HR & Management

Creative spaces aren’t all about bean bags and table tennis

6 min read

08 January 2018

Workplace culture and design are intrinsically linked. There is no point in having collaborative creative spaces if there is no mechanism to let employees feel free to use them.

How can you think outside the box if you’re forever stuck in a box? That’s the issue, according to JLL’s “Workplace – powered by Human Experience” research report, facing the 66 per cent of UK employees working in offices that do not provide any creative spaces.

Add to this the fact that only 52 per cent of offices offer any form of collaborative space and you have a world where many workers are metaphorically tied to their desks. Not only does this stifle creativity, it has a profound effect on productivity and workplace satisfaction. In short, uninspiring offices without creative spaces are leaving many businesses uninspired.

On the face of it you would be forgiven for thinking that the key to an inspiring office is simply having breathing creative spaces for employees. Areas where they can easily collaborate or, for some more introvert individuals, get away from the hustle of the open plan office to work privately.

This is obviously of crucial benefit, however, we also found that 40 per cent of employees believe that their workplace doesn’t allow them to work effectively – full stop. Therefore, it is essential to look at the entire workplace environment and overarching company policies and ask yourself whether it is fit for purpose.

The culture of a workplace and its design are intrinsically linked. There is no point in having collaborative creative spaces if there is no mechanism to let employees feel free to use them when needed.

Similarly, a creative workplace culture that empowers employees can get around office space restrictions imposed by space or finances. Workers can create their own collaborative creative spaces offsite or virtually if enabled by flexible working and the trust of management.

For businesses that do have space we have a few tips to maximise the impact of collaborative and creative spaces:

(1) Create spaces of varying size

it’s difficult to feel like you’re in a creative environment if two of you are ensconced in a large boardroom with space for 20 people. On the other hand, if you have a bigger meeting, you don’t want to be sandwiched into a broom closet.

Having a series of creative spaces for collaboration fit for two, five and ten people is ideal. If space is at a premium, dividers to section a room into different sizes or buying soundproof work pods are cost-effective solutions.

(2) Let the medium match the message

A bland decorative environment can be a hurdle to inspiration. This does not mean creating spaces with a smorgasbord of gaudy colours and bean bag chairs, rather, it should marry functionality with an aesthetic that tells the user that this space is different from the rest of the office.

For example, using elements from a company’s brand and applying them in creative ways through painting, posters, and furnishing is a straightforward starting point.

On the next page, find out the final three steps on building creative spaces, including the risk of confusing creativity and frivolity.

(3) Don’t go confusing creativity with frivolity

On the subject of bean bag chairs, our research found that only 12 per cent of workers felt that their office should facilitate games. A creative or collaborative space shouldn’t blur into an area for people to play table tennis on their lunch break.

Setting aside spaces solely for the creative process sends the message to your employees that you take this business seriously and you know the environment required for it to take place.

(4) Get far from the maddening crowd

If you have an open plan office one of the key benefits of a breakout space is that it is a quiet place to work privately or have uninterrupted brainstorm sessions.

Therefore, ensuring that these spaces are far enough away from the main concentration of employees, while also being easily accessible, is fundamental. For some businesses, this may be logistically impossible, in which case, soundproofing and adding frosting to glass doors etc. can provide enough privacy.

(5) Make sure you have the tools to succeed

There’s no one size fits all approach to what is required in these spaces. Depending on the nature of your business, all that may be needed is a good WiFi connection and some chairs. However, there is a world of smart whiteboards, interactive smart tables, and co-working platforms. The easiest way to work out what you need is to ask your employees and equip these spaces accordingly.

Consulting with your employees on the design of their collaborative spaces can be one of the most powerful ways to empower your staff. Giving them the freedom to take ownership of their office environment should result in a further boost morale and productivity. Finally, it should go without saying that the people best placed to tell you the environment they need are the people that experience it on a daily basis.

Tom Carroll is the head of EMEA corporate research at JLL