The way we work is always changing, in every way. From the global spread of mobile technology to the growth of diversity, how, where and when we work is constantly transforming. Today, Covid19 has presented yet another catalyst of change to our ways of working. Workspaces need to adapt to keep up with this pace of change, or risk being left behind.
As architects and designers look ahead to what the ‘new normal’ might look like in the aftermath of the pandemic, we explore the importance of creating ‘convivial workplaces’. Spaces that foster cross-pollination and recognise the vital role collaboration plays in encouraging creativity, culture and community.
What do we mean by ‘Convivial Workplace?’
Technology has changed communication in the workplace and has contributed to the growth of gig-based and freelance workforces. Routine daily encounters have given way to unexpected encounters, as different faces bring new ideas and traditional hierarchies are disrupted. This has led to the emergence of ‘convivial workplaces’ - open environments designed to support meaningful interactions and relationship building beyond fleeting involvement.
In the aftermath of Covid19 and following the prolonged period of isolation and widespread remote working, rebuilding and cultivating this sense of community and collaboration will be key for both employees and employers alike. Creating a dynamic workspace that promotes the exploration of ideas and cultural activities will help add value to businesses, even if not obviously connected to the company’s core function.
The squeeze on space
Creating these convivial spaces will of course come with some challenges in the post Covid-19 landscape. The new focus on maintaining social distancing has led many designers to deem open plan offices as ‘dead’. The truth is that most open plan workspaces will undoubtedly need to be reworked to enable best use of space, while ensuring employee safety.
Even before the pandemic, space was already at a premium in cities, and the idea of one building for one business has been fading for a long time. The places where we live, work and spend our down time must therefore make maximum use of every square metre. However, as our living spaces get smaller, the spaces ‘in between’ need to respond to a multitude of needs as we seek the room to work, to be creative and to socialise.
Enabling the collision of people and ideas
There are a few design tricks to encourage greater collaboration, innovation and cross-pollination, while minimising use of space:
- Non-prescriptive spaces such as atriums and corridors can be turned into hubs for informal interaction.
- Large windows, communal walkways and shared facilities can be used to increase visibility and connection, thereby improving openness between teams.
Flooring can be used to enable zoning and outline safety markings for social distancing
Creating a sense of home
After months of working from home, many employees will feel anxious about the return to the office. Creating a welcoming, homely environment will help to ease this transition. Through informal interactions in informal, communal spaces, creativity and innovation can truly flourish.
Even in the aftermath of Covid-19, it’s likely that people will continue to feel an instinctive desire for human interaction and collaboration, which is best found in convivial spaces.
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