When you’re at work, you’re there to be productive – there’s no doubt about that. You’re not there to sit chatting or scrolling through social media all day. It has always been that way and always will be but what has evolved dramatically over recent decades are professional attitudes towards socialising and perspectives on staff interaction outside of the allotted work hours.
Long gone are the days when social interaction was considered slacking and workers were required to sit at their dedicated desks and not lift their heads until the to-do list was complete. These days, things are much more flexible and one of the most notable changes is the introduction of social spaces into the modern workplace.
What is a social space?
Social spaces are almost inseparably related to breakout areas; they’re a place that has been designed specifically for purpose, away from the main work setting for co-working, socialising and relaxation. It’s what those in the industry call a ‘third space’ – a middle ground between work and home where people can communicate casually, find rejuvenation and share ideas freely. This kind of space often conjures up images of foosball tables, fridges full of beer, ice cream machines, miniature sandpits and beanbags fit for a giant but this certainly isn’t standard.
Innovation and wacky invention most definitely have their place within the right industries but as long as the area provides staff with everything they might require from a social space, it can be as simple or understated as your budget or taste dictates.
When creating a social space, it’s important to put functionality before fun and put anything that could be considered an office design gimmick to the bottom of the priority list. – Chris Birchall, Penketh Group Workplace Strategist
With some expert space-planning and careful consideration of product, social spaces can bring a vast multitude of benefits to the workplace and can quickly become an integral part of a business’ daily operation. Done right, social spaces are extremely important. Some of the main benefits of creating an office social space are:
Inspiring collaboration in the workplace
One of the most prominent advantages of incorporating a social space into your workspace design is the impact it has on collaboration and efficient co-working between staff. Some of the best ideas are discussed spontaneously at the kettle so providing a laidback space in which people can share ideas on a casual level will transfer positively when it comes to idea generation and teamwork at the desk.
How you can enhance this: In order to best facilitate this kind of co-working, you should consider installing some collaborative technology such as an interactive whiteboard or Clickshare in your social space. This will ensure staff have resources to hand when the time calls for them.
Improving communication between staff
As well as a boost in collaborative work, social spaces are also highly effective in improving lines of communication between members of staff and removing any threat posed by the professional hierarchy in more formal settings. Social spaces often come hand-in-hand with a WorkCafe and research by Steelcase demonstrated that employees who eat together in large groups are more likely to communicate outside lunch hours.
How you can enhance this: In order to foster an environment in which staff feel comfortable communicating with each other freely, you need to consider your furniture configuration. Go for a long table or clusters of modular seating to encourage interaction.
Creating a place to relax and rejuvenate
According to another study by Steelcase, 91% of employees agree that having a space where they can recharge and reenergise is important. Social spaces are the ideal platform for this and will ensure that staff return to their work with a refreshed frame of mind. With the busy working lives we all lead, time and space to relax is essential for mental wellbeing and motivation levels.
How you can enhance this: Soft seating is a must when it comes to relaxation and an acoustic furniture solution like BuzziMe will ensure privacy can also be found even in a space that will often be buzzing with conversation.
Delivering important internal messages
Finally, social spaces are also great when it comes to delivering important company messages and notifications that would otherwise get lost in busy email inboxes. Whether it’s large groups congregating over lunch or an individual member of staff enjoying some downtime, this is a more engaging way to get information in front of the right eyes.
How you can enhance this: While pinboards might be back in fashion, it’s not necessarily the most effective way of delivering a message to the workforce. A digital signage solution will have much more impact.