The Art of Collaboration: How Our Spaces Foster Unity
We are living in an age where we are more connected than ever, thanks, in part, to the non-stop digital integration of our lives. While these innovations have brought us plenty of positives, it has played a role in a quieter epidemic amongst the workforce. Hybrid and remote working have exacerbated feelings of isolation, with 43% of us feeling lonely at work. Now that the dust has settled and employers have found their flow in terms of hybrid working structures, there’s an opportunity to tackle the issue head-on when their employees are in the office. Office spaces can no longer simply be places to work; they must be vibrant hubs that nurture creativity, teamwork and a sense of unity. By fusing design and purpose, employers can birth a new paradigm where collaboration isn’t a value on a mission statement but a living, breathing aspect of our workspaces.
A Human-Centric Approach
A core part of our ethos at AW Spaces is designing spaces led by people, not by activity. Human Centred Design is all about anticipating the needs of people before they’ve even had a chance to identify them themselves. A truly human-centric office will wave goodbye to sterile cubicles and austere classrooms and instead seek to celebrate the inherently social nature of people. And these changes can be subtle. Even just simply arranging comfortable seating in open layouts or utilising flexible, modular furniture, you can delicately create a space that encourages interaction. These spaces help to facilitate the organic sharing of ideas and allow creative energy to flow. You can learn more about Human Centred Design in our blog, Designing for the Human Touch.
Bust Open Physical Barriers
The physical design of a space can significantly impact our behaviour; too many walls can block creativity, while an entirely open-plan office can be distracting. By carefully curating the layout of your office, you can maximise the best efforts from your team. Consider replacing some walls with glass, or even curtains, so while your team can still maintain privacy when needed, the accessibility paves the way for enhanced collaboration. Removing barriers also blends work and social interaction, which can remove feelings of hierarchy and instead fosters camaraderie.
The Multi-Functional Method
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to creating genuinely collaborative spaces. If your team are constantly battling inefficiencies in the office, they’ll feel defeated before they’ve even tried. By bringing in furniture and fixtures that serve multiple functions and can be easily moved and shifted, your team will feel more able to jump on ideas as and when they happen. These elements can look like movable whiteboards that double up as room dividers or seating easily reconfigured to suit different group sizes. Flexibility will empower employees to mould their surroundings to suit their needs, from collaborative sessions to quiet contemplation.
Technology: The Invisible Enabler
Don’t allow your office to be dated by tech. Seamless integration creates an office that is future-proof and prepared to embrace the next gen of innovation in workplace technology. While there is something to be said for the disunion that technology can cause, when utilised in the right way, it can be a tool that can make a global team feel like they’re one room or can be a creative catalyst when an ideation session has got stuck. It must be used in harmony with a space, rather than overshadow it, to strengthen human connection rather than replace it.
From Classroom to Boardroom: The Parallel Evolution
The need for collaborative spaces isn’t limited to the workplace. Educational institutions are also embracing this shift. The traditional classroom arrangement, culminating in rows of desks all facing the teacher, is being replaced by flexible environments that facilitate peer learning, active engagement and autonomy. A study from the University of Salford discovered that the progress of 73% of students they worked with could be directly attributed to the flexibility of the learning space. The design of these spaces directly promotes curiosity and creativity and allows students to experience education beyond the realm of textbooks. Learn more about our approach to educational design straight from our co-founder, Ivan Holding, in the blog: Why Spatial Agility is Important in Education.
The Balance of Belonging
The joy of a diverse team is the eclectic skillsets they bring. It also means you’ll have a varying range of needs regarding working styles. The crucial element is that whatever way in which your employee works best, you’ve created a space that supports them. Not everyone does well in a buzzing, collaborative atmosphere. Some will need quiet corners, private pods or even access to noise-cancelling solutions. Most will need a balance of both. No one should feel alienated in their workplace, and good design will be as inclusive as possible.
Culture, Culture, Culture
The design of an office should be a physical representation of the culture the company wants to create. Get right down into the nitty-gritty of your core values, and think about how that can be reflected in colour palettes, textures, decorative elements and team needs. The space should fortify what you stand for and allow your team to get behind your ethos. Intentional design choices can serve as powerful visual cues that not only represent your business's identity and purpose but also enable your employees to believe in it.
There will never be a final solution to creating a collaborative space; as society and its aspirations evolve, so too will the needs of your team and the space they require. Embrace innovations, not just in terms of aesthetics but also in how we interact, learn and create as a team. Collaboration is an art which stands at the intersection of design and human connection and can enrich our work/life experience, providing us with a deep sense of purpose when done well. By crafting spaces that embed collaboration deep within their walls, you will find a unified, driven team that feels cared for.