How to Build a Collaborative Workspace (And Why You Should)
The workforce is more diverse and distributed than ever, and this new paradigm needs a new style of workspace to thrive. A lot of companies are experimenting with ways to create new spaces for their teams to operate in that are optimized to support outside the box thinking.
These new collaborative workspaces are designed to maximize the balance between flexibility, scalability, and productivity in innovative ways.
They also appear to work as intended — according to McKinsey and Company, a collaborative workspace can improve metrics for individual performance, team performance, and organization-wide performance.
To build a collaborative workspace for your organization, you need the right layout, the right collaborative tools, and the right mindset. Are you ready to make the shift?
What is a collaborative workspace?
Collaborative workspaces are defined by their best qualities — diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment — more than their physical arrangements.
They operate on two levels: one physical and the other operational. The collaborative workspace allows an individual the privacy and quiet needed to get work done, plus social spaces for working together, ideating, and more.
A collaborative workspace involves a physical infrastructure that enables cultural frameworks to come to life. They also require an organizational mindset that prioritizes teamwork over competition.
Collaborative workspaces take influence from freelancing practices by offering a variety of spaces to suit different moods, objectives, and tasks. In addition to conference rooms, a collaborative workspace often features a few basic formations:
- Common areas that enable informal, unstructured teamwork
- An open floor plan with shared work spaces for quiet work (with easy access to impromptu conversations and connections)
- Lounge areas with sofas, outdoor patios, and other informal spaces for community life
Some settings will serve multiple uses. An office bar — complete with craft beer taps or espresso makers — can be a casual meeting space, a quiet workstation, or a social area depending on the time of day.
Why Develop Collaborative Workspaces?
The design of a space can dramatically transform collaborative experiences and outcomes of the work done there.
Unconscious aspects of a workspace can also impact employee engagement, job satisfaction — even mental health. While some of the architectural techniques in play might be too theoretical for most people to notice, there are some decisions about layout that anyone can see and understand.
Take the often-maligned cubicle, for example. The cubicle was a radical departure from the norm when Herman Miller introduced Robert Propst’s “Action Office” concept to the working world. It was considered a progressive advance that introduced the world to the idea of semi-private workspaces for the masses.
As work cultures have evolved to center collaboration over solitary deliberation, the cubicle is now seen as outmoded and isolating; it’s bad for teamwork and, in many instances, morale.
Amenities that make collaboration more natural, from good lighting to healthy snacks in kitchens, are growing in popularity to meet the needs of an evolving workforce.
Technology makes the fostering of a team-forward work environment possible as well. A tech stack including tools like Asana, Flowmap, and Trello can connect people virtually to work on the same project, at the same time, from anywhere. They help enable collaboration without making physical proximity necessary.
When meeting in-person, a digital whiteboard lets teams organize ideation sessions, visualize concepts, save digital post-its, and more.
The Vibe digital whiteboard even includes integrations to welcome remote workers to collaborative sessions from anywhere. All your notes are automatically saved to the Vibe cloud, where they can be quickly shared or revisited.
Co-working for coworkers
As more companies collaborate with freelancers, consultants, and contract workers — often remotely — the physical workspace has changed to meet these new expectations.
Co-working has gone from an informal practice, established by freelancers and creatives in libraries and cafes, to a phenomena that defines the contemporary work experience. In 2016, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely — a number that is only on the rise.
Collaborative spaces now need to include technology to connect in-house staff with freelancers, contractors, clients, even remote offices halfway around the world. The ability to screen-share to and from mobile allows your team to comfortably collaborate from any space, in-house or remote.
What does a collaborative workspace look like?
Here are a few of our favorite examples:
Spotify provides a variety of different spaces throughout their office to curate feel for their employees. Many of these spaces are more like those you’d find in a university library or hip cafe than a classic corporate office.
Slack’s San Francisco HQ features a “forest floor” to introduce the calmness of the natural environment to the collaborative experience.
Google’s second location on LA’s westside is housed in the old Spruce Goose hangar. They refit this massive open space with a variety of smaller collaborative nooks to give it context and proportion, creating “spaces that are moldable and flexible,” according to Google spokesperson Katherine Will.
Want better tools for seamless collaboration? Check out the Vibe demo.