Despite the new ways of working that have emerged over the past few years, one thing hasn’t changed: employees are still seeking out opportunities to collaborate and connect with their teams in-person. Face-to-face collaboration fosters connections, helps cultivate great ideas, and speeds processes.
Despite the need for collaboration, not all collaborative spaces are created equal — creating spaces that work for different teams and how they collaborate helps create an environment that allows employees to feel valued and do their best work. While the standard conference room might have been “good enough” to work as a multi-functional collaborative space in the past, today’s teams can require more specialized spaces with different resources depending on how the team works together: white boards, technology, appropriate worksurfaces, incorporating in-person and remote team members, and more.
Haworth’s global research team has broken down the reasons teams meet into four primary collaborative activities: Inform, Do, Think, and Connect. Most organizations and teams utilize all four modes at different times, but will likely have one preferred mode of collaboration based on culture and how different teams work together on the projects their group owns. Here’s what those spaces look like, how to furnish them, and how you can leverage them for the needs of your team.
The “Inform” collaborative space is one that most people have been familiar with throughout their lives, as it’s the most similar to the classrooms where students spend their school days. Ideal for presentations, trainings, and large department-wide meetings, these rooms are typically set up with a technology or whiteboard surface that’s easily visible from all angles and conference chairs and training tables oriented towards a presenter. The space encourages team members to interact with the presenter or collaborate with each other during meetings and training sessions, and is flexible enough to host larger teams that regularly need a central meeting place.
Think of the “Do” collaborative space as the town square in the neighborhood of your team – this is the dedicated space where the collaborative action happens. Not to be confused with a traditional “meeting” space, this area is ideal for teams who frequently come together to knock out tactical objectives or need a space to collectively track metrics and projects, like your project management or IT teams. The workspace should be outfitted with height-adjustable tables that allow for flexible work, comfortable desk chairs, storage, and the technology and whiteboard space needed for sharing information and data while working through projects and objectives — bonus points for mobile whiteboards that allow users to arrange for their needs. Sometimes called “war rooms”, your team should be able to think of this as a dedicated space where their tools and information will remain undisturbed even when they’re working elsewhere.
Certain teams’ collaboration style revolves around idea generation, brainstorming, and strategic thinking – think marketing, social media, and advertising teams that are constantly trying new things, taking risks to see what works, and quickly pivoting and adapting to meet new challenges. Their collaborative space tends to be more informal but needs to facilitate creativity and the big ideas the team is always working to generate. The space should be outfitted with comfortable seating, like couches or guest chairs, offer some privacy and acoustic solutions so they don’t disturb nearby teams, and have the technology and whiteboard space they need to take notes and keep track of brainstorming.
Sometimes called “social spaces”, these areas exist to foster spontaneous connection, both personally and professionally. Whether these are lounge areas (outfitted with comfortable chairs and couches to give a living room feel), dining areas, or a combination of both, this type of collaborative space should feel warm and relaxing. The addition of rugs, coffee tables, and finishing touches can make these spaces feel more welcoming, and outdoor versions of these spaces can offer an ideal alternative area for employees to connect, work, and collaborate. These areas of retreat help employees recharge, build relationships, and feel that their well-being is valued in the workplace.
Social spaces allow employees to connect both personally and professionally – they can recap a meeting or solve a quick problem before connecting on weekend plans, helping to foster relationships.
Leveraging your space to meet the needs of your teams is more important than ever, and can help foster productivity, creativity, and ensure that employees feel that their work is valued. While it can seem daunting to think about different collaborative spaces for the different work styles of your teams, don’t fret – existing spaces can easily be re-configured and multi-functional areas can be created to meet the needs of more than one collaborative style.
Regardless of the work styles of your team or the needs you’re trying to meet, we can help you create functional, productive, and welcoming spaces. Reach out to us to discuss how we can help.