Coworking is redefining the way we do work. The idea is simple: that independent professionals and those with workplace flexibility work better together than they do alone. More and more corporations are focusing on how to increase interactions between employees. According to Mark Greiner of Steelcase, “Businesses are recognizing the importance of choice to their employees. By providing options in how and where their employees work, they’re noticing increases in workplace productivity and morale. Corporations can’t ignore employees and their individual choices anymore. If they do, it will be at their expense.”
Designers and cubicle manufactures are rising to the challenge of designing spaces that foster greater flexibility. The importance of collaborating and meeting with others must be considered. In the future we will likely see more shared spaces and less square footage dedicated to individual work areas.
When Frank Graziano, Principal Researcher for Steelcase, was asked how his company is responding to the new shift in work patterns, he replied, “In the past, we’ve spent quite a lot of time implementing designs to raise efficiency. Now we are also looking at how we can use design to galvanize the culture of an organization. What kinds of shared assets might we put in place that evoke new behaviors on campus and help our employees understand the larger details of the projects they are working on? I would say that we, and many of our customers, are beginning to understand that communal spaces — really well done communal spaces — are central to an organization.”
A great example of corporate experiment with the coworking concept takes place at Steelcase. They just remodeled their cafeteria and now call it “WorkCafe”. It wasn’t designed for healthy meals only. It is designed as a productive retreat throughout the day. Employees have many options with a range of settings and postures to a Barista serving cappachinos. It came as no surprise that employees are selecting this as one of their preferred spaces to work and it has become a great place for interactions across departments.
With corporations moving their desktop technology to handheld devices, it is easier for employees to have the independence to work anywhere. When employees are considering where to work they are looking for a space that supports them in achieving a productive outcome. It is important to look at individual devices and consider how they work and how they will bring content to a group situation. As an example, 5 people meeting together at one time cannot all look at one iPhone. It is important that collaborative environments allow for each to share their own connection so it can be reviewed by the group.
The old pattern of an employee used to be sitting in their office at a desk in the morning, going upstairs for a meeting in the conference room, then down to the lunch room, and back to their office to work for the remainder of the day. Now employees have a choice and as a result we see corporations embracing new ideas and solutions.