As collaborative workspaces gain momentum, how can physical design take our productivity to the next level? Samantha Waterworth explores…
Increasing demands for creative input and innovative outcomes have led to a rapid shift in workplace momentum – and space has a major role to play in this.
As workforce demographics move towards the younger generations, employees are only going to become more conscious of their working environments. It could well become a deciding factor when weighing up job offers.
“You want someone to walk in to their workspace and immediately register that they’ll be able to deliver their best work,” Robertson says.
Here’s what you can learn from three of Australia’s leading collaborative workspaces, and the minds that make them work…
With an office basketball court and an open-access whiskey bar, you might be surprised to hear the groan from Hardhat Digital’s co-founder and managing director, Justin Kabbani, at the glamorisation of workplace collaboration.
“Culture and collaboration isn’t what you’re doing after work,” Kabbani asserts. “It’s what you’re doing when you’re right in the thick of it.”
With an office space that took out first place in Design 100’s corporate interior design award category, it’s safe to say Kabbani has quite a firm understanding of both principles.
“I think we’re seeing a breakdown of the factory mindset left over from the industrial revolution,” Kabbani says. “The way we complete projects and carry out our methodologies has shifted. We’re moving into the knowledge economy where no one person can finish any one thing on their own.”
At Hardhat, collaboration isn’t only embraced internally; it also permeates their external culture. “We have clients that work from our office one or two days a week,” Kabbani says. “It’s great because it increases their contextual understanding of us and improves our understanding of their drivers and needs.”
Stone & Chalk
“Collaborative workspaces foster the sharing of networks, as well as a deeper level of collaboration on projects,” Le Cavalier says. “The value of each worker is shared and as a result they provide more value to the business – be it a start-up or large corporation.”
But a collaborative workspace is far from a one-trick pony. Working in an office space that serves more than 50 full-time start-ups under a single roof, Le Cavalier has found spatial design can play an integral role in employee health and wellbeing and, in turn, productivity.
“These workspaces foster friendship and promote work-life balance – something we all need and all struggle with,” Le Cavalier says. “If your staff feel connected to both each other and the business, this will ultimately drive motivation and certainly foster innovation and creativity.”
With twenty years of experience in spatial, interior and brand design, Robbie Robertson refuses to be swept up in the romanticisation of collaboration.
With the company’s Netherlands headquarters dubbed by Bloomberg Business as “quite possibly the smartest office space ever constructed”, Robertson certainly knows what he’s talking about. Here are his top three tips for embracing a collaborative approach in your office space:
1. What does a collaborative workspace mean to you?
It’s a question Robertson recommends you ask yourself up front. “You can’t just create a space and expect your staff to understand how to utilise it,” Robertson says. “You’re going to have to train and empower your staff and that means you need to know why you’re doing this.”
2. Throw hierarchy out the window
This means stripping your organisation of any pre-existing communication power balances in order to foster a space where people are able to come together equally, with the confidence to share knowledge, insights and ideas.
“If you don’t remove your communication hierarchy you’re limiting your business’ collaborative abilities – end of story,” Robertson says.
3. It’s all about the infrastructure
Your digital infrastructure will determine how you’re able to utilise your space. “You can have a great space, but if your staff are tied to their desktop devices or your wireless capabilities are limited, it won’t function to its full potential.”
While collaborative environments may not suit every industry, for those they do, the fork in the road looms large. As the younger generations continue to enter the fray – with millennials expected to make up fifty per cent of Australia’s workforce by 2020–those who refuse to adapt may well be digging their own graves.
“We have quite a young workforce that just don’t know any differently,” says Le Cavalier.
“They take this kind of workspace for granted, and as a result, I don’t think they’ll put up with anything else.”
Generalise the younger generations to your own peril, but one thing is for certain – that age-old adage “adapt or perish” remains as relevant as ever before.