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Collaboration Scenario

Collaboration Scenario

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Published by Coy Davidson

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Published by: Coy Davidson on Apr 28, 2012
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04/28/2012

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From Conventionalto Collaborative
Space plan shows how tosupport collaborative workstyles with no increase inreal estate costs.
Technology has reed knowledge workers to work just about anywhere,causing organizations to reevalute the role o their physical workplace.This much is becoming clear: The need or dedicated ofces andwalled conerence rooms is on the wane, replaced by a desire or inormal collaboration space.“Time and again, clients tell us their workplace isn’t doing enoughto help their people work together,” says Dr. Tracy Brower, director o Herman Miller Perormance Environments. “The nature o work ischanging, but many workplaces haven’t kept pace.”The evidence isn’t just anecdotal. Data collected across variousindustries by Herman Miller shows some startling trends:Private ofces are unoccupied more than 75 percent o the time.Workstations are unoccupied 60 percent o the time.Conerence rooms are rarely used to capacity—in larger ones, our out o ve seats typically sit empty.Those quantitative ndings are rom Space Utilization Service studies.Part o Herman Miller Perormance Environments—a suite o workplace-improvement services—the Space Utilization Servicecollects occupancy data via wireless sensors attached to theunderside o chairs. The data show precisely when every chair isused—whether in private ofces, workstations, meeting rooms, or common areas.“Herman Miller analyzes the data to recommend space-allocationstrategies that better support how an organization actually works,”says Paula Edwards, senior manager o Perormance Environments.“Invariably, we nd that companies would be better served with aloor plan that includes a variety o spaces or inormal interaction—oen, the kind that occurs spontaneously.”
Collaboration Scenario / 2012
 
TRACKING THE TRENDResearch reveals a continuing shift toward collaboration in theworkplace. Back in 1985, just 30 percent of an individual’s outputdepended on working within a group; by 2010, that gure was upto 80 percent.
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What’s behind this transition toward greater reliance oncollaboration—and a workplace that supports it?
Complexity
. Today’s knowledge workers tend to be more specializedthan previous generations. It’s rare for any one person to have allthe expertise needed to solve complex tasks.
Speed
. Technology has raised expectations. When every deadlineseems to be ASAP, knowledge workers have no choice but toprove the axiom: “Two working together can accomplish morethan twice as much as one working alone.”
Insight
. Research suggests there’s wisdom in numbers. Thesharing of information and opinions improves decision making.In one study, researchers found that subjects’ collective decisionsoutperformed those of each person working alone.
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Mobility
. Thanks to technology, much of what knowledge workersdo can be done pretty much anywhere—at home, on the road, in acoffee shop. So why do they still come to the ofce? Buildings areno longer the containers for work; they now function as places for people to gather and collaborate. These connections are quicklybecoming the main justication for the physical workplace.Though the nature of collaborative space varies according to culture,the one constant is the need for a greater variety of informal areasthat give workers a choice about where and how they interact. Thatchoice can come in many forms—lounge seating, focus rooms,stools and tall tables, perhaps even le islands that invite colleaguesto gather and compare notes when they bump into each other onthe go.“Formal conference rooms are great for presentations, but informalspaces encourage a different kind of interaction—more unstructured,more creative, and more conducive to a collaborative culture,” Dr.Brower says.Such unstructured collaboration is crucial to keeping up with thepace of change characteristic of the modern workday. If a cell phoneconversation takes a condential turn, the person can move to aprivate “quiet” room. If a team needs to meet in order to discussa pressing project, the members can nd a casual sitting area. If asales rep drops in for an update between appointments, she canhead to the coffee bar.Creating effective group spaces starts with understanding the typesof interaction performed there and the number of people to besupported. Based on that understanding, a space can be designedto have the right tools and appropriate degree of enclosure tosupport the activity.
Collaboration Scenario / 2
 
THE RESERVATION FALLACY The traditional alternative—an enclosed conference room witha large table—simply isn’t being used much anymore, certainly notto capacity. That may seem counterintuitive; after all, facility managersfrequently complain about lack of meeting space—“Our conferencerooms are always booked.” But booked isn’t the same as occupied.As part of the Space Utilization Service, Herman Miller compares theonline reservation system of client companies with actual occupancydata. They nd that conference rooms are often reserved but notused—and vice versa even more frequently. Why?“Work moves so fast nowadays that plans made Tuesday can be mootby Thursday,” Dr. Brower says. “People are meeting on the y andforgetting to cancel their reservation or ducking into a room on thespur of the moment without bothering to make one. Clearly, what’sneeded is more informal collaboration areas for unplanned encounters.”Informal implies smaller. Data collected by the Space UtilizationService indicate that rooms with eight or fewer people are usedmore than half the time.Technology helps, too. Space Utilization ndings across variousindustries reveal that meeting rooms equipped with technology—speakerphones, monitors, screens—are used ve times as much asthose without.CONVENTIONAL PLANHere’s how a sample work environment might make the transitionfrom conventional to collaborative. The oor plan below is thestarting point.If this plan feels familiar, it’s because some variation of it was a stapleof the 1980s, 1990s, and even up to today for many organizations.The hallmarks of this approach are private ofces and conference roomsaround the perimeter, open workstations in the interior, and just onespace—a break area—that can be used for informal interaction.Here’s how it looks by the numbers:Square feet 24,150Occupancy 135Open collaboration 1Enclosed Collaboration 6Private ofces 25Open workstations 110Space ratio 1 group/community:19 persons• Square footage ratio 19% group/community:81% individual
Collaboration Scenario / 3CONVENTIONAL PLANOpen WorkstationsPrivate OfcesOpen CollaborationEnclosed Collaboration

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