A recent Gallup poll found that only 32% of workers felt engaged with their work in 2022– down from 36% in 2020. This is the first time in a decade that worker engagement has fallen. One of the most important elements of engagement is having a good work environment. So, whether your employees work in the office full time or just two days a week, creating a workspace that is both functional and collaborative is very important. 

But how do you design an office layout that is aesthetically pleasing, functional, and collaborative? 

Among the many reasons for a lack of worker engagement are: a lack of clarity about work, lack of necessary materials, less opportunity to make friends, and a lack of support and feedback. When designing your office’s workspace, you will want to keep these reasons in mind. A good collaborative workspace should balance privacy and group work stations, contain all of the necessary information and materials for workers, and be both accessible and aesthetically pleasing.

Privacy/Group Balance

Many modern offices have opted for an open-air, wall-less working environment in the hopes of increasing collaboration and productivity. However, many people and companies have soured on the open-floor plan office, citing a decrease in productivity. However, there are benefits to open-floor workspaces that can’t be ignored. 

  • It’s better for health: One study found that physical activity increased by 20% in workers who worked in an open-floored office. This led to better long term physical and mental health. 
  • It promotes creativity and friendship by cultivating an open and friendly environment.
  • It promotes workplace equality by breaking down literal and figurative barriers between employee and employer.

There are at least elements of the open-floor plan office that can be beneficial to your office. The key is to balance out privacy and group spaces. For your collaborative workspace you will want to focus on creating areas that are designated as quiet focus, and separate areas for group work. These workspaces can be divided into three categories: Mixed use, huddle, and collision.

Mixed use

Mixed use spaces are rooms and areas of the office where employees can collaborate and feel comfortable talking to each other. These areas should promote creativity and should have creative arrangements, furniture, and seating. They should ideally not be completely open. Mixed use spaces benefit from creative divider walls, bookshelves, or other methods that can make the room feel more intimate and leave employees free to talk. 

Huddle

These are rooms or spaces dedicated to quiet, focused work. They should be designed for small groups or individuals who desire distraction-free focus. Huddle rooms should feel clean and simple with tools like computers, whiteboards, and flexible seating.

Collision

Collision spaces are areas in the office where people can mingle, take breaks, get snacks, and relax. These places should be designed to help coworkers build relationships and collaborate. It should be in a convenient location away from the huddle rooms to prevent distractions. 

Hybrid Office

Many workers have reported feeling displaced when their company moved from private offices to an open-floor plan. If your employees voice to you that they are concerned about no longer having their own private space, you may benefit from a hybrid of private offices and collision spaces. At Pixar, the office is designed to have both private offices and a central collaborative space. This way, employees can get work done alone and collaborate in a shared space on their own terms. If you go this route, be sure to make the shared space inviting and visible so employees don’t opt to stay confined in their offices. 

Aesthetics

Nobody likes being in an office with fluorescent lighting, white walls, and drab furniture, but how do you create a creative environment that isn’t distracting?

Color

The colors you choose for your office’s furniture and walls can have a big impact on employee productivity. Colors should be based on what kind of environment you are trying to create. Here are some examples:

  • Blue – Good for a calm and focused environment.
  • Red – Urgent and powerful. Good for boosting energy and confidence.
  • Yellow – Great for friendly and collaborative spaces.
  • Green – Peaceful and grounded for calm, steady work.
  • Purple – Perfect for creative environments.
  • Neutral colors – Balanced and calming for distraction free-focus. 

Note: Don’t make too much of a good thing. Red can be invigorating in small pieces but slathering it all over every wall can cause the space to feel obtrusive. Keep these color themes as accent colors or a few bold pieces of furniture. 

Temperature

First and foremost, your office should be at a comfortable temperature. But, there is research that shows that a warmer than average or a colder than average temperature can be beneficial in different ways. A colder office (66 degrees Fahrenheit) was found to help people stay focused on repetitive tasks or tasks like mathematics. Warmer than average temperatures (77 degrees Fahrenheit) on the other hand, stimulated creative thinking and helped employees get along during group work. 

If you want your employees to be zeroed in on work, maybe opt for cooler temperatures and if you want to foster collaboration, turn up the thermostat. Better yet, consider making the huddle rooms or private offices cooler and the shared spaces warmer.

Lighting

You should not underestimate the power of lighting. Good lighting can make us feel and work better and improve our overall satisfaction with our jobs. Bad lighting on the other hand, can cause migraines, disrupt sleep, and make us lethargic and unproductive. Ideally, the office should have ample natural light and dimmable LED lighting that can be adjusted throughout the day. Warm lighting puts us at ease, while cool light improves our concentration. Thus, warmer lighting should be used in social settings like collision spaces, while private rooms should have cooler lighting to promote focus. 

Furniture

Interesting and stylish furniture can make your employees want to come to the office instead of work from home. Invest in comfortable, stylish furniture that will add interest to the space. Play with texture, color and shape. 

Tip: pick furniture that is easy to move around and can accommodate different areas of your office in case you want to change it up. Ensure that you have plenty of surfaces to do work on and chairs to accommodate groups of people. 

Things to consider

  • Neighbors – consider placing colleagues in similar positions who are more likely to collaborate closer together
  • Hierarchy – As a boss, don’t hide yourself away in the corner of the office. Employers who want to create an open environment should ideally design their office space to be visible and accessible to all of their employees.
  • Snacks and refreshments – Place snacks and refreshments in group areas. Coffee and espresso bars, snack baskets, and drink stations are all good ways to make the office more inviting and keep people fresh. 

It can feel tough to strike the perfect balance between collaboration and focused work. Whatever way you choose to arrange your office, check in regularly with employees for their opinions and suggestions. Above all, be flexible and have fun with your space. Everyone in the office will thank you for it. 

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