A recent collaboration with a corporate partner (work place survey conducted by Capital One) combined with several engagements on change management projects (with HATCH Analytics) have spiked my interest in physical space, more precisely, how it enhances (ideally) our networking and relationship building efforts. Space until now, (I’ll confess) hasn’t played a leading role in the Build Your Dream Network narrative. Design, the influence of public spaces and work is briefly noted in the introductory chapter at page xxi –
Steelcase, a global leader in office furniture, has been watching the “trend to bench”— the long workbench-style table, that is. Yes, the workbench is making a comeback as employees escape from the traditional office environment’s cubicle. The workbench solves many of the workplace challenges that result from a mobile, social, and transient workforce (consider the setup of your local Starbucks or co-working space, locations that typically make use of long, communal tables).
No, the network building collision points I’m more often than not asked to opine on are digital – the virtual office or water-cooler (i.e. LinkedIn, Yammer, Slack as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), versus the communal office kitchen.
The reality is digital hasn’t done away with the need for common gathering places to connect in order to get work done – frankly it has made the design of physical surroundings more critical than ever (whether it is that open-plan office or a co-working space or hip hotel lobby or local coffee shop). These spaces influence or are evolving to reflect how we (mobile device within reach) actually connect, engage and interact, build teams, pause and reflect each and everyday – or I’ve observed, the design of space can erect additional barriers between us.
Armed with a new networking avenue to explore (how can the space around us ease or add more meaning to our networking interactions?) not surprisingly, I fired off questions to a few experts in my network for their observations on this subject – AND I’ve received an avalanche of interesting information.
Anticipate hearing more, as in a lot more, from me on this topic.
What topic exactly? Here’s the first question I tossed out to Monica Parker, behaviour and workplace culture change nerd, and founder of HATCH Analytics:
JKH: What are innovative ways companies are increasing productivity (aka individual and group interactions) through redesigned work environments?
Monica: This can sometimes be a bit of a red herring. What we really want to look for in knowledge worker organisations is performance rather than productivity, and it’s awfully hard to directly link performance to space. That being said, there are elements that can contribute to our performance as humans, and therefore our performance as employees.
The EPA report that we spend 90% of our time inside. Our ancient minds weren’t equipped to deal with that paucity of nature. Biophillic design seeks to mitigate that by harnessing those elements that our brain associates with nature, like air, light, greenery, and certain geometries, and integrates them into the built environment. This design approach has been shown to reduce stress, increase performance and improve wellbeing. And it’s not just to tech giants like Google who are integrating biophilla. RBS headquarters outside of Edinburgh are set in a rolling greenscape that comforts those inside and encourages those outside to meander rather than roost. Need proof? A study out of the UK found an increase in performance by 15% with the introduction of greenery in the workplace. Even more striking, Patients with a view out their window healed a day faster and used less pain meds than those with a view to a wall. What’s the right ratio if you want to install your own indoor oasis? 7:3 ratio of organic versus hard surface.
JKH: Removing walls, letting the light in and creating a more interactive workspace is great, but what about the real or perceived loss of personalization (and control) over our workspace that comes with open-plan design?
Monica: There’s no doubt that moving to a shared desk scenario means trade offs. A well- managed move to shared desking will always include flexible working and heaps of alternative settings to concentrate, collaborate and socialise in. A lot of businesses are trying to create other opportunities for personalisation. Some ideas I’ve come across are:
- Digital picture frames for moving those pictures of family and friends.
- Allowing teams to have a role in the design of their team spaces. This can be as simple as choosing a colour way, or being given a budget to use as they choose.
- Using writable or magnetic walls to allow teams or whole businesses to create shared, community spaces.
While it’s an adjustment to how you might have worked in the past, it’s not unlike our school days, where most spaces were shared, and our personalisation was left to our locker or club spaces.
JKH: And when school finished and the contents of our lockers were emptied into the nearest trash bin, we headed out with our greatest possessions: knowledge and relationships. What more do you need? Thanks Monica.
ICYMI. I interviewed Stefanie Mnayarji, CEO and Co-founder of Luxxie Boston LLC, for the Business Builders Show with Marty Wolff. Lots of terrific insights – from the marketing partnerships with corporate affinity groups Stefanie uses to grow her business to how she collaborated with MIT and FIT when Luxxie Boston was JUST an idea. 26 minutes of good stuff that may just help you build your dream. Listen Up!
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