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How Zappos, Adobe, and more are creating workspaces that bring people together

Feb 28, 2017

adobe-office-493794-edited.jpgAs more companies put a premium on collaboration, they’re on the lookout for office space that has the power to bring people together. And as a broker, it pays to be aware of this trend, because it’s going to change how you pitch your properties.

“Developers are transforming the commercial office building model as they refocus on their tenants’ need to recruit a younger, more creative and collaborative workforce,” says design firm Gensler. “Literally every building type is in play now, including towers in the downtown core."

Here’s how spaces are becoming more collaborative and shaking up the way we work:

Flexible layouts

Permanent office layouts are being replaced with modular components that can be shuffled around to create collaborative workspaces. With an ebb and flow of workers coming into the office or working remotely, companies are looking not just at a space’s square footage and fixed desk space, but flexible layouts to accommodate a more flexible workforce.

Shrinking square footage.

Companies like Zappos are counting on smaller spaces to increase collaboration, in the form of “collisionable hours.” Based on a University of Michigan study that found that scientists had more interactions in tighter working quarters, Zappos shrunk the planned size of its headquarters, knocking it down from 150 square feet per employee to just 100.

Freedom to flow.

“Lighter, powerful, wireless technology has untethered the workspace more than ever,” says Poppin's Jeff Miller. Today’s employees value flexibility and choice, and companies are responding with a mix of workspace options, from quiet alcoves to communal tables and designated lounge areas. Adobe’s San Jose campus weaves a variety of communal areas throughout their space, from terraced, bleacher-style meeting spots to alternative workspace “living rooms.” These spaces allow employees to flow from one work configuration to the next, depending on their mood and their task.

Conversation-centered design.

Buildings like the Arcus Center for social justice are being designed to foster conversation and community, inspired by elements of traditional community meeting houses. “In meeting houses, there’s always a central space where you can sit around a circle and see each other,” Jeanne Gang explains in her TED talk. “So we designed a space like that right in the middle of the Arcus center and anchored it with a fireplace and kitchen. Now the central space...encourages bumping into people and starting a conversation. The architecture sets up these opportunities."

Inviting communal areas.

Companies like Indiana-based tech firm Moser Consulting are proud of spaces that encourage people to linger. “Instead of going home, now [employees] come here. It’s a place where they can collaborate,” says the firm’s founder, Ty Moser. The company’s new office includes open lake views, pergolas, an outdoor kitchen, and couches clustered around a manmade waterfall—all which inspire people to stay, enjoy the space, and make connections.

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Irena Ashcraft

Written by Irena Ashcraft

Irena is a freelance writer who works with innovators, educators, explorers, and changemakers. From brave nonprofits to frontier-straddling startups, she helps clients connect with their biggest fans through writing that's fresh, relatable, and fun.

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