The history of the typical office space is a fascinating balancing act of the "we" and "me" work mentality. You'll see what we mean.
You are probably familiar with cubicles. Whether you worked in one or saw giant workspaces filled with high-walled boxes on TV, for a while, cubicles were the classic image of the traditional office space. This shift toward private offices came right in the hills of 85% of U.S. employees saying they needed a physical space where they could concentrate and 52% of them lacking such a space.
Then, the corporate landscape shifted once again. According to Steelcase: "By the late 1990s, the tide had turned, and only 23% of employees wanted more privacy; 50% said they needed more access to other people, and 40% wanted more interaction." And thus, came to be the open collaborative spaces we are familiar with today.
All of this is to say, the need for a collaborative workspace is there. However, 16% of modern companies are now fully remote and 63% of high-growth companies have adopted a hybrid work environment; 40% of people say that they feel isolated at work but, on the other hand, more employees feel the need for privacy in a workplace.
As you can see, most companies have a tricky situation on their hands when it comes to designing a collaborative work environment that addresses all these issues.
The modern collaborative space needs to evolve to not only meet the needs of a hybrid workplace but to ensure that its employees can work in teams without being disrupted.
What is a collaborative workspace?
A collaborative workspace is a physical space where employees can come together to work on projects, share ideas, and generally be productive. The term can also refer to a virtual space where employees can collaborate remotely.
The goal of such a workspace is to create an environment that can support collaboration, encourage productivity, and foster innovative ideas.
It is important to note that a collaborative workspace means different things to different companies. For some, it might be an open office plan with meeting rooms and breakout areas. For others, it might be a series of private offices with shared common areas. It all depends on the company culture the organization is trying to promote as well as the type of work that employees are doing.
We'll discuss the intricacies of designing a collaborative office space later on, but first, let's take a look at the benefits of having such a space.
What are the benefits of a collaborative workspace?
A collaborative workspace is a more recent addition to the modern workplace. Earlier, most collaborative work took place in a conference room during a scheduled meeting in an almost suffocatingly formal setting.
However, with the rise of more flexible work arrangements and the need for more impromptu collaboration, the collaborative workspace has become a staple in many offices.
Truly, it's no wonder -- the benefits of having a collaborative workspace are many.
Some of the benefits of a collaborative workspace include:
1. Supercharged performance
The idea that working with other team members can increase performance sounds logical to some and counterintuitive to others. After all, won't having more people around just be a distraction?
No. Quite the opposite in fact. A study from Stanford University showed that the mere feeling of working together allowed participants to stick to their tasks 64% longer than solitary workers. Furthermore, the perception of collaborating on a shared task increased engagement, motivation, and the participants' success rates. To top it all off, this effect persisted for several weeks.
This feeling of working together can be evoked by not only sharing a collaborative space but by social interactions, as well. Which brings us to our next point.
2. Improved social interactions
According to the Open Journal of Social Sciences: "Whether organizations -- and their employees -- flourish or languish largely depends on the quality of the social connections they nurture."
The same study also highlights how high-quality connections can be facilitated by working in collaborative spaces.
Collaborating on projects naturally strengthens relationships and builds trust.
Furthermore, it provides opportunities for social interactions that might not have otherwise existed therefore overcoming one of the most common communication challenges in modern companies.
These social interactions can lead to a better understanding of each other, more productive work relationships, and a generally happier workplace.
3. Increased creativity
Collaborative spaces are often used for brainstorming sessions in order to generate new ideas and boost creativity.
And there's a good reason for that. According to research, a collaborative group typically generates 28% more new ideas than a group of people working individually.
The fact that people can exchange ideas, build on them, and gain new perspectives in a collaborative setting has great potential for developing new and innovative solutions.
4. Higher levels of workplace satisfaction
Employees who feel like they are part of a community and have the opportunity to interact with their co-workers on a regular basis tend to be more satisfied with their jobs. In turn, this can lead to increased productivity, lower staff turnover, and enhanced company culture.
A collaborative workspace is one way to achieve this sense of community and facilitate social interactions. After all, according to John Doerr, this focus on meaningful company culture is what separates missionaries from mercenaries.
5. Increased knowledge sharing
Knowledge sharing is a crucial part of building a successful business and many companies do not realize it. In fact, according to Panopto, the total annual loss of productivity due to delays in sharing knowledge is valued at 40.6 million dollars.
That's an insane number that can be, at least partially, mitigated by creating coworking spaces. Instead of spending 5.3 hours a week waiting for information, employees can instead collaborate in a shared space and get the answers they need in a fraction of the time.
How to create a collaborative workspace
As we mentioned before, creating a collaborative work environment is not as simple as putting people in close proximity in a dedicated office and calling it a day. It is a lot more delicate process that has left many businesses stumped.
In fact, a report from Knoll has arrived at a similar conclusion: "Many organizations recognize their group spaces are underperforming, but do not know how to respond other than to add more variations."
