Workplace designers seek to help organisations by applying their own inventiveness. Dr Peggie Rothe of Leesman discovers what extent these hard and soft infrastructures influence innovation and creativity
The workplace is a critical part of the organisation, with an impact on the satisfaction, behaviour and the productivity of employees.
What’s more, the design of a workspace can hinder or enhance the opportunities for creative collaboration – essential in boosting performance.
There are certain workplace features that are vital for teamwork. These factors can be deciphered by examining how and where we work, and what it is we need to be able to do this productively.
In order to understand more about the complex nature of collaboration, Leesman, the world’s largest measurer of workplace effectiveness, has used 100,000-plus responses to its workplace survey to statistically group 21 standard ‘activities of work’ – things we do on a daily basis and find important.
There were four very distinct sub-groups that emerged, two of which are directly relevant when analysing collaboration.
The first, “collaboration/interaction,” covers focused and creative work, as well as informal unplanned meetings, social interaction and learning from others. The second is a “formalised” type of working that we all know so well, such as planned or larger group meetings and videoconferences.
The likelihood of employees selecting particular physical features based on their activity preferences can be analysed by looking at the infrastructure items they consider important to their workplace.
The data has exposed two distinctly different infrastructure shopping lists relating to the two various forms of ‘working together’.
For example, the “collaboration/interaction” group are more likely to choose small meetings rooms and breakout zones, compared to the more formal group who’d instead select larger meeting rooms.
However, while one organisation might find a solution to increase “accessibility of colleagues” by offering a more open space model, another organisation with a highly mobile workforce might look at introducing virtual collaboration tools to achieve the same objective. It’s never one size fits all.
Considering what didn’t make it onto the lists is perhaps even more telling than what did. For example, employees seem to agree that collaboration is done anywhere but the workstation, as there’s no mention of a “desk” on either list.
And while “Informal work areas/breakout zones” and “a variety of different types of workspaces” don’t appear to be distinctive features for those who’ve selected formal meeting activities as important, they are, however, important for the collaborators.
Taking all this into account, we still need to accept that physical changes alone won’t automatically transform businesses into extroverted, creative hotbeds overnight.
Other factors need to be taken into account, such as the psychology and culture of the organisation, the belief that change is possible – and the desire to make it happen.
Further, it should not be forgotten that being successful in even the most creative, innovative and collaborative of job profiles will require some time to reflect and mull things over – and a high performing workplace will successfully provide space for this, alongside space for collaboration.