Open plan offices

Seating for creativity and collaboration


In today’s workplaces the phrase “see me in my office” is not so much old-fashioned as obsolete.

With up to 70% of offices now classed as open plan and a swelling ‘gig economy’ forging demand for casual shared workspaces, arranging to meet in someone’s office is now the exception rather than the rule.

Whether it’s called a shared space, co-working space, incubator, generator, hub or hot-desking environment, it’s safe to say the spaces in which we work are now far more casual and adaptable.

But with our new vibrant and stimulating workplaces comes a need for furniture that complements the intended effect of open workplaces: collaboration, creativity and comfort.

In exposed environs people must be able to choose a workstation that promotes productivity. That means reducing noise as much as possible and providing flexible furniture like standing desk options and configurable seating. They need to know they can avoid unwanted social interactions and have access to a quiet space for decompressing and avoiding distractions.

However there’s still a need for face-to-face meetings too. Collaboration and communication are the 21st century skills most in demand by employers, so spatial design and furniture should empower workers to use them. Here’s how to optimise two office spaces:

Breakout spaces

These spaces should encourage brainstorming, the sharing of ideas and productive conversation.

Modular, flexible seating is a great way to do this. Configurable furniture will serve the needs of diverse group sizes and meeting purposes. A non-hierarchical arrangement, like a U shape, a semi-circle or small groupings, will help avoid the competitiveness that can kill a creative session. 

While there are some interesting curved options available for commercial seating, cubic furniture like the QBE suits most spaces. A range of configurations is possible, allowing the look and feel of the room to change as needed.

There is considerable evidence that a visually stimulating environment encourages original thinking. ‘Stimulating’ doesn’t always mean bright colours either. A good spatial designer will draw on colour theory and interaction principles to transform a space and, in doing so, ensure the group can bring their best ideas to the table.

Photo: McAuliffe Stevens

Meeting points

There’s no substitute for conversing face to face when it comes to clear communication. It gives team members the opportunity to look each other in the eyes and hash something out quickly and definitively.

Designated meeting points move potential distractions away from personal work areas, ensuring meetings don’t encroach on general productivity. They can range from informal spots that encourage lounging over a coffee to more formal seating arrangements.

Comfort is essential. However, given these areas are often customer-facing, this is also an opportunity to let stunning furniture design have its moment. These can be ‘wow’ spaces that stimulate collaborative conversation with colour and interesting textures. Here upholstery can also be customised to work with brand colours, creating a visual reminder of company identity and values.

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Tango swivel chairs energise this meeting point. Photo: McAuliffe Stevens

The new style of working is not ideal for everyone – an open plan office can be loud, distracting and often difficult to manage. However with a careful approach, focused layout and creative design these spaces can encourage clear communication and stimulate the sharing of ideas.

Posted on 12/09/2017 by Kovacs

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