In the most recent edition of Steelcase’s 360 online magazine, you’ll find an article that talks about how to create space for the individual in a work world that stresses, “There’s no I in TEAM.” With such a sharp focus on collaboration, some employers seem to forget that workers also need space for themselves. There are many ways to provide this. In some cases, it’s about offering creature comforts. In others, what employees really want is just a quiet spot to concentrate. Steelcase gives 5 pieces of advice for appropriate office design. These tips range from “Be a Good Host” to “Anticipate Needs” and “Instant Fit”.
It does make sense to view the office space as if you were a host preparing a place to make guests feel comfortable. You wouldn’t expect a houseguest to sleep in the living room with people traipsing in and out at all hours. In the same way, you shouldn’t expect employees to do “head down” work in a busy collaborative space. The ideal placement for such workstations is in an area with no through traffic – like a cul-de-sac within the office plan.
However, the authors warn against separating the group spaces from individual work areas with too much physical distance. Apparently, usage of collaborative areas falls off steeply if the location is more than 60 feet from the employees’ primary work area. Out of sight, out of mind is probably one reason. Reluctance to get up and check if the space is available is another likely factor. Steelcase recommends peppering the office with small alcoves that aren’t assigned to any specific group. They can simply be available for any team on an as-needed basis.
The full article is packed with useful tips and ideas. Some aren’t feasible unless you are designing an office from the ground up. But many can be implemented with a simple reconfiguration of your existing furniture and technology. It’s worth a look to see what changes you might make so your employees can feel more at home at work.