Eight Ideas for designing a more collaborative workspace

Collaborative workspaces are becoming increasingly popular in businesses, and many startups and new businesses are embracing these kinds of spaces for their benefits to productivity and the bottom line. Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs, offered their tips and ideas on designing collaborative workspaces—valuable for any business looking to increase employee interaction and happiness.

1. Study theories from 1968

“Read The Office: A Facility Based on Change by Robert Propst. The book was published in 1968 and discusses Herman Miller’s theories on office space that promote action. While the theories have evolved since 1968, the philosophies in the book are timeless.”

Brett Farmiloe, Digital Marketing Auditor, Markitors

2. Have different workspaces for different situations

“Having gone through several office redesigns, I’ve seen firsthand just how much design preferences can vary person to person. Some prefer bench seating; some prefer private offices. Some prefer couches; some prefer desks. Some prefer whiteboards; some prefer projectors. The only one-size-fits-all approach is to have a variety of different options to facilitate different collaboration situations.”

Emerson Spartz, CEO, Spartz Media

3. Support location batching

“A great way to support collaboration and productivity is to support location batching—the idea that certain work is best done in certain places. Obviously, some meetings are best done with whiteboards. Take that notion further and provide couches for emailing, balconies for phone calls, beanbags for reading, etc. Encourage the team to move around as their tasks demand, which helps them focus.”

Derek Shanahan, Director of Marketing, Playerize

4. Let them play as hard as they work

“We have a football field, a meditation room, a mini-golf station, and a field goal post in our office because we know the more relaxed our employees are, the better results we’ll get out of them. That’s not to say they can ‘take it easy’ all the time, but if you want them to work hard, you have to provide the means for them to play hard sometimes, too.”

Nick Friedman, President and Co-Founder, College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving

5. Have a large, clean table in the middle

“It’s very easy to be in an impromptu meeting at someone’s desk and for there to be a distraction—a piece of paper that reminds you of a task you need to do or an email that pops up. Maintain a clean space in the middle of your office where people can sit and meet. Fewer distractions allow for more focus and better collaboration!”

Aaron Schwartz, CEO, Modify Watches

6. Create collisions

“At the Zappos.com office, Tony Hsieh cultivates a culture of ‘collisions’: there are exits on all four sides of the building, and they’ve locked all of them except one. It’s more inconvenient, but they prioritize collisions over convenience. I don’t lock all of my doors, but I intentionally surround myself in spaces where ‘collisions’ can happen, whether in a shared space or my own office.”

Erica Dhawan, CEO, Cotential

7. Design a collaborative company, not a collaborative office space

“While Mayer’s recent kibosh on telecommuting at Yahoo! has reopened the topic of remote working and creating a work environment that supports collaboration and productivity, I still believe in remote work. Our entire company is established on the principles of remote work: we don’t have an office space. We hire people who are skilled at working together and working hard, no matter where they are.”

David Ehrenberg, CEO, Early Growth Financial Services

8. Tear down the walls

“Titles aren’t important in a startup—that tone needs to be set from the beginning. Having the founder walled off in his own office is a poor example to the team. Startups need a flat-hierarchical structure where everyone’s opinion matters and the entire team feels respected and valued. If your new hire is sitting right next to you, it can only help collaboration and accountability.”

Mitch Gordon, Co-Founder, Go Overseas

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