Physical Workplace Can Encourage Collaboration

  June 30, 2009

The physical environment is more than just a collection of work surfaces, storage options and adjustable chairs. It sets boundaries for the way that employees can accomplish their tasks, and therefore should be matched to the kind of culture that the organization wants to develop.

If the goal is to encourage collaboration among employees, there are many ways to use workspace to pursue that objective. One step is to re-evaluate how much space should be devoted to common areas like conference rooms and how much to individual work spaces. If the organization wants to promote collaboration, it’s likely to want more common areas than in the past.

It may also be worthwhile to consider providing spaces for serendipitous encounters. An area that provides coffee and snacks can be designed with comfortable seating, tables, network connections and white boards to facilitate impromptu meetings. Those same elements can be incorporated into lobbies or nooks off main corridors. When designing these spaces, keep in mind that they should be appealing to employees, whether because they offer nice views, good food or just an attractive design.

Of course, the work environment itself also plays a large role in making it easy for employees within a department to work together. But when evaluating the many options for furniture, remember that collaboration is only part of the story. It’s also important to analyze how much employees will be performing heads-down work on their own. The more independent work to be done, the more important it is to provide an environment with sufficient visual and acoustical privacy to minimize distractions.


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