Collaborative Spaces and Engagement

A sunken collaboration area allows employees to hold impromptu or planned meetings and exchange ideas via interactive multimedia. It also features movable tables with built-in paper supply and semi-private lounge sofas.
Credit: MPA

“Those settings have social and collaborative benefits and accommodate small impromptu meetings,” he says.

Workers also expect more control over how and where they work, says Scott Sadler, product manager of integrated technologies at manufacturer Steelcase. “Provide them the ability to adjust tables, chairs, stools, and benches,” he says.

Sitting at a desk all day isn’t healthy or ideal, and certain offerings address that concern. “If you don’t have 8- by 10-foot spaces to move around horizontally anymore, allow employees to move vertically with sit-stand desks,” suggests Webb. “It keeps them engaged.”

Collaboration among employees also hinges on a space’s ability to be reconfigured. Movable walls and partitions are key.

“Furniture needs to take care of four or five different scenarios,” says Derek Schweikarth, industrial designer for manufacturer National Office Furniture. “You should be able to create workspaces that are conducive to mobility, reconfigurability, and functionality.”

Accommodate Different Work Styles
Collaborative spaces need connections so that the space is more than just a chat area. “Furniture must facilitate the work tools,” Schweikarth says.

Many offerings now incorporate some type of outlet or charging for mobile devices. Some even include screens.

“Whatever device you bring to a meeting, you should be able to share that information with the group,” says Sadler. “Collaboration should give everyone a voice and allow them to participate.”

Depending on what you want to accomplish, your options are endless. “Furniture used to be contained in silos,” Sheikarth says. “You had either office or education, but those lines are blurring.”

As those offerings have blended together, so have work styles.

“Collaboration takes on different forms. You have informative, which might be a leader-led presentation that takes place at a table,” says Sadler. “Evaluative is reflecting and could be a lounge setting to kick back with a coffee. Generative work might be a more active setting, with project teams at stool or standing height or moving throughout the space.”

Getting started on providing this atmosphere can be as simple as repurposing one small space with a couple new pieces.

“Take an a la carte approach,” says Webb. “You can take an old fashioned looking environment, swap out a few pieces, and simply create a more open, inviting area for engagement and collaboration.”


Chris Curtland is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.


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