Defining a Usable Workspace

As more and more companies are moving toward collaborative workspaces, many of these companies are jumping the gun in creating a “cool vibe” and end up with unusable space within the office.

Every square foot within your workplace matters. That means every new space must be clearly defined and designed with the intended purposes in mind—or else you end up with a space with a cool look and maybe even a fun name, but a space that is underutilized by employees.

As we walk through our clients’ existing workspaces, we’re always looking through the lens of employee engagement. Ninety-five percent of all companies we work with want to add “collaborative” spaces to their floor plan. A collaborative space can be accomplished many ways, and depending on what article you read from designer firms, real estate firms, major manufacturers, they all are calling these spaces a variety of names.

Common names for these new collaborative spaces include: huddles rooms, phone rooms, touch down spaces, war rooms, and of course conference rooms. In the last five to seven years we have also seen an increase in wellness rooms, mothers’ rooms, and rest spaces within the workplace.

When a client wants to add these spaces, there are some general questions we ask to ensure the right space is being created—regardless of the name—and that it will be designed in such a way that it is used for its intended purpose.

What is the task that the employer wants to see happen in the space? Is this a space for a quick call, either personal or business in nature? (Remember, as the horizons go down and the open office environment increases, spaces have to be available for a private personal call.) Think about the task the space should be designed towards—phone conversations, one-on-one meeting space, small group meeting space, interviews, etc.

How many people, or range of people should the space be designed to accommodate? Is the space for the individual, for clusters of two or three people, or small groups of four to six or more?

How will technology—or will technology—be used in the space? Not properly fitting a space for the technology that should be used in the space is the number one reason why rooms go unused. Think through what and how technology will be used and where it should be connected or charged. This will determine many elements of the space including: size and furniture that should be included to support the technology.

Should there be other accessories in the room like visual or writing boards? If the rooms will be used for more than one person, will brainstorming or demonstrations be taking place? If so, visual boards or white boards are important elements that will help employees make effective use of the space.

What user experience should be created with this space? Is the space intended for casual gatherings, is it to be a formal space, or an active space for brainstorming?

No matter what name you give your collaborative workspace, answering these questions before the space is designed and outfitted will help ensure the space is used to its full potential, rather than falling to the graveyard of unused space turned storage room.