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The spaces in-between

Here at SoVibrant we have a passion for transforming spaces with much of our spacial work centred on client office environments. With this in mind, I recently spotted a couple of articles, which started me thinking about “The spaces in-between”.

Traditionally, many office spaces focus on desk formats and layouts that improve productivity and teamwork.  Yet the articles I read challenged this, asking whether the in-between spaces in offices, are actually more important than the desks?

When applying this idea to a macro environment……. Can a neighbourhood work without public space? Can a community thrive without coming together?

Of course, the idea of “in-between spaces” is not new but understanding how to best harness the benefits these spaces provide is ever evolving. One thing for sure is many of the larger, better performing corporations are seeing the importance of these kinds of spaces, and are focusing on providing status-free, welcoming and inspiring environments within the workplace.

300315 Mark Kitching The spaces in between - Google's London Office

Research shows that on average, office staff from a variety of professions spend 20% of their working time away from their desks. The challenge facing companies lies in providing the correct in-between environments to ensure that staff can use the 20% “non-desk time” productively.

We believe that, when done correctly, the in-between spaces within an office environment can provide a wealth of benefits to overall organisational performance. Not only in terms of collaborative and knowledge sharing benefits, which are increased by enhancing the likelihood of chance encounters, but also by engaging individuals, groups and large portions of staff during the time they are away from their desks. This can help to manifest a sense of identity within the workforce and a community within the organisation.

A community all acting for one another, with a community sense and spirit, will often lead to a more diverse range of ideas and thinking and a greater collective problem solving, especially when cross team relationships are built while using the in-between spaces.

300315 Mark Kitching The spaces in between - Lego Man Entrance

Superpowers such as Google and Facebook have led the way towards non-traditional working spaces, and now lawyers, accountants and telesales firms are also familiar with quirky breakout spaces, hot desks and other innovations intended to encourage what Google calls “serendipitous interaction”.

At a recent grand opening of a top performing company’s office building, making a stir over their in-between spaces, the company in question used lines such as “Focus on the user and all else will follow”, “You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer” and “The need for information crosses all borders” which really says a lot about the understanding of how staff interactions and information flows around the workplace.

On a personal level, I share the same views to the read articles. I also believe that by fine tuning the layouts of circulation routes, breakout spaces and resource points around an office environment, while providing a variety of dynamic, evolving, responsive and attractive “public” spaces, supplies all the principles for an extraordinary place which adds value. This value is transferred to both staff, on an individual level and their quality of work life, and to the organisation as an overall collective. All that remains for me is to convince all business leaders alike to the same tune!

Why not take a look at the work we did for X to see how we put those ‘in-between’ spaces to good use.

Thanks for reading.

References:

“In-between spaces” FX Magazine – April 2015 edition

“Death of the desk” The Guardian – September 2014

“Ten things we know to be true” – Google real estate policy

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