In a world of ever-increasing competition, the expectation of results and the flexibility of employees have increased exponentially. This has resulted in the new breed of cubicle employees known as the “knowledge worker,” someone who can work anywhere (i.e., is location independent), needs access to a variety of electronic tools and data, and thrives on increased collaboration.
Businesses are increasingly demanding flexible working environments to support the emergence and growth in numbers of these knowledge workers. This trend is driving CRE/FM executives to reassess their approach to the provision and management of space. So, the question arises: How do you create a workspace that enables team creativity, facilitates collaboration, and maximizes productivity?
The answer is to provide workplaces that enhance the parameters of the work activity and employ recent trends of space planning concepts that support the business goals of the knowledge worker.
Space is shared rather than owned because of the mobility of the knowledge worker. Hence, personal storage space can take the form of centralized lockers or personal mobile pedestals. The working environment will primarily consist of open-plan work zones arranged in clusters to enable visual connectivity within the team. Enclosed workspaces (offices) should be minimized and only allocated to staff with a managerial role whose job involves working on sensitive matters that require a level of confidentiality. To offset this, an increase in the number of individual and one-to-one spaces within the open-plan environment to support confidential or focused work should be considered – including quiet rooms (small rooms to support one individual) and huddle rooms (small rooms for one-on-one meetings).
It is important to create informal meeting spaces that should be dispersed across the floor, including layout benches and soft furniture to facilitate brainstorming sessions and further drive collaboration and impromptu idea development. The provision of breakout and vending spaces around nodal points should also be provided to minimize disruption and to serve the floor, driving a community feel. These could also include reprographic hubs housing a stationery store and adjacent breakout and layout space.
It goes without saying that connectivity is a basic requirement. Touchdown spaces with data points and direct Internet access should be available in all work areas, as well as reception and vending spaces. This also provides flexibility during busy periods within the building where work can continue even without the workstation.
The final point to consider is how space is then managed and issued to the worker, as each workstation is generic and has no defined owner. One approach is to allocate a number of workstations to a particular team whom will manage the space or to procure a central workstation booking system.
The bottom line is that without a consistent and clear space planning or design strategy focused on the work activities of knowledge or other workers, you may not be maximizing your potential.
Paul Morgan is director of Strategic Facilities Consulting in London for Milwaukee, WI-based Johnson Controls (www.johnsoncontrols.com).