Blog 7.: From workspace to ecosystem part 2.
Workplace as a strategic asset – Global – Mobile – 24/7
To carry on with our blog series, we discuss why the role of office space is more important than ever.
In our previous posts we’ve looked at the megatrends that have an impact on our everyday lives. Trends that change our world (blog-1.), that affect both the business world (blog-2.) and employee preferences (blog-3, blog-4.).
After reviewing these, we now take a look at how today’s office can be turned into an ecosystem, thus becoming an effective strategic asset that can incorporate change.
Our methodology helps utilize the potential of the workplace in 5 major areas, through which the space affects costs, efficiency, company image, engagement and even the health of the people.
After discussing „#1: real estate optimization” (blog-5), let’s take a look at the second most important factor that affects the competitiveness of companies and is therefore a crucial factor when planning and designing office spaces.
#2 Collaboration, stimulating cooperation
Let’s kick off with an African tribal saying that highlights the essence. It says „if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”. Ever since way back in time, a community of people cooperating well together has been a prerequisite of survival.
The world of work today also reflects this “I to WE” trend. Meaning that in order to rise to the challenge of more and more complex tasks it’s inevitable to involve colleagues from different professional background, from different cultures and generations to collaborate. Research shows that 83% of employees already do work that requires collaborating with others.
Let’s just go through the types of collaboration that happen during office work, because getting to know these allows us to form the space to foster these. It’s essential to realize that different interactions require various space applications.
Most collaboration happens in groups of 2 to 6 people. We’ll get back to this topic later on.
In today’s knowledge based world cooperation in order to achieve a common goal is called collaboration, and it happens in 3 forms: informative, generative and evaluative.
Informative collaboration:mostly it’s just a single person sharing information with others. We’ve all been to presentations and know these can be utterly boring and long. That’s why there’s a sying that „life is too short for long meetings”. It only takes a few minor details to make these meetings successful. It mostly depends on the speaker’ charisma and the topic, but equally important factors are fresh air, lighting conditions, the layout of the space so that everyone can see well and can sit in a comfortable, dynamic way. This type of meeting usually lasts the longest and attention and receptivity decrease from halfway through.
Generative collaboration:it’s a democratic way of cooperation where everyone has to be able to share and visualize their ideas. In this case the space plays a very important role. Transparency is important but it should not disturb others. Must be close enough for easy access and be easily bookable. Internal fittings and furniture also play an important role here as the surroundings need to be inspiring and promoting spontaneity. It’s a proven fact that we’re more creative while standing or moving around than we are while seated. Therefore it’s essential to be able to change to different postures in these spaces and be able to walk around in them. It’s equally important for the vertical surfaces to act as a surface on which to display ideas (flipchart, whiteboard, drawable wall and glass surfaces, smart boards, etc.).
Evaluative collaboration:these occasions focus on analyzing data already present in mainly digital form on laptops and tablets. Sharing information seamlessly and simultaneously in a democratic way is of essence. This emphasizes the importance of technology present and available in the space. The standard meeting room equipped with projector is not suitable for such collaboration.
The reason for this is that these meeting rooms are usually for 10+ people but this type of collaboration happens in groups of 2-4 (as a team of analysts larger than this would not be effective). The other barrier is that a projector can only be used by a single person for a single device at a time, so the others don’t get the chance to share their information or data in a democratic way. The image shows how using a small meeting room, it’s surfaces and some fresh tech can form a collaborative space for such discussions.
Mentoring and learning is an important form of collaboration supported by most companies. Nowadays even the way we learn has changed and so called „constructive learning” seems most effective. It’s mostly Gen Y and even younger people who don’t like formal, auditorium-like static learning. The explicit way of learning (e.g. knowledge that is read in books and then learned) is being taken over by tacit ways of learning (e.g. with the help of a mentor, learning on the job). A well-planned office space has to support this kind of collaboration as well.
What’s an effective headcount? Jeff Bezos of Amazon used to say that a meeting is only effective if two pizzas are enough to feed the group of participants. Other industries introducing rules, like software development where agile methods state 7 +/- 2 as the main rule.
The effectiveness of a smaller group is easy to assess when looking at the graph of group dynamics. There is a single channel of interaction between 2 persons, but it’s 6 channels between 3 people, 12 channels between 4 people and so on. It’s clearly visible that the number of interactions significantly grows at 6 people. This is why democratic collaboration (where everyone is to add something to the discussion) is the most effective in a group of 3 to 6 people.
If we look at most companies’ meeting rooms as their only space for collaboration, we see that those are designed for 8-12 people. The reason behind this is the old vision of planning for informative meetings. When considering the actual interactions within the organization, we mostly find that there’s demand for more and smaller (open, semi-open, closed) collaboration spaces.
Actual interactions and their number can be measured in many ways. Through so called „collaborative workshops” with the involvement of local employees we analyze the nature of interactions (looking at up to 8 dimensions) in order to define the quantity, technological requirements, location and design of collaborative spaces.
Another solution is measurement via sensors that pragmatically shows, through many weeks of 1400 readings per day, which space is used when and by how many. This allows us to draw interesting conclusions.
Mapping the actual interactions within an organization is more important than ever in order to bring the collaboration spaces (quantity, size, location, applications, technology, function, etc.) into the limelight during the planning phase.
According to Steelcase research, 70% of employees spend an average of 15 minutes finding an adequate meeting space, 24% of them spend more than 30 minutes. The loss in case is not only the time that is lost, but the willingness of colleagues to collaborate is also greatly reduced if it can’t be spontaneous or effective and they spend minutes just looking for the right space. Often i’ts the spontaneous, ad-hoc meetings that spark ideas leading to an innovation that defines the future of the organization.
There are a few basic principles of planning collaboration spaces that are worth to be considered in order to end up with a useable space that inspires colleagues to collaborate.
These are for example transparency (motivates), a variety of size and applications (choice), location in the near (encourages), tech tools (efficiency) and planning for the unplanned (spontaneity).
We’re going to discuss the other 3 major areas in our upcoming blog posts.