Designing for Privacy & Collaboration
Jen Rani Cayabya – Project Consultant
The open plan office is the most commonly seen form of workplace design but is also the most maligned. Companies have been trying for decades to find the balance between collective and private needs within a workspace, so what steps can you take?
Tailor your design to the work
We believe that most successful workspaces enable and empower team members to choose where and how they get their jobs done. Before redesigning your office space, it’s important to consider the needs of your employees and their work. Consider the behaviours you would like to encourage and those that already exist. Allocate space based on the percentage of time you expect employees to spend on individual versus team, collaborative or creative work. This will allow a more functional design and prevent brainstorms or loud meetings occurring where other employees are trying to concentrate or isolate themselves.
Enclosed spaces for all
A rare commodity, enclosed spaces should be designed and allocated on a needs basis, not simply given to senior managers while employees fight over the few meeting rooms or collaboration areas. Enclosed spaces can be laid out either directly next to standard work locations (like isolation ‘islands’) allowing quick and easy transitions or can be entire spaces or floors accommodating quiet or concentration zones. It really depends on your team’s needs and how you enable them to work at their best.
Environmental control through design
Whether being used for collaborative or private work, meeting rooms are more effective when they allow users to control stimulation, such as outside noise and visual interruptions. A growing trend towards greater transparency within offices has led to more glass walls, but this can lead to the unpleasant feeling of working ‘in a fishbowl’. Less of an issue for a big team gathering or workshop, but if privacy is required, a simple band of frosted glass can greatly improve the feeling of privacy, while switchable glass delivers optimum privacy control.
Altering to work requirements
Different sized work areas can be temporarily created using moveable or flexible wall options that can be altered to adapt to space and work requirements. Correctly implemented, this flexibility enables the creation of large areas for collaborative work, team or company meetings or event spaces, whilst also offering the option of smaller, more private rooms.
The open plan office is neither inherently bad nor good. The key to balancing privacy vs. collaboration is to empower employees by giving them choices that offer them control over their work environment.