It’s All About Balance: Designing a Collaborative Workplace that Works

It’s All About Balance: Designing a Collaborative Workplace that Works on

Maximize the benefits of an open office plan through zoning private and collaborative areas

There always seems to be a pendulum swinging somewhere. One study says coffee is good, then another says coffee is bad. It’s either all in or all out – and while the pendulum swings between extremes, a word like “balance” is often forgotten.

Historically, it’s been the same thing with office design, particularly open office design. After its ascendance, there now seems to be a pushback against the open floor plan as more and more employees have voiced complaints that there are too many distractions and a lack of privacy in the name of collaboration.

Unfortunately, a return to the office and cubicle world of the past does not mesh with our present-day work needs and methods, both of which have been deeply influenced by technology, globalization, and a changing work force that needs to interact.

With a sensible approach to design, one that honors a balance between collaboration and focus, the modern office can enjoy the best of both of worlds.

What’s driving the trend toward balance?

According to a recent study from Gensler, today’s workplace isn’t working for today’s workers. Workplace performance has dropped by 6%, a decline driven by a decrease in the effectiveness of focus work in the open office environment. In fact, workers reported a 20% decrease in collaboration – which seems to go against the original intent of the open office movement.

In other words, “when focus is compromised in pursuit of collaboration, neither works well.”

The same study found that those working in a balanced work environment reported more focus and collaboration, as well as greater satisfaction with their job and their environment. In addition, these same employees also viewed their workplace as more effective and their company as more innovative.

Balancing the scales

Achieving balance, as many of us know from our personal lives, is no easy task. In office design, it becomes even more complicated, since this delicate dance involves balancing the use of physical space with the human condition.

We live in a world filled with extroverts and introverts, with varying work styles and needs. There are times when collaboration is necessary – and there are those who excel in an environment full of distractions. Then, there are those moments when solitary work is required, as well as individuals who prefer to work in solitude.

The psychology behind a balanced office

The solution, then, is to design a space that is adaptable; one in which employees can choose an environment that works best for them. The idea is strongly based in SDT, or Self-Determination Theory.

Simply put, SDT holds that conditions which support an individual’s autonomy, competence, and relatedness foster higher “forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. In addition, SDT proposes that the degree to which any of these three psychological needs is unsupported or thwarted within a social context will have a robust detrimental impact on wellness in that setting.”

In other words, there are times when people want to work alone (autonomy) and when they want to collaborate (relatedness). Allowing employees to make that choice results in a sense of competence, and the rewards for their company will accrue.

According to a report from CBRE, workplaces that allow employees to self-select their work location resulted in 10% to 15% higher employee satisfaction compared to those that did not.

Getting the balance right

The old way of office design – just placing things where they fit – is no longer good enough, according to Allsteel. It is essential to consider user requirements, adjacencies, and privacy considerations through zoning, which balances the right mix of space types in the best locations.

Understanding the actual work processes and how and where the work is best accomplished, including worker preferences and flexible work arrangements, elevates the effectiveness and efficiency of your people.

Compass Office Solutions is a strong believer in achieving balance, both in our workspaces and in our lives. We can help you balance focus and collaboration in your workplace design to achieve optimum efficiency and effectiveness.

Call us at 954.430.4590 or fill out our online form to get started.