With the growing number
of corporations adopting teaming strategies, the workplace is rapidly evolving.
Bringing people together is only half of the collaboration equation. The physical
environment must support the group by providing the right tools for effective
problem solving, strategic planning and brainstorming. Which factors should you
consider when designing a team space?
The environment must be designed to foster interaction. Casual meetings
at the coffee machine, photocopier or even the washroom result in spontaneous
creativity. As companies recognize the importance of these impromptu water-cooler
meetings, architects and space planners must respond accordingly and encourage
these interactions with facility design. Although environment alone cannot guarantee
the brightest ideas, workspace design does have a measurable impact
on team productivity. According to Franklin Becker and Fritz Steele in Workplace
by Design, "We can influence a pattern of experiences over time,
therefore increasing the possibility that new ideas or connection will occur."
Increasing the likelihood of chance meetings through space planning is a popular
Variety the Space of Life!
Variety is key when designing
team space. Making both closed and open meeting spaces available is necessary
to support different work styles. Dedicated office areas can double as meeting
spaces for smaller groups. Larger, private areas like war rooms or project rooms
are also needed. To maximize the benefits of collaborative work, finding suitable
meeting spaces should be effortless. Diversity in room size, layout and design
will ensure team members will always have an appropriate meeting space.
Sharing visual information is often an important component of team communication.
Franklin Becker's concept of "displayed thinking" explains that by
diagramming and recording individual and group ideas, an unspoken message is
sent to the team. Concepts are acknowledged and validated, which reinforces
the individual, causes cohesion within the team and creates team spirit! Effective
team spaces must be equipped with the tools to display the group's concepts,
solutions and ideas.
The Right Tools
What types of tools can be used to effectively capture information in team
spaces? Flipcharts, dry-erase marker boards and notepads have been used in the
past, but organizations are recognizing the limitations of such equipment. "Traditionally,
capturing, saving, distributing and archiving ideas generated during group collaboration
has been laborious and awkward," says Nancy Knowlton, president and COO
of SMART Technologies Inc. "We are seeing Fortune 500 companies planning
meeting spaces that include productivity tools to help team members manage the
information generated during group collaboration. With products such as electronic
and interactive whiteboards, teams can capture ideas directly to a computer
for printing, e-mailing or saving. As companies recognize that time spent in
meetings is actually a corporate investment, they will seek ways to effectively
record all that transpires in team sessions. Keeping a record of all the notes
coming out a meeting is invaluable." says Knowlton.
A group space should be flexible enough that a team can adapt the space
when necessary. Open team space and adequate connectivity provide the flexibility
for reconfiguration. Designers need to consider telecommunication and IT infrastructure
as part of the design-build process. Non-territorial workspace with appropriate
connectivity allows teams to pick up and plug in. Teams should have access to
voice mail, e-mail, fax and networked information wherever they decide to meet.
Consulting with information technology professionals throughout the design process
results in flexible spaces that support natural fusion and fission common in
work teams. All of the "Big 5" accounting firms are currently using
such alternative officing strategies with telecommunications, software
and countless other industries are following the movement toward free-address
Designing a true team space is more than simply erecting four walls and throwing
in a flipchart. Take a holistic approach by considering space availability,
diversity, connectivity and flexibility to create an ideal environment which
support the two-heads-are-better-than-one theory. With well-thought out space
planning, corporations are experiencing increased productivity, faster product
cycles and heightened employee morale.
Images in the article above are courtesy of SMED