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A Balanced Workspace Diet

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Make these five essential places a minimum daily requirement

Everyone agrees that it takes a variety of foods to provide the energy we need to thrive, but did you know that an office space also needs a variety of work settings to run at peak levels? This is especially true as individual workspaces shrink and what’s left is simply too small or too open to support the diversity of work required. Designers have created dozens of different kinds of spaces and most have merit depending on the type of client. Just as there are four essential food groups, I’d like to suggest that we consider the following five essential places as a minimum daily requirement for a balanced workspace.

1.    Desks that support me and my stuff

According to BIFMA, filing is decreasing but storage as a category is not. One could argue that storage is more important than ever to the average worker because now it’s personal. Instead of housing reams of company file folders and binders, people are storing shoes, gym bags, food, beverages and other objects that help them balance their work and personal lives. A 2-drawer lateral or file pedestal is often not well suited for these items so design professionals are incorporating more innovative solutions like lockers, towers and open cases under desks into their workstation typicals.

2.    Collaborative spaces that enable

I’ve often heard facility managers complain that the lounge settings they provide at the ends of workstation runs don’t get used. Small wonder though since the placement of these spaces and the tools that are provided don’t serve much purpose beyond sitting and talking with a colleague. Effective collaborative spaces need some elements of space division, access to whiteboards, plug and play technology, and places to display/store in-progress work. Lounge furniture can work in these settings but I prefer stand-up tables or stools since they encourage movement and tend to make meetings shorter and more productive.

3.    Places to get away

Bench workstations are great for space reduction and open dialogue among workers but we all sometimes need to focus on heads-down work. Some people like headphones as a way to tune out the noise around them, but I find that even the movement of others can be a distraction. One benefit of the increased mobility afforded by technology is that an individual can now move to a quiet place to do tasks that require concentration. Whether they’re called Enclaves, Huddle Rooms, or Phone Booths, these spaces are an essential part of an open environment and need to be provided in ample supply. I recommend at least one for every 12-15 workers, with higher ratios for more open designs.

4.    Tool shops

Yes, we live in a digital world but there’s still a lot of production of physical materials in today’s work. I used to hide the copier in an underutilized hallway or room in the building core, but a better approach is to create hubs for production among workers. By making these spaces more inviting and including areas to spread out, you’ll find that they can double as impromptu collaboration/review spaces. Be sure to leverage horizontal and vertical space so that storage and display are also accommodated.

5.    Areas to socialize

One of the best improvements in office design over the past decade is that coffee has come out of the closet. Companies have come to recognize that the social aspects of work are not a “necessary evil” but rather an essential ingredient in building trust and camaraderie within the organization. Starbucks-like spaces in the office encourage the interaction companies need to succeed and provide workers with a sanctioned way to rest and recharge for the next push.

We welcome your comments on this article.

| By Michael Fazio

One Response to “A Balanced Workspace Diet”

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Quotable

“A mega-trend is sharing instead of ownership of workspaces. We can either all ride in coach or we can share a private jet.”

Chris Blackadder
Principal, Woods Bagot