This week's focus is on our working spaces. In general, traditional office spaces tend to provide two types of working spaces: one kind of space for people to work by themselves (in an office, a cubicle, an open-plan workstation, etc.) and a meeting room for formal meetings. If you are lucky, you have a coffee machine/tea kettle somewhere. In reality we need a variety of working places, depending on the type of work we are doing, which may change throughout the day, week, and month. For part of the day, we need to hunker down alone and analyse, program, or write. Later we may need to meet with our manager, or a few team members on a project, or go to a formal meeting, and certainly at some point we will need to take a break from whatever we are doing to have a cup of tea or a cold drink and a snack or lunch. Where will all of this type of work get done?
As well, part of working life is learning new skills from formal training, and also importantly, having some unstructured time with our colleagues to allow relationships and understanding to grow, so when we work together on a project later, or need some specialised information, we know a bit about that person already.
Offices need to provide this kind of diversity of spaces, or allow their staff to access a diversity of space, if it is not within the current configuration of the office. Not only is it important for the optimal functioning of your current staff, but it can also help with your recruiting as well when you provide a flexible workspace with a variety of ways to work.
Working spaces are where we spend the bulk of our waking hours: what if they helped us become MORE healthy and energised instead of the reverse? Read on for more on this topic!
Picnic table wisdom
Like many startups, an earlier company I worked with began in a living room. Our first proper office had a large south-facing deck with a picnic table, and except when it was raining, it was where we all gathered to eat lunch, have after-work parties, conduct small meetings, and just pause during the day to catch our breath and rethink a problem.
That deck space represented a place where everyone was included and sat together; there was no place for ‘cool kids’ to separate themselves, or for introverts to hide. If you went to the deck, you were included in the community. Conversations flowed easily and creatively. Everyone was valued. It was a serendipitous discovery of one of the many things that made our workplace an amazingly creative and positive place.
When we were moving to a new office due to growing staff size, I knew we had to recreate that ‘picnic table’ community culture somehow, even though we wouldn't have a deck. We had a huge bright long space for the kitchen and eating areas. But whilst the president suggested cafe tables and bar stools which would look nice, I knew our staff NEEDED the singular picnic table. We valued collaboration, and that sense of inclusion. But of course we were now no longer an office of 15 people, we were 35 plus several other offices. How could we all fit around our very weathered 6-person picnic table?
After some research, I found a VERY long picnic table. It was one of the first things to get installed in the new space, and it worked like a charm. Everyone instinctively gathered there and it became the site of hilarious lunchtime conversations, birthday party celebrations, impromptu meetings, and the pausing place when waiting for a cup of tea, or the next pot of coffee to brew.
So whilst a table may be just a place to eat, for our company it reinforced the culture of inclusion and collaboration. Consider what your company’s ‘picnic tables’ are and how they reinforce and support your culture. You may be surprised at what you discover!
A few articles on work space
Creating people-centred workplaces
Create a people-centred workplace using a flexible design that encourages all kinds of people to do their best work, so the entire office is a 'productivity-builder'.
Offices that work for introverts as well as extroverts
We all know open offices have their downsides, particularly for introverts as well as those who need quiet uninterrupted time to focus, but done thoughtfully and with an appreciation of needs for other types of spaces as well, open offices have value if they are part of a suite of working options.
'Space is both a reflection and a projection of company culture'
But that doesn't mean you need foosball tables and your logo pasted everywhere. Instead, use your own data to learn what is being used and when, ask your staff for their opinions, and make the best use of your space for the functions you actually need and use - not what you think you are supposed to have.
Fun Friday Workplaces
I always love to hear from you, what you think about any of these articles, if you have a suggestion or link to one of your favourites, and if you just want to say hi.
And as ever, I hope you have a brilliant weekend!