With a growing understanding of what makes a workspace productive and enjoyable, interior design layouts for the modern workplace, education space and office are changing. Designers and businesses alike now know the traditional models used when creating spaces devoted to individual working and learning is not the only – or even most – beneficial and efficient model to follow.
While there are a number of different elements that go into this new working/learning space model, such as colour choice and the inclusion of greenery, modern spaces tend to place a focus on one concept in particular: collaboration.
Historically, collaborative working and learning has been avoided due to a common misconception that it lends itself too easily to distraction, making it counterproductive. Overwhelming data now suggests, however, that developing spaces that promote positive socialisation, collective thinking and problem-solving and general interaction is both good for our well-being and produces more, and higher-quality, outcomes.
It is in the execution of creating an appropriately collaborative environment that poses challenges. A balance between collaboration and independence needs to be struck in order to differentiate working spaces from any other social space.
The report “How the Workplace Can Improve Collaboration” by Steelcase WorkSpace Futures explains what they have the labelled the “evolution from ‘I’ to ‘we’ at work.”
While there are a number of considerations that go into creating a ‘we space’, such as a high level focus on technological incorporation, visual contact between workers or students and close proximity, perhaps the most important is that of zoning, as it enables the independent/collaborative working balance.
The report explains the extent to which socialisation should play a part of daily workings in education and office spaces through a three tiered model known as “levels or perceived interaction.” The levels, which overlap into one another, are explained as follows:
Level One – Coordinate:
“At a basic level, individuals operate independently and interact to accommodate their own specific needs, passing documents back and forth and sharing information, but not as part of a working group or a team,” says the report.
The graph suggests that a level of independence and personal responsibility is to be maintained throughout each of the levels of perceived interaction, which is the key to enabling a productive work environment versus a strictly social one.
Level Two – Communicate:
“At the next level, a group of individuals exchange information as part of a community of interest, but not to achieve a common goal,” says the report.
This step sets the foundation for collaboration, as communication and team-building are introduced. When strong communication is a part of workspace culture, productivity is maximised and conflict resolultion faciltated.
Level Three – Collaborate:
“At the highest level, collaborators operate as a team to achieve a common purpose by working together [high interdependence] and by gaining new insights [creativity],” says the report.
The last tier is the crux of collaborative working. It shows that collaborative working does not need to dominate in order to be successful, and should be used in moderation to maintain a productive space.
By laying out our learning and working spaces in such a way that optimises collaboration through zoning of independent and co-dependent workspaces, truly successful outcomes can be achieved.