How to increase spontaneity in the workplace

Posted by Hayley Whitlock on 23/10/2017

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Profitable encounters; the value of spontaneity in the workplace 

Have you ever overheard or had people say to you “where have you been, I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages” or “I haven’t seen you all day” in your workplace? 

Well if that person is someone you’ve been trying to avoid, then fair enough, but if that’s someone you work closely with, then this may not be ideal. 

In this Insight article, we discuss the benefits of spontaneous encounters, and we look at how you can design a space that will aid in encouraging these encounters. 

Why spontaneity is important 

A well designed space gives people messages that influences their behaviour, in a positive way. But most people miss the trick and forget about the importance of flow, planning and informality.

When you’re in a job that requires you to think, be creative, innovate and be inspired, the majority of your ideas are not going to come to you as you stare at your screen. This means moving away from your desk to areas which lend themselves to flexibility and chance encounters, or quiet thoughts. 

The 2016 Leesman Index, a research project that compared the physical environments of average and high performing workplaces, illustrates the importance of these settings. It was found that one of the top workplace features that high performing offices utilise more than average offices were informal and unplanned meetings. Clearly there’s value in the more informal spaces, that can facilitate these important meetings.

These encounters are clearly spontaneous, but the setting in which they take place are entirely deliberate. Interaction have placed a lot of thought and exploration into the best way to encourage these types of behaviours (and we talk about it in our Spoken Word film). Next we discuss how you can design a space that facilitates profitable encounters.

How these spaces are designed

There are many ways in which you can design a space that encourages spontaneity, here we list a few.

Desk layout

Breaking through the linear and traditional desk layouts is important beyond just encouraging spontaneity. Implementing non-linear desk layouts provides a more interesting aesthetic and means that there’s not just one clear path through a workplace. If you introduce a clear hot-desking policy within this, you will significantly increase the chance of these encounters, as people will be forced to get up from their desk.

Breakout placement

The placement of the main breakout area is crucial in unlocking more interaction and unplanned encounters. This will all depend on the layout and size of the floor plan, but there are a few instances that can be particularly beneficial. If you’ve got a fairly large space, then placing the main breakout area in the centre is a sure way to open up more opportunity for people to interact, without having them walk a significant distance to get there. Whereas if your space is smaller, placing the breakout at one side of the space is as effective. As it means that the breakout is not completely disruptive, and also means that people will have to walk past people to get to this space which can result in spontaneous encounters.

Furniture

An aspect that should go without saying that will influence how effective your space is at encouraging spontaneous collaborations, is furniture.

Beyond the space planning and strategic placement, the specific furniture you choose to specify for your workplace will affect how effective your workplace is at encouraging spontaneous collaborations. A great example that illustrates this is the brand new range of furniture from Boss Design, that with its adaptability has been designed to respond to the way we interact with our working environments. The Boss ATOM range, which can be seen in the video, taps into one of their key 6 habitats, described as ‘flow’.

Boss say: “When planned strategically, Flow is about encouraging the serendipity associated with spontaneous informal exchanges. Popular wisdom used to have it that smokers were the best informed people in any organisation – the reason being they would meet by chance, away from their desks and develop trusted relationships through informal interaction without the limitations of hierarchy, department or co-location. The opportunity is for organisations to consider these very necessary and functional Flow Spaces as an asset in the spectrum of choice when designing a high performing environment.”

The ATOM range is extensive, versatile and elegant, and provides a unique solution to facilitate spontaneity in the workplace.

Conclusion

Improved mobility in the workplace is a key aspect in providing an enlightened solution to have an impact on the effectiveness of your working environment. To design a space that harnesses the profitability of spontaneity, the physical environment should be a manifestation of the psychological needs of employees.