Putting collaboration at the center of workplace design

Forward-thinking companies recognize the importance of targeting Generation Y workers to recruit the best talent and create the business leaders of tomorrow. These digital-savvy workers want to have workplaces that support the way they want to work. By 2020 there will be as many as 86 million Millennials in the workplace in the US, around 40 percent of the total working population. So for companies, it now makes sense to start designing offices and workspaces dedicated to getting the best out of them.

Some new office designs follow the ‘Corporate Campus’ route, similar to Google’s new place in London, with spaces tailored to prioritizing workers’ desire for flexibility and changing needs. But Google’s approach will not work for all organizations. There is no one size fits all approach to maximizing your workspace, it really depends on your organization, its priorities and its goals.

Think flexibility and collaboration first

At Orange, the key was to support flexible working and collaboration. The new head office has no allocated desks and no landline phones. Orange employees arrive at work, place their laptop where they like and access a dedicated network connection. All meeting spaces come equipped with large screens, tablets, videoconferencing tools and interactive whiteboards and the entire space is soundproofed with an active anti-noise system.

These meet the needs of the employees, because Orange collaborated with them in advance to establish the kind of place they wanted to work. The office space is divided into multiple zones where workers can collaborate and create in comfort. Employees were given portable digital tools they can take wherever they want to collaborate conveniently with different teams and departments. Furthermore, the focus on flexible working practices was designed to make it as easy as possible for workers to collaborate and exchange ideas remotely or face-to-face.

Four steps to designing a collaborative workspace

For any company planning a more collaborative and attractive workplace, consider taking these four steps.  

1.     Think about the ‘Medici Effect’. Often the best innovation and ideas come when workers from varying backgrounds, departments and with differing skill sets get together to exchange thoughts. So design workspaces that are open, available to everyone and don’t exclude people.

2.     Not everything must be open plan. Quiet areas, spaces or booths for quick meetings can be a popular, effective workspace option for some workers. And when designing your workspace, don’t be swayed by ‘popular’ trends. It might be tempting to go down the road of the cool photos you saw on Pinterest, but focus on what your business needs and stick to that.

3.     Invest time and resources in designing your collaborative workspace. Consult with workers or ask them to complete surveys to find out the type of workspaces all your workers and teams want to enable them to be as effective and productive as possible.

4.     Find the right balance. You want your teams to be productive and have spaces that encourage collaboration, but factor in places for relaxation and downtime. By creating comfortable common spaces for bars, kitchens and sofas, you can encourage more social interaction between employees.

Changing times, changing expectations

The changing nature of work practices and expectations means companies must focus on designing workspaces that get the most out of their employees. Research has shown that flexibility and collaboration are key to the Millennial generation of workers: 88 percent prefer a collaborative work culture to a competitive one. Financial incentives are also seemingly not as vital as they once were, with 64 percent of Millennials saying they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love rather than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring. Similarly, 45 percent of Millennials say they will choose workplace flexibility over pay.

So if you are thinking of designing a new workspace right now, it pays to focus on flexibility and collaboration first. To maximize performance, companies now need work environments where employees can shift between various work modes and habits and feel comfortable whether working privately or collaborating with colleagues. And while thinking about Millennials, don’t forget that the Generation Z workforce is just around the corner too. That new batch of employees will find the idea of walls and assigned desks in an office space about as alien as a Millennial finds a fax machine.

To learn more about Orange solutions and how they are helping companies improve their business with a collaborative digital workspace, please visit: http://www.orange-business.com/en/collaborative-workspace

Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.