment.
Be Well-Acquainted With Each Employee’s Working Personalities and Work Styles
The fact of the matter is, every single individual is unique in many ways. This holds especially true for working personalities and work styles. Some employees love to collaborate while others prefer to work on their own in a quiet space; some employees are independent and responsible while others are dependent and need guidance; a few of them may show leadership skills while others wait for orders to come down. Thus, it becomes the responsibility of the leadership to design a well-balanced and productive shared space that nurtures each personality.
Of course, the bigger the organization the more difficult it becomes to pinpoint each employee’s working personality and work style. Fortunately, software such as Microsoft Workplace Analytics allows Office 365 enterprise customers the capability to develop and run queries on their employees. Using PowerBI dashboards, group or individual employee data trends can be visualized.
For example, several metrics of a sales group in a Fortune 500 company are analyzed. Management then uses the data to see how frequently individual salespeople communicated with their clients, which clients they communicated with the most, and how strong their internal network is with colleagues. And this merely exemplifies a fraction of what Microsoft Workplace Analytics is capable of.
By using such employee analytics software, one can build a generalized or detailed profile of each employee and use the data as a foundation of your shared space design. Rather than using the software to call employees out on spending too much time online, use it to diagnose weaknesses in your present workplace design. Remember, you’re trying to build them up, not ferment distrust int management.
Encourage Regular Movement Throughout the Workspace
Standing desks have become quite the craze as of late, with so many organizations switching to flexible shared workspaces. However, studies have recently shown that standing desks aren’t exactly designed with every employee or situation in mind. In addition to that, the purported weight loss associated with standing desks minimal; employees would benefit more from taking a 30-minute walk towards mid-afternoon.
Being stuck with a standing desk during unusually long work hours will likely cause a sore back, sore feet, and knee joint pain. Then there is the issue of eating lunch standing up if people in your organization tend to eat lunch at their desks. Lastly, standing desks aren’t very private; it’s like being the only one forced to stand on a bus or subway train—is it your imagination or is everyone looking at you?
Instead of using only standing desks or sitting desks, it’s better to provide employees the option of sitting or standing when they feel the need. Stand-to-sit desks solve this dilemma perfectly. Furniture vendors also sell collaborative sit-to-stand workstations capable of accommodating more than one team member. If that doesn’t communicate productive shared space, nothing else does.
If certain employees require some peace and quiet, install a few privacy booths where they can call clients, focus on a task, or simply get away for a while. Of course, there is more to productivity than completing tasks and calling clients. Recalibration of the mind and reenergizing the body throughout the day are important as well. Furnishing employees with comfortable breakout spaces to relax, eat, and interact with each other offers huge health and wellness benefits. Breakout spaces are usually separate from the place of work since traditional break rooms never helped anyone reenergize.
Most people spend a significant portion of their lives inside the workplace. Finally, organizations understand that conventional offices are actually unhealthy for their employees. The design of your productive shared space —the furniture, the walls, the lighting, the flooring, everything—will define your organization. On top of that, the future is unpredictable, which is why every shared space design must be future-proof, transformable, and sustainable. To learn more about this topic, contact one of the design experts at FreeAxez today.