Our workspaces are a reflection of who we are, our company’s culture and values.

Innovative companies embrace the theory that unconventional workplaces foster innovation. Google pioneered the slides, and the ping-pong table and Microsoft has build tree houses to be used as meeting rooms in their Washington HQ. 

In the article “Workspaces that move people”, the authors write about how to build workspaces to improve organisational performance.

First of all, workspaces are “strategic tools for growth”. A study made by the consulting firm Strategy Plus reveals that 42% of workspaces are not utilised. The income generated from renting out or repurposing the underutilised space can be invested in launching new products.

Secondly, offices have to reflect the way of working of the 21st century. Combining digital communication with the physical space can increase the probability of coming up with innovative ideas.

Thirdly, we have to redefine what workspace is. The workspace of the future will be a multifunctional, shared space that will reconfigure the relations between employees and companies and improve productivity.

In 2003, Telenor went through a massive transformation when the company changed from a state-run company to a competitive multinational organisation with millions of clients. This change brought a redesign of the headquarters that generated a positive impact on the company. Teams felt empowered, valued, and ready to take on more challenging work. One of the changes Telenor introduced was “hot desking” or unassigned seats to optimise workspaces and encourage collaboration between teams.

Jon Fredrik Baksaas, the CEO of Telenor, didn’t only restructure the company into a multinational corporation, he changed the organisational mindset. In his view, “workspaces are communication tools, not real estate”.

In the HBR article “The New Science of Building Great Teams”, Alex Pentland researched why redesigning Telenor’s workspace determined better communication between employees.

His project monitored employee behaviour at work. He observed how employees interact, whom do they talk to, how many times a day, their mood, and the subjects of conversation. Data about this projects was collected through employee badges. The results of the project were that the three elements to a successful communication are exploration, engagement, and energy. Workplaces that promote these activities are more likely to improve communication, increase cooperation and productivity.

Co-working spaces

Research shows that when given the possibility to choose, employees opt for workspaces that support their digital lifestyle and expose them to a variety of knowledge and expertise that accelerates their learning.

Large corporations adopted the tactic of creating co-working spaces to encourage contact with start-ups, creatives, researchers and potential new team members that could infuse innovation into the company. The first floor of Amazon’s offices in Seattle is mostly a working space. AT&T created Foundry, a network of research centres formed of engineers, start-ups, corporate partners and developers to bring new products to life faster. One of Airbnb’s conference rooms in the San Francisco HQ is available for booking on the platform, for free.

Co-working space is popular for two main reasons: is designed in a way that encourages cross-disciplinary learning, sparring, exciting brainstorming sessions, and eventually new projects and innovations. The second reason why co-working is popular is that it fits with our digital lifestyle.

In conclusion, given the reconfiguration of job roles and the rapid development of technology, we have to change the way we define workspaces and build the one where we’re most productive.