Collaboration vs Private Spaces: The Search for Balance

When laying out an office floor plan, it’s important to consider the needs of both the business as well as the employees. Understanding how the space can serve those needs is critical in achieving balance in the workplace.

According to the 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey by Gensler, “Today’s workplace is an ecosystem, and the best workplace experiences are built on variety, choice and autonomy. Workplaces that reflect the wide range of needs and expectations of today’s talent pool will come out ahead”. The same survey concludes that 77% of employees desire a degree of balance between open and collaborative spaces. This would suggest a preference for flexible environments which can provide task-based spaces.

Business Specific needs

While employees may be looking for a balance of open and collaborative office spaces, the needs of the business must also be considered. A recent article in The Globe and Mail discusses the considerations taken into account when re-designing a busy downtown law firm. When researching the needs of their space, the law firm found “a lot of the younger lawyers were booking boardrooms to get together, so they didn’t feel so isolated in their offices”. This desire for collaborative work had to be balanced with the need for private offices space to discuss the daily confidential business of a law firm.

Generational needs

As the working demographic shifts, the needs and expectations of the workforce will follow. A younger workforce tends to seek employment with businesses who share similar beliefs.  As observed by Gensler 62% of Millennial and Gen Z workers use co-working spaces, while only 5% of Baby Boomers do the same. While an open or transient environment may attract upcoming talent, there may still be a need for phone calls, small meetings and private time. Offering this balance gives the employee the ability to control their space based on their specific need at that moment.   

Flexibility between the needs of the business and the habits of the employees is key to achieving balance in the workplace. If an open and collaborative space is your primary focus, remember to provide small break away spaces and individual private options. However, if the nature of the business dictates that privacy is paramount, a secondary focus on public spaces will help achieve balance in the workplace. As stated in a recent Business News Daily article, “While open offices may be popular today, many companies are finding out the hard way that they need boundaries. You can have the best of both by finding a balance”.