Corporations must adjust their mentality regarding what their space provides their employees. They won’t be able to get their workforce to return to the office any other way. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape everything about how we do our work and how we run our companies,” Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack proclaimed in the midst of the pandemic.

It is vital that we adapt to the expectations of today’s tech office: It’s no longer a workspace out of necessity, but more a curated, collaborative space adapted to the workers choosing to spend eight hours a day there.

It is first and foremost important to understand that employees have more flexibility than ever before in terms of where and how they work, and workplaces must provide a compelling reason for being physically present in the office. The traditional, all-gray, cookie-cutter cubicle office style is no longer sought-after. (Was it ever?) So, what should take its place?

Companies can entice their employees to return by recognizing a basic human need: being part of a community or culture. That is something that is truly difficult to replicate virtually. Informal communication between employees in the kitchen could spark an idea that someone has struggled to create all day. We've forgotten that these small human interactions, once taken for granted, produce strong connections between staff that could benefit future projects.

Some 87 percent of office workers said the office environment is vital to collaborating and building relationships. By integrating an amenity-focused workplace based on this critical aspect, employees will choose to come to the office to collaborate instead of just trudging in because they have to.

Read More on the Future of Remote and Hybrid work on Built In’s Expert Contributors NetworkRemote Work Has Many Benefits. But It Could Be Better — and More Fun.


Designing for Collaboration Has Already Proven Successful

Google is commonly known within the tech industry for their unusual-looking workspace designs, which have become the primary motivator for some to apply and work their nine-to-five at the tech giant. Although their spaces may look like a sci-fi movie set in 2070, there is clever, logical reasoning behind their unique approach.

For example, in their New York office, no desk is more than one hundred and fifty meters from the nearest source of food. This is in no way to encourage employees to slack off and snack away, but rather to entice more opportunities for interaction within the office that would not usually occur, creating space for natural collaboration across varying departments. Furthermore, Google purposely slows their elevators to encourage employees to converse with each other in an enclosed, small space.

Another famous example is Steve Jobs’ redesign of the Pixar office. In its early days, the Pixar IT team, animators, and professional executives were placed in separate buildings. As the company grew, Jobs quickly realized this was a mistake and redesigned it with the vision of creating a hub where people could congregate, share ideas, discuss feedback, and come up with solutions. They soon grew to become the largest animation company in history.

Read More About Enriching Office Design on Built In’s Expert Contributors NetworkI Turned My Office Into an Art Gallery. It Was a Surprisingly Good Move.


How to Design a Workspace for Collaboration

By now, you’re probably wondering where to begin, and when staring at a blank page, it can feel overwhelming. Here are a few vital factors to keep in mind when drafting your plans to create a more collaborative workspace:

How to Design a Workspace for Collaboration

  1. It needs to be versatile.
  2. Offer an array of common areas.
  3. Comfort is key.
  4. Provide resources your employees don’t have at home.

1. It Needs to Be Versatile

Your space needs to be easily adaptable to any kind of work style happening within the environment. One employee’s day could look like solo focused work in the morning to collaborative and dynamic brainstorming sessions in the afternoon. Ensure to incorporate meeting rooms, private offices, and distraction-free focus zones where quiet work can be done to prep for group collaboration later.


2. Offer an Array of Common Areas

Having your employees come together in one space creates closer relationships. So it is key to implement multiple common areas for work and downtime both to enhance the possibility of cross-division collaboration.


3. Comfort Is Key

Is there enough natural lighting around the workspace? Is your lighting warm and welcoming, or is it harsh and abrasive, making employees want to leave the door the second it hits 5 p.m.? How is your back after eight hours in your office chairs? Is it too hot or too cold? Working within a comfortable environment is crucial, showing a 14 percent increase in productivity for workers in agreeable settings.


4. Provide Resources Your Employees Don’t Have at Home

Providing something your employees cannot access unless they come into the office directly entices them to stop by. Of course, this will all depend on what you can offer in your industry. A graphic designer may come in to access specific printing capabilities or a super-high-res monitor, whereas a writer may come into the office if you have a library full of books for their research and quiet study carrels where they can tune out the world. 

If you want your team back in person, the collaborative environment will inevitably draw them in — it’s what they’re missing, and it shows in the research. Give your workers the opportunity to work alongside like-minded, gifted peers. Humans crave human interaction. Leverage that, and you will see the results.

Read More About RTO on Built In’s Expert Contributors Network3 Predictions for How the Return to Office Will Really Go

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