Re-imagining the internal conversations that go on in a company is an on-going dialog within the furniture design industry. This exchange of ideas is used to create more productive and dynamic environmental design. The challenge to create innovative furnishings that can accommodate the way we meet and exchange ideas is the same for every office footprint. Large or small, there are considerations that have to be made to allow form and function to coexist with productivity.
An emerging trend, that has actually been quietly surging, brings a little bit of home into the office environment. Designing conversation areas that are smaller and more intimate, like you would find in your home, is becoming a fixture in open plan office design. These smaller conversation areas are even finding their way into high-tech environments, spearheaded by the innovative designs of Google campuses around the world.
The vulnerability of an open plan design has greatly benefited from the incorporation of huddle spaces, that encourage creative conversations on the fly. These multi-function areas can even entice employees away from their desks for some quiet time to focus on a task or discuss an issue with a client. Gone are the days of the prescribed office space with its limited focus on one task in front of a computer. The multi-tasking level of today’s mobile business communication has mandated this change. It’s been reflected in furniture design through the creation of technology integrative furniture that encourages a disconnect from the desk that opens up creative thinking.
What Google and many larger firms are doing with open plans is including multi-functional design elements and smaller conversational groupings that break up the open space with color and diversify the meeting zones. Coworking spaces have been incorporating this technique as a way of providing more private spaces for meetings within the open office environment. With square footage at a premium, and leased office spaces at an all time high, these huddle spaces make more logistical sense than eating up a large chunk of prime office space for a conference room. Providing areas that encourage the impromptu exchange of ideas is what this transition is all about.
Some creative solutions to inspire conversation around your office include:
Long communal tables that can add additional functionality anywhere
Large low profile sofas in L or semi-circle configurations
Colorful enclaves with padded benches
Acoustic couches with high-back seating for privacy
Creating an attractive office floorplan that can accommodate in-house staff, telecommuters and clients simultaneously are imperative to modern business transactions. Keeping the lines of communication open and providing the right climate for productive conversation is now an integral part of corporate space planning and design. The effective use of space in smaller office footprints has driven this home, especially in the coworking environment. Many startups begin here, and this is their first real taste of open collaborative design and how it multitasks.
The long communal table has been a fixture in the coworking environment, but it can perform many other functions in an office design plan. Eliminating the need for bulky desks and breaking down cubicle walls, the long communal table can create a ribbon of productivity throughout an office and add multi-functionality to even a breakroom area. In a bold design statement, one firm got rid of their reception area altogether and replaced it with one long communal table, creating a welcoming touchdown space for telecommuters and visitors alike to plug in and reconnect. Communication is the backbone of any business. Seize the opportunity to create a unique environment and showcases your information sharing acumen to all who enter your business.
Imagine how different the conversations would be in your company meeting if you had an area of curved, low-backed seating instead of a traditional conference room. Leveling the playing field of dialog for all involved might open the door for some pretty innovative discussions. Google’s London headquarters did this using a giant semi-circular white sofa. The challenge with any large office, especially a 160,000 sq ft campus like Google, is the dilemma of keeping the space fresh and alive while encompassing sanctuaries and quite zones away from the din. More than ever, offices must inspire and invite employees to be their most productive by providing furnishings that exceed the various work modes of each department.
Collaborative work environments tend to have higher employee retention. It has an immense impact on team performance and creative problem-solving. The explosive demand for web conferencing and video conferencing requires a dedicated area that will not disturb surrounding co-workers. Modern workplace priorities such as virtualization, cloud-computing, cloud content sharing, BYOD and telepresence lend themselves well to glassed-in huddle room environments and quite zones that are becoming a fixture in open plan design. Incorporating standing tables along a window wall is another way to create a breakout area that will encourage a different type of meeting perspective.
Being creative and flexible in your office design to fully maximize the use of your space goes a long way toward acquiring top talent and keeping great employees happy and productive. Accommodating remote and mobile employees means providing appropriate connective places for them to plug in and collaborate efficiently while they are in the office.
Inspired conversations begin with great design. Incorporating smaller huddle areas at the natural intersection of work areas is a great way to encourage these discussions. These smaller comfortable meeting places bring a bit of home to the office and encourage the casual exchange of ideas that can elevate your productivity.
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