Every day our brains are responding to stimuli in the environment—and office spaces are no different. These stimuli influence our behaviors, as well as our ability to create and innovate. It’s important to know that each of us responds to environmental stimulus differently based on our experiences, interests, and our ability to focus. For example, some people are more bothered by an open office plan than others. Some need to go to a quiet library instead of a buzzing local café to do their best, head-down work. A lot of us need both of these spaces and experiences at different points during the day.
Our workspaces matter. They allow us to support employees in doing their best work, whether that’s creative thinking or producing innovative ideas. These spaces need to support employees’ abilities to do both focus work and divergent thinking. For some, focused spaces may need to be quiet with no distractions. These spaces may be out of the main traffic flow and have some visual partitioning.
For others, spaces can have general background noise like the activity at a Starbucks. Spaces for the mind to rest can be as simple as providing access to daylight and views so people can look out at the horizon. Social areas such as cafés, outdoor areas, and strategically placed gathering spaces with lounge seating easily support divergent thinking opportunities.
This isn’t revolutionary thinking, but we need to be thoughtful as we design these spaces. The designs of yesterday—where everyone sat in the exact same cubical and had formal conference rooms as the only place to share information—simply don’t meet the needs for the whole brain or allow it to do its best work. We need to provide a variety of different spaces. Everything from one- to two- to four-person (or more) gathering areas, to break areas, café areas, as well as individual workstations, should be available to be used for different purposes by individuals.
Space impacts innovation. The design of these work environments should not be one-size-fits-all. As I mentioned earlier, innovation comes from using what we already know, then sharing with others. By providing a variety of spaces that can be used throughout the day for both focused work and sharing with others, spaces can support human behavior and, in turn, organizations can design for their success.