01/30/2024 • 3 min read

5 Ways to Create Purposeful Workplaces

Navigating the evolution of collaboration in the workplace

by Christine Gritter

"Hybrid work is here to stay" was the theme of 2023. However, flexibility and autonomy at work are not new ideas. The desire to choose when and how we work has been around for several years. With the increased availability of technology that connects us to our coworkers, company, and customers, does it matter where we work?
As we navigate hybrid work, the office must cater to diverse needs—supporting collaboration and offering a focused environment. Striking this balance ensures the office remains versatile, meeting the varied needs of hybrid workers. Ancillary spaces and furnishings are fundamental for fostering collaboration and engagement, as floorplates shift to accommodate emerging needs in individual and group spaces.

The Shift in Work Dynamics

A recent New York Times article outlines what younger workers are missing: not getting immediate feedback from experienced coworkers. The HR professional organization SHRM is looking into the effects of "loneliness at work.” Globally, people feel the need to be in the office more often to be productive, as indicated by a study conducted by Gensler. The same study states that the quality of the environment significantly influences their preferences on where to work.

In a recent Haworth survey, the top answers to the question about how the office's purpose has changed were impromptu collaboration and spontaneous connections. All this leads to the idea that in a work from anywhere ecosystem, the office remains the hub of connection and collaboration, supporting engagement and innovation.

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Creating Purposeful Workspaces

When we look at creating the right space to support collaboration and connections, here are 5 key things to consider.

1. Shifting the Floorplate to Enhance Collaboration

If the purpose of the office is to support the desire for collaboration, the ratio of individual to group spaces is changing to support this purpose. Traditional workspaces are no longer the large majority of the floorplate, and the focus is now on ancillary spaces, including café, outdoors, community spaces, and meeting rooms.

2. Differentiating Collaboration Spaces

Not all collaboration spaces are created equal. A place for social connection looks different and needs different elements than a place for strategic thinking. Start with identifying what type of collaboration is most important to the team that will be using the space.

3. Elevate Collaboration with High-Impression Spaces

When given the choice, people will go to the places they feel connected to. Communicating the purpose of each space is the first step; creating well-designed, warm, and authentic spaces enhances well-being.

4. Focus on the Human

In any space, it is important to think about the individuals who will use it and what they need to be able to do their best work. Does the space encourage others to join the conversation? Are there whiteboards or spaces for people to externalize their ideas? Can employees manage distractions if needed?

5. Integrate Technology for Seamless Collaboration

Whether for in-person or virtual interaction, technology-enabled spaces are becoming the standard. Sharing ideas, showing work, or bringing someone who is remote into the meeting can progress a spontaneous conversation into a brainstorming session. The ability to find space to collaborate at a moment's notice is an essential part of connection in the office.

While hybrid work is here to stay, so is the office. The key to moving forward is elevating the experience of work by being more intentional about the purpose of the space. Then, we can provide the elements that draw people in and create a place to do their best work.

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