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4 Office Design Ideas to Improve Collaboration

Posted on Apr 12, 2017, by Mike Brown

Offices are embracing open-concept layouts as a way to improve communication and collaboration between employees, but removing walls and cubicles is only the starting point. There are several items you can tackle in your office design to overcome the challenges associated with open office working and encourage increased collaboration.

Here are four of the most popular design ideas to improve collaboration in open offices.

Featured image: PKWARE, Inc, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Design firm: Chemistry in Place

1) Create a Breakout Space

A well-designed breakout space can improve creativity and communication by providing employees with a dedicated collaborative workspace, away from their desks, which are dedicated to individual work.

One of the most important factors in creating a successful, inspiring breakout space is to clearly differentiate between the breakout space and individual workspace, which can be achieved by using different colors, textures and types of furniture.

Learn more: How to Improve Office Breakout Spaces

Free Tip Sheet: 6 Ways to Guarantee Commercial Flooring Project Success

2) Proactively Manage Office Noise Levels

In open offices, noise levels will be much higher than in closed offices or cubicles. Left unchecked, this can quickly become extremely disruptive and means that noise levels are one of the leading causes of workplace complaints.

Therefore, it's important to incorporate sound-absorbing surfaces into interiors to prevent potential noise issues for clients. In practice, this means:

  • Reduce hard surfaces. Select carpet rather than hard flooring - carpet covers your entire workspace, which will lower noise levels throughout the office. Cushion-backed carpet tiles absorb 50% more sound than hardback tiles, which in turn, absorb three times more noise than hard flooring.
  • Experiment with sound masking. Some organizations find success in using other sounds - such as white noise or ambient natural sounds - as background noise, which helps to mask disruptive noise levels in the office.
  • Create separate spaces for collaboration. Breakout spaces are so desirable because you create a collaborative workspace away from individual workspaces, so employees can discuss and collaborate without disrupting their colleagues.

3) Design for Technological Flexibility

If employees can have meetings anywhere - not just at their desks or in designated meeting rooms - you need to make it possible for them to use their devices wherever they're meeting.

For example, furniture like Knoll's Power Cube combines access to power with a wipe-clean whiteboard surface to encourage creative idea sharing - and would be a great addition to office breakout spaces.

KnollExtra Power Cube Antenna Design

Knoll Power Cube

Alternatively, Steelcase's Thread is a power track that can be installed underneath the carpet so that you can provide power throughout the office space.

As technology becomes more and more important to collaboration in the workplace, proactively designing technological flexibility into the office can help future-proof your design for your clients, making it possible for them to rearrange office furniture with minimal business disruption.

4) Create Clear Divisions Between Spaces

Clearly defining different spaces can help improve collaboration in the office by identifying what happens, where. For example, people will interact differently in their individual workspace, compared with a breakout space or shared kitchen area.

In an open office, you don't have walls to divide spaces, so it requires more deliberate design consideration. One way to mark out different spaces is to select different colors or styles of flooring, to delineate different areas.


Featured image: Splunk, San Francisco, California, USA. Design firm: NicholsBooth Architects

Alternatively, you could install dividers to separate a space without closing it up altogether. For example, glass screens will divide up a room, without blocking light or creating a closed-in environment. Alternatively, products like FilzFelt's panels or Spinneybeck's Tratto are non-opaque screens that can be used to temporarily divide spaces, as well as adding to the aesthetics of the space.


Mike Brown

Written by Mike Brown