Lecturer at the University of Sydney and leader for the Building Occupants Survey System Australia (BOSSA), Dr Christhina Candido, agrees that collaboration may be an essential part of a modern, flexible workplace, especially when incorporating technology.
"Flexible workspaces need to allow employees the ability to work remotely. If you have shared access to all of your files, with streamlined communications providing the answers that you need, then you can work remotely... If companies are serious about flexibility and flexible ways of working, that is the minimum you have to provide your employees," she said.
Collaborative technology, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Professional services firm PwC is a great example of a company that values collaboration and encourages it through workplace design. PwC’s New Ways of Working Partner, Debra Eckersley, explains the development and use of the “collaboration floors”.
“The design provides our people with incentives to come together because the space is so interesting,” Eckersley says. “There are things to do, coffee to have, great technology and nice places to sit and work together.”
“Flexible workspaces need to allow employees the ability to work remotely.”Dr Christhina Candido, Lecturer at the University of Sydney and leader for the Building Occupants Survey System Australia (BOSSA)
How to build an inspiring workplace
A functional workplace is a successful workplace. There is so much value in constantly improving a workplace with technological advancements, alterations in the design and collaborative processes. Find out why added functionality and inspiration are key.
Zones of friction
Spontaneous, casual meetings can be equally as effective as planned, professional collaboration.
Candido says it has become a trend to design areas to allow networking and refers to these spaces as “zones of friction”. She cites examples of places such as coffee-machine hubs, stairs, lifts and lunchtime areas as perfect inclusions to promote more frequent casual interactions between colleagues.
“All of these little pockets and spots help you increase social activities, either pre-defined for a particular event or a meeting that you organise or something that just happens naturally,” Candido says.
“That’s where collaboration can definitely flourish.”
Different people work in different ways. While some thrive in open spaces with colleagues beside them, others require more isolated spaces to concentrate. Many workplaces include smaller, private rooms available for anyone to use, whether for a small meeting, conference call or individual time to focus.
“These breakout spaces are really crucial if you want to have a positive impact,” Candido says.
Eckersley agrees that choice is an important aspect of workplace design.
“Some days I want to be in a space where I can have a chat and work collaboratively with someone, but there are other days where I actually want to sit in a library that we have if I just want to get some work done,” she says.
“I love the choice. I feel inspired by the trust and being able to make the choice, not just for the day but the next two hours, regarding what I need to achieve.”
Health and wellbeing
Some workplaces place a strong focus on health and wellbeing by including treadmills for “walking meetings”, standing desks and even in-house chefs.
Health is a core component of BOSSA’s research. Candido says it usually comes down to the overall quality of the space.
“That means, for example, things like furniture ergonomics, interaction or connection to the outdoor environment or daylight access,” she says. “These are aspects that seem to be linked to overall employee satisfaction and overall perceived health, so these are very important.”
WorkSafe Queensland’s Injury Prevention and Safety guidelines recommend that workplace lighting allow flexibility for changes in work activities, types of work undertaken, emergency evaluations and the overall visual comfort of employees.
Many companies like to inject a little personality into their workplaces in the form of visual flair. However, it’s not all about looks.
Eckersley explains that PwC’s current theme of “food trust”, consisting of agricultural elements – including a model of a bull and an agricultural drone – is used as a ‘conversation starter’ to pique the interest of both clients and fellow staff.
“They serve a function in terms of creating conversation and triggering different expectations about what we at PwC are all about,” Eckersley says.
The best part of devising themes in this way is changing them to keep conversations moving.
“In a few months, there might be something else there,” Eckersley says.