Designing Spaces for Collaboration
Karen bikes to work every day. She rents a work studio in Copenhagen where she can separate work from home life. This is the most optimal solution for her as a contract architect.
Many of her clients provide workspace or offer their offices to her, but she has found, from experience, that it usually doesn’t work well for her work ethics. “I am distracted by all the buzz and even office politics that I am not a part of.” She reflects on how offices want so badly to do it right and yet do it all so wrong – either out of pure ignorance or lack of time and resources to oversee a thing like ambience or fengshui when running a business.
“Once I was even offered a basement office. It was a completely genuine offer – as if they thought I would enjoy the silence and darkness because there were no distractions. It was their prime working spot, and they were proudly giving me the opportunity to work there.” Karen says as she dotes on some of her past working environments.
Most of her stories are from her past, and she tells me that presently, the offered work spaces from her clients are quite lavish and tempting. She always refuses though, because she has found solace and routine in her own studio. Creating a workspace for employees and contractors alike can be tricky, especially if the office manager is no design artist. Just taking a few simple ideas into consideration can significantly enhance the collaborative work space.
Room to Grow
Think of a starter herb plant; it is sold in a small plastic container which contains its roots and a small bit of soil. There is no way this plant will continue to grow or even live if it is not transplanted to a larger soil bed because the plant is confined to such minimal space. The roots need to stretch out, reaching as far as they can so the plant can receive all of its necessary nutrients.
The herb plant is much like an office full of employees: being confined in one cramped office space is most definitely detrimental to work productivity and quality of life. Let there be room enough to grow in a collaborated space. You can significantly enhance the size of the room just by strategic placement of its items. Don’t be afraid to try out a few different layouts or even omit some furniture. If it cramps the room then it isn’t doing you or your employees any favors!
Let There be Light
We are all aware that light is an essential tool. We are diurnal creatures which means, to get any work done, we need light. Though it has come to the attention of scientists that not all lights are created equal and certain types of light are superior in the office. LED’s are by far more efficient, having a lamp life fifty times that of your regular old bulb. But, what will make your work space much more desirable is exposure to natural light for most of the work day. Make sure there is a balance of direct and indirect light at all times.
Take notice of the sun trajectory and station desks proportionately so as to receive its light indirectly. The direct light can come from overhead lights. It is highly suggested to incorporate dimmers to the lights so as to adjust them accordingly to the balance of daylight and to dim the harshness of high-intensity lighting after sunset. Want to push the boundaries further? Try out mood lighting with different colors that administer inspiration, productivity or relaxation to the collaborative workspace.
One thing I have to keep reminding myself and others around me is to keep it simple. In cooking, in writing, in drawing and designing – simplify so as not to complicate things. In the office, asking the question “what are the essentials?” can be the difference between offering a work space designed for efficiency and a room that sucks out all the air. Many offices are getting back to the basics: a desk, a chair and a lamp. These are the essentials and they are all you need. Also quite trendy, offices are incorporating customization. They provide the basics plus one more item that will boost the morale of their employees.
The book worm office might add a small library, the coffee-riddled employees might find encouragement with a little café station, the competitive sales team might enjoy a chess lounge and any one can take advantage of a sunbathing corner comprised of sofas situated directly in the sun.
Green is the easiest color for our eyes to focus on. It doesn’t surprise me, as we are beings that come from nature which is predominantly comprised of the color green. Bringing that natural inspiration into the office space will enhance performance and boost morale. Spread them out like floral arrangements or decorate one wild corner of the room. Incorporate a meditative corner where the setting is surrounded by plants.
Decorate walls with posters or paintings that emanate nature-inspired images. Or go ahead and proclaim the room with a view as the collaborative meeting place. Being able to look out into the infinite blue abyss will muffle out the loud city sounds and quiet the anxiety of the workplace. Nature can instantly create an inviting atmosphere and come in all pleasing and strange designs.