The good news is that there are ways to create collaborative spaces that actually work. Here are some key factors to keep in mind.
Physical Workspace vs Virtual Office
The first question you need to ask is whether your collaborative workspaces will be located in a virtual or physical space.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages and the right choice for your business will depend on various factors such as the nature of your working environment, budget, company size, etc.
Pros and Cons of physical collaborative workspaces
A physical office has the advantage of bringing people together in one place which can lead to serendipitous encounters and impromptu collaboration. Face-to-face contact also makes it easier to build relationships and trust.
However, maintaining a physical office can be expensive, especially if you're planning on adding more conference rooms and dedicated spaces to foster collaboration. Having a physical office also reduces the talent pool as you can’t hire people from other parts of the world. It can also significantly impact employees’ work-life balance by requiring them to commute.
The workspace design also plays a crucial role in employee satisfaction which can put further strain on the budget.
Needless to say, building collaborative workspaces in a physical sense may also not be practical for businesses with remote workers located in different parts of the world.
Pros and Cons of virtual collaborative workspaces
A virtual office, on the other hand, is more flexible and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. It is also generally more cost-effective than a physical office since it doesn’t require years of architectural designing and construction, nor are there any costs of maintaining of renting the office space.
Facilitating collaboration and socialization has also become easier with the advent of technology such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management tools.
One of the major drawbacks people associate with virtual environments is the lack of face-to-face contact which can make building trust and relationships more difficult.
However, in Kosy virtual office remote workers can walk around, socialize via proximity chat and simulate being in the same space -- from spontaneous chit-chat in a cafeteria to sharing a desk while collaborating.
Provide support for informal meetings
According to Knoll study on collaborative workspaces, informal interactions are the most important part of collaborative behavior that contributes to a company's success. So much so, that spaces built strictly for informal get-togethers (cafeterias, lounges) are becoming prime real estate for collaboration.
Additionally, the nature of collaboration is shifting from lengthy and crowded formal meetings to informal and spontaneous conversations in a small group.
This means that businesses need to provide more opportunities for impromptu and unplanned interactions between employees. Removing the formality and the feeling of being "on the clock" can help employees find a natural rhythm in brainstorming new ideas.
Some of the ways businesses can encourage informal interactions in a collaborative workspace include:
- Creating social spaces such as cafeterias, game rooms, and lounges where employees can relax and socialize
- Creating smaller, more intimate spaces where people can gather for ad hoc collaboration
- Having dedicated equipment for collaboration, such as whiteboards and flipcharts, in common areas
- Encouraging employees to take breaks together and bond over shared interests outside of work
The comfort of employees should be a key consideration in any workspace design, whether it's a physical or virtual office. After all, no one wants to be stuck in a stuffy room with bad lighting and uncomfortable chairs.
In a virtual office, you can change the size of every collaborative workspace. Furthermore, employees can decorate the coworking space to suit their tastes and needs. This includes adding focusing music, whiteboards, all the relevant docs you need to complete a project, plants, and other knick-knacks to make the room an optimal place to generate ideas.
Create several collaborative workspaces
Out of 38 organizations that employ over 300,000 people, three-quarters of them offer at least 7 types of group spaces. These include extra-large communal spaces, huddle rooms, brainstorming and project spaces, as well as cafes, recreational outdoor areas, and game rooms.
These are tough shoes to fill, especially when an organization is trying to save money and doesn't have the budget for a new workspace design.
However, as we mentioned in the previous section, the most used collaborative workspaces are the ones that give teams a place to socialize and focus in a small setting. In fact, a growing number of team members voice the need for each of these individual workspaces to be available at work:
- brainstorming room
- a dedicated space for ad-hoc interactions
- a collaborative office for project teamwork
- a workspace dedicated to mentoring and learning
However, the same survey shows a rather large gap between the need for these spaces and the team's actual ability to get to work in these spaces.
In a virtual office, you can have an infinite number of collaborative workspaces without breaking the bank. For example, in each Kosy virtual office, you can create as many coworking spaces as you like and even give each specific team their own individual office.
In a physical space, it is important to gauge what your business needs are in terms of collaborative workspaces before making any decisions.
Make sure to listen to your team's needs and gather feedback -- this will give you new insights into what's working and what isn't.
If you’re setting up your team from the ground up, you will also have more flexibility to define what you like.
Set out concrete goals for your collaborative workspace
Before you can create a collaborative space, you need to have a plan. This means setting out specific goals for what you want to achieve with your new workspace.
Some common goals for collaborative workspaces include:
- Encouraging employee creativity and innovation
- Improving communication and collaboration between employees
- Fostering a sense of community within the workplace
- Boosting employee productivity
- Reducing stress levels in the workplace
All of these sound appealing, but it's important to focus on one or two goals that are most important to your business. Trying to achieve too much with your workplace design can actually have the opposite effect and end up not doing much for your employees.
