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How social spaces improve creativity in the workplace

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No matter what industry you’re in, creativity is essential because it’s so closely linked to other key skills like problem-solving, strategising growth and implementing new operational processes.

In fact, according to a 2023 study published by McKinsey, most (77%) senior company leaders recognise creativity as a vital driver for business growth.

So, when it comes to office design, considering how to improve creativity in the workplace is important no matter what your business type or sector. In other words, you don’t have to work within the creative industries to want to drive better creative work among teams and employees.

Of course, well-designed breakout rooms and meeting spaces are critical for creative success. However, another type of work setting that is often overlooked for its productivity benefits is the social space.

In this blog post, we explore the benefits of social areas as part of a workspace design scheme so you might consider it for your next office refurbishment project. But first, let’s define what a social space is…

What is a social space in office design?

As the name suggests, an office social area is somewhere employees can go to socialise, relax and communicate on a casual level with their colleagues. It’s a designated space where all employees can gather and interact outside of team structures or organisational hierarchy.

Typically, a social area will incorporate the kitchen (or canteen) but it is also often where things like games facilities, on-site bars or exercise studios are located if these are part of a design scheme.

The idea of ‘social’ spaces in the office often conjures visions of Google-esque slides, mini golf courses and adult-sized ball ponds. While these are all fun ideas if you’ve got the available space and budget, once the novelty has worn off, they don’t really add much value as standalone design features.

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A ‘third space’

Sometimes, in the industry, social areas are what experts refer to as a ‘third space’—an area that’s somewhere in between ‘work’ and ‘play’. A third space isn’t home but it isn’t quite work either, which means it brings its own set of unique benefits to a business.

The benefits of social areas in the workplace

Long gone are the days when social interaction was considered slacking off. These days, things are far more flexible and one of the most notable changes is the introduction of social areas.

Below we summarise the primary benefits of social spaces, each of which contributes to improved creativity in the workplace.

Building social capital

‘Social capital’ is the “networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively”. This concept can be translated to the work environment to describe how individuals contribute to the function of the workplace community.

Adding a social area into your office design is a great way to breed social capital and bolster your business culture.

Read more: Why social capital is so important >>

Collaboration and communication

One of the biggest benefits of incorporating a social space into your workspace is the impact it has on collaboration and efficient co-working between staff.

Some of the best ideas are created and iterated spontaneously at the tea station (otherwise known as ‘watercooler chats’). 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 ‘back at the desk’.

Breaking down hierarchy barriers

A social area provides a shared space for employees from different departments and levels to come together on equal ground. By breaking down divisional or hierarchical barriers you can increase the opportunities to share skills, knowledge and experience.

The non-hierarchical feel of a social space creates a softer environment for conversation and breaking away from a formal setting can help foster more open, creative mindsets.

Some personalities may also naturally feel more comfortable having creative conversations in this type of relaxed setting.

Relaxation and rejuvenation

According to Steelcase research, 91% of employees agree that having a space where they can recharge and reenergise is important.

Taking a break away from the desk at various points throughout the day is essential for both wellbeing and concentration levels and a social space provides the ideal setting in which to do this. It will help ensure people return to their work with a refreshed frame of mind and nurture better productivity and creativity.

Young professionals in pet-friendly office

Video conferencing technology

With the acceleration in hybrid working, it’s important to consider how creativity can be fostered in virtual spaces too.

The State of Creative Collaboration in 2023 report found that 75% of collaborative creative work now happens online, so remote participation isn’t something that should be overlooked.

So, even though social spaces are purpose-built for relaxation and casual interaction, facilitating better connections between remote and resident workers will be beneficial for your business in multiple ways.

With the right features and strategic planning, social spaces can be a super effective way of improving creativity in the workplace, which will ultimately help to propel your business forward, whichever industry it’s operating in.

Advancements in technology have automated many process-based tasks and roles, so there is now much higher value placed on creativity and innovation—ultimately, these are the things that will give a company a competitive edge and drive growth.

Get in touch today to speak to one of our experts about building a functional social space into your office design scheme.

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