Designing to Ease the Flow of People and Ideas

When approaching the task of designing a new office, we need to remember that designing is not synonymous with decorating. Designing should change employee behavior – not just change aesthetics.

With that in mind, recent research by Knoll has found that within the modern workplace, there is increasing importance in the ease in which both ideas and people are able to flow.

And just what does that mean? Good question.

The Three Work Modes

If you examine all of the tasks that happen within a workplace – they should all boil down to one of the following: Focus, Team, and Share.

  1. Focus is an individual work mode that occurs within a primary workspace that supports concentration and reduces interruptions.
  2. Share is a collaborative work mode that can occur in individual or group spaces and centers on the casual exchange of ideas with a mall number of colleagues.
  3. Team is a group work mode related to specific work goals that occurs in formal and informal meeting spaces.

The Integrated Workspace

What Knoll’s research team calls The Integrated Workspace, I’ll define as being a workplace in which there exists a perfect balance between The Three Work Modes. Employees are able to focus, share, and work in teams – simply and without any barriers – thus easily allowing people and ideas to flow.

They state… “Our research provides convincing evidence that the ease of flow of people and ideas between work modes (quality of workspace integration) leads to enhanced employee performance and business outcomes.”

7 Tips for Becoming More Integrated

  1. Optimize layout and location of workstations and offices to enhance visual access.
  2. Reduce overall horizon height of the walls and furnishings to increase visual access and accessibility
  3. Create a variety of work activity zones to enhance chance encounters.
  4. Create collaboration spaces of varying sizes
  5. Design the primary workspace to permit quick, informal meetings (nimble visitor seating, collaborative work surfaces, marker boards, etc)
  6. Ensure technology devices and furnishings are arranged to support collaboration
  7. Specify furnishings and technology that can be adjusted or moved by the worker