Workspace Design Trends – From ‘I’ Space to ‘We’ Space

Workspace design trends have changed!  Historically, workspace layout took its cue from the organizational flow chart; “power” locations depended upon the proximity to the office of the CEO. That dynamic has now changed thanks to the information revolution. Since information is now “king,” workspace design has become more flexible.

With this new thinking, ‘I’ space has become ‘we’ space. Not only does this require an evolution in corporate culture, it demands new workspace design. Workspace needs to facilitate and enable information. Accommodations must be made for today’s focused and highly collaborative work in both open and closed workspaces. Forward thinking tech companies such as Google and Microsoft work in team settings to accomplish their goals in a highly efficient manner.

Workspace design based on function and project collaboration

Workspace has become an expression of corporate mission and culture. One embodiment of this new thinking is the realization that “management doesn’t need homes – command level projects do.” Now critical data and strategies remain in a project workspace while people travel to it. This type of workplace fosters collaboration as well as facilitates personal communication between principals. Since people have more freedom of movement, according to this philosophy, they are more apt to participate and make more significant contributions to a given project.

An example of we space is a support area or alcove in a hallway that supports an environment for spontaneous conversation and collaboration. An architectural consultant explains, “When you come back from getting coffee down the hallway, you may see someone you’re working with on a project and begin to talk.” We space enhances these contacts by providing chairs, whiteboards and markers as people generally don’t have pen and paper on their person while moving from their work area to break room.

Preplanning is crucial in creating we space, as it requires a sea change in the corporate culture. As a business grows, typically staff can become isolated as employees may find themselves scattered across a number of floors or wings of an office building. Determine the goals of the proposed we space. Does a business want to foster interpersonal communication or integrate teamwork between its various departments? Or does the business look to better create a collaborative atmosphere or emphasize the corporate mission? These issues should be resolved before making arbitrary decisions that discount the ramifications of change. Regardless of the focus, a properly designed we space will balance privacy with functionality. Cohesion without friction should be achieved.

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