Leaders--does your physical space optimize performance?

Wed, Jul 15, 2015

Fascinating Study

In late June, 2015, I had the opportunity to visit the charming town of Kolding in Denmark. There, nestled atop a scenic city, we visited a ecently restored old castle. As we got to the top of the castle, we were delighted to see an exhibit of student work. We found out that the Kolding Design School offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in design. The exhibits were from their most recent graduates. 

Note: Infographic at the end of post!

This particular exhibit caught my eye. I have often been struck by just how profoundly physical space either inhibits or encourages communication, collaboration, and even productivity. As you can see from the exhibit, this creative researcher recommends something called "swirl" office space. 

The challenge is clearly spelled out and illustrated. I have worked with several clients in the midst of expanding and moving to new office space. Those who have been used to working in private offices chafe at the thought of working in a totally open cubicle. Those who have worked in spread out cubicles don't like to feel that their new space is less private and more noisy. Managers assigning space have a difficult time balancing employee requests with the realities of their new office space. 

I myself have worked in a totally open office space in which no one had their own private space. This worked fine unless someone had a particularly loud voice and was unaware of how sound carried. I have also worked in a company in which the offices were shaped in a large "L." The constraints of the physical space resulted in little or no interaction between those on either leg of the L. Unless we made an extra effort, we didn't interact much at all. Here in the San Francisco Bay area, I have worked with a number of corporate clients who have organized their physcial space in a number of ingenious ways. I haven't yet seen the swirl. 

What if you designed your office space in this manner? Can you see how if would both provide privacy and also enough openness to encourage collaboration? What are your thoughts? How has the physical layout of your office space enhanced or hindered collaboration? How has it impacted your organizational culture? 



Kolding Denmark Discoveries


Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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