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August 17, 2022

Collaboration, Socialization, and Learning: The Difference Between "We" and "Us" Space

Collaboration, socialization, and learning are what drive office engagement and spaces that enable these activities should function differently. Learn more in this blog post.

The idea of going into the office has evolved significantly over the past few years. Many want to be together but also need to feel safe and comfortable within whatever type of workspace they enter.

Employees have grown to appreciate the opportunity to collaborate, socialize, and learn from their peers, and the higher-ups have seen the benefits and success of this type of work environment. Transforming an office space into a place that employees want to come to every day could help boost not only their morale but can, in turn, improve the business as a whole.

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Why people want to come into the office

Working from home (WFH) has become the norm for many people over the past few years. Nevertheless, now that offices are opening, the idea of coming together again is a bit intimidating for some. The long-held concept of cubicles separated by gray boxes and white columns is not inviting and is no longer what people want to see when they come to work. A study done by Owl labs found that remote workers reported being more focused, less stressed, and having a better work-life balance—and that 43% of them worked over 40 hours a week when working from home. They have spent two years in their homes, most likely quite comfortably, working in a familiar space that motivates them to do their best.

Coming back to the office should feel the same way. Employees are excited to get back together with their workmates face-to-face and not just over a computer screen. Glassdoor found that 52% of workers want to return to the office to be able to socialize with their workmates, and 46% are looking forward to collaborating with their teams. They want to be able to work alongside each other in a safe environment where they can bounce ideas around without having to wait for a text or email reply. They want to drink a cup of coffee together in a comfortable space where they can truly relax, chat, and catch up before jumping back into the day’s projects.

People want to be together, but the space they are in can greatly affect how productive they are while at work.

Collaboration leads to higher productivity

Collaborating with co-workers on specific projects can result in a positive free flow of ideas and can greatly enhance the overall workflow.

Highly collaborative teams can foster involvement from people and helps them feel supported and empowered to take on new projects. About 75% of employers view collaboration and teamwork as very important in the workplace, and 86% of both employees and executives find that a lack of such collaboration results in failure. Promoting an open exchange of ideas through the design of an office space can guide employees toward an exceptional teamwork environment. Creating spaces throughout the office that encourage this type of exchange can improve the collaborative spirit of all employees.

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Socialization to promote positivity

To have excellent collaboration amongst a team of employees, they need to feel connected and comfortable with their colleagues. Companies can accomplish this with socialization. Some people naturally will gravitate toward one another and become good friends within the workplace. However, providing employees with a space specifically meant for them to relax and get to know each other can help all employees to work together more positively. Areas where they can gather, play games, get a snack, or simply sit together to talk, can give them the essential social aspect of being together daily.

Learning through shared experience

The work-from-home aspect of many jobs has caused a lot of people to feel they have come to a stand-still in their professional development. Working in a shared space with others can give employees the opportunity to learn from their teammates. People who have had years on the job working alongside those who have just started or have recently transferred from a different type of job can use their experiences to teach and learn from one another. Employees working side-by-side with various people provide opportunities for individuals to hone their skills and learn how to better fulfill their responsibilities in the workplace.

The difference between “we” and “us” space

Defining spaces throughout a workspace is important to maintain efficiency and productivity. Employees want to feel comfortable and secure in their spaces so they can be satisfied and perform better at their job. An office designed with employees’ needs in mind with spaces for collaboration and socialization can potentially produce better results for the company.

There are two essential types of spaces that help achieve these goals.

A “we” space is generally an area for collaboration. It could be a large space with multiple areas for teams to work together or a smaller room set up for more private meetings for individual groups or pairs of employees to hash out ideas. Whatever style of space a company uses, the ultimate goal should be to promote collaboration amongst all employees, no matter their particular responsibilities or abilities.

On the other hand, a space defined for “us” would be where a group of employees can get together to relax, release some energy, or grab something to eat alongside each other. This area would be for socialization where employees can talk about their private lives or discuss work in a more casual setting. This space would help build the relationships of the various teams and boost morale.

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How to design a space for the best employee experience

The best employee experience fosters an environment that promotes positive human interaction where all individuals feel secure, trust their teammates, and are confident in the significance of their work. Companies can consider whether a single ample space would be beneficial to an open exchange of ideas or if their employees tend to work in smaller teams where more intimate spaces would be the most useful.

When planning an office space, one of the most important factors to consider is what each current and future employee needs to make the workplace a relaxing, tranquil place. Consider the needs of all people and the various requirements they may have to make the office space work for them.

This could include:

  • Making sure all spaces are wheelchair accessible
  • Having private spaces people can go to be alone
  • Adequate areas for separation of workspaces for employees that need it

In order to create such a space, companies must look at the needs of their employees, both as a whole and individually.

The types of work employees are involved in must also be factored into what type of collaborative or private spaces could best fit the job at hand. Companies should endeavor to provide their employees with adequate technology and resources to perform their assigned tasks. The kind of work that a company is involved with could determine if a physically collaborative space is needed or a technologically based collaborative program would be more beneficial.

Businesses should also consider the actual spaces they have available for their employees. Looking at the physical office space can help to formulate just how much space an organization can designate as personal workspace, collaborative space, and social areas.

The importance of asking

A company wants to create a space that gives its employees a place to grow, collaborate, and in turn, perform their jobs efficiently and productively. The most effective way to find out exactly what employees need is to ask them. Find out how they prefer to work by asking questions like the ones below:

  • Do they prefer to have an area designated as their desk, or do they prefer a free space where anyone can sit and work where they choose for the day?
  • Does collaboration help them to focus and perform better, or does it distract them?
  • Do they like to work in large teams with several people sharing ideas, or do they prefer to pair up with one or two other employees?
  • Could collaborative software improve their work, or do they prefer to speak face-to-face with their workmates to share information?
  • What types of social activities would they enjoy having at work?

Each of these questions will help a company see just what its employees desire in their workplace and guide the design towards a positive and productive work environment.

Design an office space for employees

Designing a space for employees involves considering each employee’s needs coupled with the company’s overall needs. Additionally, it involves creating a workspace that motivates employees to come to work and do the best they can at their respective jobs.

You can design a collaborative and social environment for employees with the help of Saltmine and get your company on track for success today.

Whether you’re redesigning an existing space or creating a new one, Saltmine provides the support you need to make safety adjustments, crucial design modifications, and better inform space planning decisions.

To learn more, watch the video below: 

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