Collaboration in the new era of office design

Steve Taylor, Project Director Culture, Design, Agile working

With many businesses gearing up for a more widespread return to the office this year, they are now facing the challenge of how to bring their workforce back together and regain a sense of community. After working singularly for the past year, a space that encourages employees to work collaboratively and engage with one another is vital. This approach will help to bring teams together and champion both creativity and innovation. A lot of this comes down to people’s actions, but how can you create a collaborative way of working through office design?

What is a collaborative workspace?

Collaborative workplaces aren’t a new concept, but with the changing landscape of the office and more flexibility around where employees may choose to work in the future, it is essential that these spaces unite employees. An office needs to be somewhere where staff are able to work together, rather than an extension of the isolation they might have felt working from home in the past 12 months. By integrating activity-based working areas and supporting the ways your team communicates, your office can accommodate different needs and working styles – and as a result, the space adapts to your team’s requirements.

This approach can take a number of forms, but often it involves moving away from a traditional model where individuals have their own offices or cubicles, and instead focuses on open and flexible spaces that are better suited to activity-based working. This means they’re more able to accommodate activities beyond simply sitting and working, and can support everything from quick meetings, to in-depth ideation sessions. A perfect example of this approach being brought to life is in Peldon Rose’s project with PARK NOW. The design centred around a hub that provided flexibility for collaborative working as well as space where all employees could gather for companywide events.

Understanding the needs of individuals and teams is vital to getting this right and as part of Peldon Rose’s strategy stage of office planning, a team of experts takes the time to identify the intricate workings of your business. By delving into every facet of your team’s working style, they’ll determine how to unlock the potential of your workforce.

What are the benefits of a collaborative workspace?

A well-designed collaborative office space can allow your team to work together on ideas seamlessly, without having to rely on scheduling meetings and organising ideas for presentation. For ready-to-work spaces, such as Peldon Rose’s project with WSS, a collaborative and versatile design was essential when bringing people together.

After long periods away from the office, collaborative spaces such as breakout areas, informal meeting rooms or open-plan design, will reignite company culture, bringing employees back together and bolstering interaction. They will also contribute to your team’s ability to work as groups by default rather than having to regulate it.

By creating more opportunities for your team to interact, you open up space for new ideas to form as different teams connect in ways you might not expect. Casual conversations might lead to discussions about new projects or unusual solutions – and they can revitalise your team as they have more chances to communicate, get outside stimulation, and support each other.

Keeping your office open to collaboration can also boost staff wellbeing and satisfaction as people feel less isolated and more like part of a team. Recent ONS analysis showed that 7.4 million people believed that loneliness had a negative impact on their wellbeing and we are still understanding the long-term impact of an extended period of working from home. It’s clear that the need for collaboration is crucial in elevating employee wellbeing.

For employees who are beginning their careers, collaborative spaces also provide an opportunity to learn from colleagues and they help them to develop within a company. By allowing for this type of collaborative learning employees will be less likely to seek new opportunities and this can have a direct impact on retention rates.

How can I create a collaborative office space?

To develop a collaborative space, it’s necessary to redetermine the dynamics of your office. An understanding of how your team works needs to inspire the design. Depending on the nature of your work and your team, shifting towards a collaborative approach might be as simple as rethinking the furniture, or it could mean a complete overhaul of the layout of the office.

Collaborative spaces like breakout areas, with tables and chairs outside of regular desks or meeting rooms, can help foster an atmosphere of collaboration, while areas designed for brainstorms or for eating lunch can bring the team together in new ways and provide them with resources to create something new.

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