An article by Lara Stancich, Workplace Strategy and Design Specialist

If creativity is the key to survival for modern businesses should you ditch the dreary desks and uninspiring meeting rooms? Install a slide and some swing chairs for meetings, and watch the innovation flow! 

According to the vast majority of utilisation studies most desks are only used round half the time. Maybe we don’t need desks at all?  Now that everyone is kitted up with mobile devices and ‘always on’, able to work anywhere, anytime, is there really a business case for an organisation to invest in a modern workspace fit-out? Surely anyone who wants a desk can just go to a co-working space and rent one?

Not quite. The office, and the company itself, now more than ever, are a form of identity and community.  This was highlighted in a presentation by Laszlo Varga at the 2017 Core Net Global Symposium ”Humanity and the Machine”.

In today’s hyper-connected virtual world, the personal contact, relationships, teamwork and camaraderie are more important than ever before. People need people. We need to support each other, bounce ideas off each other, share successes and failures, and even produce things together! You probably know first-hand how a quick 10 minute face-to-face chat with someone is far more productive than an email exchange which drags out over the course of several hours, with half the office copied in.

The physical workspace is becoming even more important, both as an enabler and as a communication tool: the visible and tangible representation of a company’s vision, purpose, goals. Bringing people together physically is viewed as a key success factor in promoting creativity and innovation in the workplace.

 

Facebook are one prominent example of a company that has deliberately pursued a policy of housing all their staff under the one (enormous) roof, as they see proximity and physical connectedness to be core to their ethos and delivery of their business. IBM recently announced their controversial decision to require a swathe of their remote staff to come back on-site, driven by the need to increase innovation. 

In an effort to attract Millennials businesses sometimes mistakenly try to funky-up their workspaces. In the scramble for talent they change their ways of working to be more dynamic and innovative both to appeal to new staff and retain existing staff. Nothing at all wrong with that, indeed, here at STACK we firmly believe that the design of the workspace is pivotal in attracting and retaining staff, and engaging them with the business vision and purpose.

But we think it’s a bit of an insult to our collective intelligence to suggest that, in order to be creative we must (exclusively) channel our inner kindergarten.  We don’t necessarily agree that fake grass and beanbags are the way to stimulate blue-sky thinking.   Yes, letting go as you hurtle down a slide is a euphoric sensation! Yes, swinging up to the sky reminds us of the freedom of ideas. But ditch the clichés; we can (and do) foster creativity in thousands of other (more creative) ways.

Unfortunately, the average office environment is geared to delivering ‘yesterday’ rather than creating the future. And this is especially true if the office was designed to reflect the trend of the moment, circa 10 years ago. It’s not surprising that surveys show staff feel they have their best ideas when out of the office – there’s a reason for this: to think differently it helps to be in a different context, to see or think about a problem from a different angle. 

It is both possible and necessary to introduce elements of surprise and more stimulating contexts into the office environment to help foster creative thinking. It can be done in a way that does not leave an outdated work environment, three years down the track. And more importantly, it should never alienate a fair portion of the very people you need on board to do that thinking! 

At STACK we believe wholeheartedly that a one-size fits all approach to workplace design is never appropriate.  Nor will following the latest fashion or fad create an environment that supports your business for the long term. 

 

Within each company is a community of diverse workstyles and needs. A successful workspace design is one based on Good Design - one that helps this diversity flourish, supports the business going forward by responding and adapting to changing needs in the future. Good Design doesn’t look or feel tired and dated three years down the track.  Good Design responds to an organisation’s unique challenges and requirements.

The generational mix of the workplace is changing. Creativity and innovation are increasingly vital to support a thriving business.  How we best do our work, and best use the physical environment requires intelligent thinking and clear understanding of business strategy, direction, purpose. Not cheap tricks or an outdated one size fits all approach.

 

 If you have any questions about workplace design, please get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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