Trends in modern collaborative office design can change rapidly. As more and more millennial employees enter the workforce, the spirit of the office changes with them, and adaptability is proving to be the critical overarching must-have of collaborative office spaces.
Every aspect of an office space contributes to this positive shift in company culture; furniture, architecture, openness, layout, colour, and even access to privacy are key pillars of collaborative office spaces that are contributing to the reinvention of how we use work environments.
The most important must-haves of collaborative office spaces aren’t the materialistic company perks you may be thinking of, like office kegs, ping pong tables, and espresso machines. While those round out the experience, the most sought after designs cater to human connectivity first and foremost.
Flexible Technology, Connectivity & Power
Gensler reports that 80% of Millennial and Gen Z employees believe that technology including mobile devices, laptops and mobile workstations, video conferencing capabilities, and wearable technology have all benefited the workplace. Thanks to millennials making up the majority of the modern workforce, and modern offices depending on immense levels of constant connectivity, integrating state-of-the-art flexible technology and access to power is integral to the success, productivity, and usefulness of collaborative office spaces.
New technology allows collaborative office spaces flourish in ways never before achievable. Modern capabilities of mobile technologies like laptops allow employees to customize their work environment daily, and adapt their space to the specific project they’re working on at any given moment. Encouraging the use and inclusion of flexible technology and reliable connectivity allows organizations to cater to and support the spontaneity of their employees.
One of the larger items on the wish lists of millennial employees is the ability – or opportunity – to work remotely, making video conferencing and modern communication technology a vastly useful tool to increase efficiency and productivity. With organizational communication apps like Slack, Google Hangouts, or join.me, office/worldwide tech allows employees to collaborate and exchange info and ideas over huge distances almost instantaneously. These options make use of screen-sharing, virtual whiteboards, and file sharing to optimize the virtual office experience.
Collaborative Work Spaces
Must-have modern technology is also dependant physical work spaces that cater to, and support the mobility of employees within the office environment. Both the physical layout of the space, including the flow of energy in the room, its architecture, openness, and layout – as well as the furniture and objects that occupy that space should always be tailored to optimizing the functionality and collaborative spirit of the office itself.
Layout & Flow
90% of polled employees agree that room is not enough – intuitive office design is integral to the flow of energy within an office space and its direct link to organizational and individual productivity. The atmosphere that’s produced by an office layout must be designed to distinctly cater to positivity and efficiency.
Gensler surveyed 4,000 employees to find that companies with more functional, better designed office environments were more likely to earn the reputation as innovative. Traditionally, open concept offices have been beneficial for companies that occupy the creative sector, utilizing conversation and openness as a front for establishing conversation and sharing ideas. On the other side, the classic cubicle and individualized private spaces have fared better with organizations that require private conversations with clients and/or customers and quiet space for specific tasks. Finding a happy medium with collaborative office layout is key to giving employees the option to have either or depending on their way, working style, and personal preference.
Consider when companies hire a new employee, they’re more inclined to hire someone who brings more than one skill to the table – collaborative spaces need to include adaptable furniture that serve more than one function so they benefit a number of situations.
Multipurpose and adaptable furniture helps ensure employees are empowered and able to change the spirit and function of a collaborative space at any given time to address their specific needs. From simple things like rearranging seating and tables at a moments notice to facilitate a group brainstorm session, to adapting an open concept space into more private workstations, furniture can play a big role in the transformation and comfort of a collaborative office, giving teams and individuals the power to build spaces that serve them best.
Moving desks together, creating private work spaces, allowing impromptu meetings to take place, and encouraging the likelihood of positive brainstorming sessions and change meetings are just some of the ways adaptable furniture can benefit a collaborative office space. Multipurpose furniture can also encourage staff to utilize furniture in ways that support physical wellbeing.
Height adjustable desks give sedentary positions a new lease on life by allowing employees to sit and stand as they please encouraging mobility and healthy ergonomic posture in the workplace. Standing at work can lower risk of weight gain, promote lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce potential back pain associated with sitting, and improve mood and energy levels.
Purposeful Designs that Focus on Nature
The Millennial workforce is now the single largest employable demographic in the modern working landscape, and they come with their own quirks, values, and must-haves. Of considerable note, millennials are much more environmentally conscious than the previous generation, and are dedicated to contributing to the health and sustainability of their own environments, both at home, and at work.
Must-haves in this regard for the modern collaborative office are sourcing sustainable products, and taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of the organization — reflect their values by choosing to do the same.
Offices can begin their pursuit of a more eco-friendly space by integrating natural elements in purposeful interior design, like including plants and greenery in open and collaborative spaces, or even opting to include a living wall as a way to both increase the exposure employees have to green spaces, and as a way to refresh and improve the air quality in the building.
Living walls, also referred to as vertical gardens or green walls, are a fantastic addition to office spaces that are hellbent on improving their spaces by adding a natural element to its design, and identity. They’ve been proven to benefit employee morale and enhance the overall aesthetic of the environment, while boosting air quality by acting as a living filtration system by metabolizing harmful toxins like carbon monoxide and benzene. Alarmingly, 58% of offices neglect to include living plants in their environments.
Living walls also assist in reducing the energy costs of an office building via evapotranspiration – a process that functions to cool the air in summer months, and warm it during the winter. The greenery acts as additional insulation that can effectively lower surface wall temperature by up to 50°F. They’re also beneficial to the reduction in ambient noise, assisting in the acoustic design of collaborative office spaces that respect and cater to private zones dedicated to brainstorming, or client discussions.
Views of Nature
Human beings are intrinsically linked to nature. We’re social creatures who are naturally explorative and having access to nature while at work is statistically linked to both feelings of wellbeing in the workplace, productivity, and creativity.
A study titled Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace recently polled 7,600 employees around the world, and found that employees who work in collaborative office spaces with natural features reported a 15% increase to overall feelings of wellbeing, while 6% reported increased productivity and 15% reported a boost to their creativity. Despite the direct correlation between employee satisfaction and views of nature, nearly half of companies don’t have access to natural light. This can be easily attained through a staunch revaluation of practical layout and purposeful interior design.
Windows should be optimized to allow for maximum sunlight, while including forms and patterns commonly found in nature, including leaf outlines, honeycomb, waves, etc. helps to integrate a connection to natural spaces. Having access to a physical connector, like a rooftop patio, common space, or break space can offer employees an opportunity to retreat from the office. Water features, or views of rivers, lakefront, or shoreline also help perpetuate a feeling of serenity and tranquility amongst employees.
The modern office environment must be a welcoming and enjoyable place to work, helping foster an atmosphere of collaboration geared towards optimizing productivity and efficiency.
Utilizing any of these tips for collaborative office must-haves can help to spearhead the transition to a more satisfactory workspace, but key to developing a unique space that’s tailored to the needs and working style of your staff is open communication and the willingness to make meaningful change. The ideal collaborative office is within reach – ironically, sometimes all it takes is collaboration to reach the right solution.