Shared Spaces        

Shared Spaces for Collaboration

February 26, 2016

By: Michael Prince, President of Beyond Design, Inc.

Open office concepts are designed to improve workflow and communication within the confined spaces employees work in. Environments that are open invite collaboration and also promote learning while nurturing a strong culture between co-workers.

Over the past few years, open concept floor plans have characterized modern office spaces. Once upon a time, collaborating with a co-worker meant getting water from a water cooler in a kitchen space – following with whiteboards, coffee pots and rolling chairs. This became the norm and companies failed to realize the sterile environment they had created. Today, working in a cubicle is nearing extinction – replaced by a new method for workplace collaboration. Open office concepts are designed to improve workflow and communication within the confined spaces employees work in. Environments that are open invite collaboration and also promote learning while nurturing a strong culture between co-workers. There’s a rhythm to collaboration – that promotes creativity along with the ability to come together to build upon shared ideas rather than one single source.


Millennials are continuous learners, collaborators, and highly educated people that are looking for more than just a paycheck. An enticing workspace is appealing to this group more and more, which gives them the ability to become successful and willing to go the extra mile.

Over the past decade, an open workspace has become a fixture into the modern working world. The private offices and high cubicle walls are a thing of the past, increasingly given way to no or low partitions between desks. Fewer walls and doors, even glass conference rooms make way for an easier transition to succeed during working hours. Adding whiteboards into conference rooms allow for visual representation of a presentation making it easier to understand and take notes for those that prefer it. Another aspect of a workplace is phone booths, showcasing their sound insulation, acoustics and usability. It is easy to pop into a phone booth during work to take advantage of privacy, providing an excellent solution into their open-plan workspaces that have telephone and video conferencing.


There’s a balancing act to creating the most collaborative work spaces, and here are five ways on how workspaces can be designed to offer the most successful solutions.

1. Homey Environment
In today’s professional world, workspaces are becoming more casual and inviting. Nix the stiff leather chairs, formal desks and closed doors and welcome breakout areas filled with comfy couches, games, fun colors and free snack bars. Escaping their desk and setting up a space where they feel comfortable and at ease can be encouraging, giving their best version of themselves.


2. Collaborative Areas
Working pods encourage employees to collaborate outside of the box by not grouping together in closed-off meeting rooms. Creating shared workspaces also promotes Interactivity between departments or areas to increase the level of collaboration. Having a “go-to collaborative” space often allows people to write on the walls, have crazy ideas and discuss opportunities and solve real problems. As this trend rises, so does the need for shared conference rooms that is causing it’s own issues. Companies are now seeing the need to set up strict guidance over scheduled rooms so facilities are not overbooked. Products like the RoomWizard II is a web-based meeting room scheduling system that solves the dilemma of booking rooms and connecting workers to meeting spaces.


3. Too Private or Too Public
While office spaces are becoming more open, there’s always a need for a private area for a phone conversation or an important meeting. While people like the “transparency” it’s not always conductive for business, especially when loud talking is involved. It’s normal for employees to want to zone out and concentrate on their tasks – for example, the younger workforce is using headphones as a way to isolate and provide better concentration on their work. Not long ago it could have been viewed as unprofessional where now employees recognize the benefits to their employees as well as the bottom line to their business. However, there are still some people who need private space where they can retreat and concentrate without distractions. The current allocation mix in offices appears to be 70% open desks, 15% for conference rooms and only 5% individual offices. This need for private space has become more select for those who tend to be loud and require privacy.


4. Changing the Hierarchy
The open office movement has changed the way for working relationships between different levels of management. Luxury is no longer having that great view from the corner office – but moving towards the main floor plan encourages collaboration and a sense of community. Sharing floor management allows everyone to stay involved, know what is going on a daily basis and can participate in a more significant way. Creative jobs require visual displays to showcase work and garner input from others. Moving walls and furniture enable teams to group and re-group quickly to react to business needs.

5. Get Up and Move
It is nothing new that sitting for long periods of time is not good for your health. With all the health risks these days, workplaces are encouraging and promoting people to move around about the day, “standing is the new smoking.” Standing desks have become increasingly popular – showcasing that it promotes greater productivity and a freer flow of ideas. The dynamic and flexible furniture allow for employees to want to work together and get their creative juices flowing. Other popular substitutes are bosu balls, treadmill desks, which are expected to become more accepted. Even adding bicycle storage or a designated area for a quick workout or stretch can promote physical wellness at the office. This is an upward trend that companies are promoting and their employees are taking an active role to better their personal well being.


Herman Miller presented Exclave, a suite of products for team spaces. The Exclave Collection brings purpose to work settings to create collaborative environments that support people and keep ideas and innovation moving. The design maximizes potential by adding boards and having different heights for elevation to provide team engagement and productivity.


The key to successful workspaces is to empower employees by allowing them to determine the best work environment for them. When they can choose and control where and how they work, employees can have the ability to re-energize and solely focus on drawing new ideas and innovation. When co-workers can pick and choose their group and individual time, it creates a rhythmic system that is essential to modern organization. Encouraging interpersonal cooperation and communication around the office helps build camaraderie. Office structure needs to configure to match the needs of employees who want to share their new ideas and purposes.



It’s easy to change your environment, just start with the colors of the room, the flooring and most importantly lighting. Don’t clutter up your space with junk, be selective and introduce items that are interesting and can be a conversational piece. Hang large graphic posters on the wall that are abstract and can have many interpretations. When things get old, replace them with new gadgets and gizmos that keep the juices and creativity flowing.

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