May 6, 2014 at 12:00 am
There are many drivers of change in today’s organization. The use of technology has enabled employees to become highly mobile, allowing work to occur in a wide range of spaces and locations within and external to the facility.
The demographic composition of professional workers has radically changed and now reflects for the first time a majority of women, four generations at work (including a large emerging Generation Y), and a widening range of employee ethnicities.
Changing demographics are in turn shifting employee preferences for workplace and work styles. Finally, “knowledge work” itself (broadly defined) now dominates – constituting 90% of all work conducted globally.
Knowledge work is subtle, complex, cognitive, intuitive and collaborative. People engaged in complex knowledge work are constantly shifting between individual and group work modes in a wide variety of work locations. Thus, the traditional office has become an optional – not required – location for work.
Overall, these drivers have affected the complexity of work styles and dramatically expanded the range of space types and locations in which work occurs – making it difficult to plan and design an effective office space.
The Integrated Work Model Simplifies the Problem
In order to bring coherent solutions to this complex intersection of work and workspace, Knoll developed a model of “integrated work.” The model includes three work styles that dominate contemporary work: “focus,” “share,” and “team.” Focus is a “heads down” individual work mode. Share work mode is a short term interaction – a casual exchange of information – between small numbers of people.
Team mode is formal group work. Additionally, daily work includes social activity, the set of informal behaviors that provide social connection – and opportunities for learning and mentoring.
Good Workspace Integration Lets People Seamlessly Shift Between Work Modes
In addition to sustaining the work modes and social interaction, the workspace needs to seamlessly support the shifting flow of people between work modes. This shifting can occur in one of two ways. Horizontal workflow occurs when people shift work modes by moving from one physical location to another. Vertical workflow occurs when people shift between work modes within a fixed location, such as their primary workspace.
Key Insights: Broader Goals, More Collaboration, and the “Pay Off” of Integrated Work
Two years of Knoll research included a global survey of over 52,000 office workers and two sets of structured interviews with senior facility and real estate professionals representing 45 companies across 9 industries.
- A broad variety of goals is driving workspace strategy; the top 5 goals range from tactical (controlling cost and good ergonomics) to strategic issues (attraction and retention, work process, and collaboration).
- Collaboration will increase even as the breadth of work locations expands; almost half of all work now occurs outside the primary workspace; social and informal modes of collaboration are predicted to increase by 25% over the next 3 years.
- Companies with above average Integrated Workspace programs perform better on strategic (attraction and retention, work process, and collaboration) and tactical goals (ergonomics) than companies with below average programs – while still achieving workspace cost targets.
- Design elements of good workspace integration (such as good quality meeting spaces, and reception support) favorably influence “quantitative” business outcomes such as expense to revenue ratio, worker engagement scores and subsequent employee replacement costs.
Some Tips on Designing Good Integrated Workspace
Support for Horizontal Workflow
- Create a variety of work activity zones that support each of the three work modes – and social activity.
- Optimize layout and location of workstations and offices to enhance visual access between spaces that support the different work modes.
- Provide the balance of panel or other horizon height to support the work at hand: low horizons support collaboration and mid-height enclosure to assist focused work.
Support for Vertical Workflow
- Design the primary workspace to permit quick, informal meetings – the “share” work mode (nimble visitor seating, collaborative worksurfaces, marker boards, etc).
- Consider creating small, informal meeting spaces a few steps away from offices or workstations to allow an easy segue between focus mode and “stolen moments” of sharing.
- Specify furnishings and technology that can be adjusted or moved by the worker. Support personalization of the primary workspace by micro adjustments—monitor, chair, storage elements, etc.
Knoll research investigates links between workspace design and human behavior, health and performance, and the quality of the user experience. We share and apply what we learn to inform product development and help our customers shape their work environments. To learn more about this topic or other research resources Knoll can provide, visit www.knoll.com/research/index.jsp.
References and Additional Reading
- O’Neill, M. and Wymer, T. (2009). Design for Integrated Work. Knoll research white paper.
- O’Neill, M. and Wymer, T. (2010). Implementing Integrated Work to Create a Dynamic Workplace. Knoll research white paper.
- Wymer, T. (2008). Magnet Space: Space that Attracts Users. Knoll research white paper.
- Wymer, T. (2010). Proportional Planning for the Adaptable Workplace. Knoll research white paper.
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