The best way to go about outlining your goals is to ask your team for feedback and input to make sure you're on the right track. As we mentioned before, data suggests that teams' needs for collaborative spaces are often not met which leads to productivity losses.
Looking into concrete data and feedback can help you set out achievable goals for your collaborative workspace that will make a real difference for your team.
Otherwise, you might end up with a workplace design that is not adequately catering to anyone's needs nor fostering the right environment for collaboration.
Design a collaborative space to suit your goals
Once you've collected feedback from your team and decided on your goals, it's time to start designing the collaborative workspace.
Let's look at the common goals every business wants to achieve with their collaborative space and how you can design for each one.
Encouraging creativity and innovation
If your goal is to encourage employee creativity, you might want to create a brainstorming collaborative space with plenty of natural light, comfortable seating, and the right tools for creative tasks.
This room should be relatively small (4-10 people) and be available at a moment's notice for impromptu collaboration sessions.
In Kosy, you can design a virtual brainstorming collaborative space in minutes with screen-sharing, a whiteboard, and document integration that will drive the creative process forward.
Improving communication and collaboration
Many modern organizations are facing communication challenges that can result in a lack of collaboration and productivity losses.
If improving communication is one of your goals, you'll want to design a space that encourages employees to interact with each other. Some companies have opted for open-plan offices, while other businesses have decided on building lounge areas and cafeterias where employees can gather and chat.
A remote team doesn't have to miss out on these benefits either. In Kosy, you can easily create a virtual lounge where employees can relax and chat with each other just like they would in a physical space. To go the extra mile, create a dedicated area for quick catch-ups that can not only boost communication but help build trust between teammates.
Improving team communication can also be achieved outside of work hours by setting up social events and team-building activities.
Fostering a sense of community
A strong sense of community is essential for any workplace, but it can be especially important in collaborative environments. After all, employees need to trust and respect each other to be able to work together effectively.
There are many ways you can foster a sense of community in your workplace, but one of the most important things you can do is to create a space where employees feel comfortable socializing with each other.
We've touched upon this in the previous point but you can never underestimate how beneficial it is to have a dedicated space for employees to relax and socialize. This can be an actual lounge area or if you're a remote team, a virtual lounge where employees can gather and chat just like they would in a physical space.
Boosting employee productivity
As mentioned before, the mere perception of collaborating with a group can significantly boost productivity.
Creating a space that is designed specifically for collaboration can help employees feel more comfortable working together and make it easier for them to achieve their goals. A co-working room is perfect not only for collaboration between teammates but can also contribute to knowledge sharing and cross-training.
In Kosy, you can set up a virtual co-working room in minutes with everything you need for an effective collaboration session, including a proximity chat for asking quick questions without having to go on a video call.
Additionally, never underestimate the value of quiet work in the workspace. Research already suggests the growing need for private spaces in the workplace, so it's important to create both private and collaborative spaces that employees can use depending on their needs.
Reducing stress levels in the workplace
A study conducted by the American Institute of Stress found that nearly 83% of U.S. employees suffer from work-related stress which can lead to absenteeism, accidents, and a lack of productivity and engagement.
Deadlines, trying to focus in open spaces, lack of information, and feelings of isolation are some of the main sources of stress in the workplace.
Providing employees with both individual workspaces as well as collaborative ones can help them manage their stress levels and feel more comfortable at work. Additionally, ensuring that the workplace is designed to encourage social interaction can also help reduce stress levels and promote a healthy work-life balance.
In Kosy, you can create both private and collaborative workspaces for your remote employees so they can choose what type of environment they need at any given time. With a looming deadline and an inability to get the right information over an email, they can quickly hop into a collaborative workspace to seek support from teammates.
At other times, a quiet private workspace may be all they need to focus and get their work done.
Whether you're working in a traditional office or a remote environment, it's important to create a space that is conducive to collaboration. With the right collaborative workspace, you can boost employee productivity, reduce stress levels, and foster a sense of community, both in physical and remote teams.
Traditional offices are slowly but surely adapting to the changing needs of employees, and more and more companies are offering collaborative spaces for their employees. This, however, can often lead to a mismatch between the type of collaborative space an employee needs and the one that is available. Wasted budget and loss of potential productivity are only some of the consequences.
In order to avoid this, it's important to understand the challenges your employees face and design a space that meets their specific needs. There are a lot of different types of collaborative spaces, from war rooms to huddle rooms, and each type of space has its own purpose.
To start off, you can try these meeting formats out in Kosy. With our virtual workspaces, you can quickly set up a space for any type of collaboration, whether it's a one-on-one meeting or a large all-hands meeting. You can also use our templates to get started with common use cases or create your own custom workspace from scratch.
This way, even non-remote businesses can experiment and try out different workspaces without incurring any additional costs.