05 Wellness and employee creativity at the heart of workspace design

By Charlie Royce, Executive Assistant to the Directors

Where are you and what are you doing when you get a good idea?

This was the first question posed at yesterday’s YCN roundtable discussion on workspace design and creativity, led by the author of ‘A Grammar of Creative Workspaces’, Dr Alison Williams.

Our hosts, national disability charity Scope, recently moved in to an innovative multisensory office in London’s Hackney Wick, a bold new headquarters that was designed with the idea of wellness right at its heart.

Although the answers to that key opening question differed from person to person, they mirrored the findings of Dr Williams’ research. She grouped them under three Bs: bus, bed and bath.

Bus describes being on the move, whether in the park, riding a bike or, of course, sitting on a bus. Bed relates to being rested – fresh from sleep or just relaxed and comfortable in our surroundings. And bath is all about the calming effect that water has on us, helping us to focus.

But one new concept emerged from our answers. It was the value of collaborating with colleagues face to face in an informal environment. The way we interact with colleagues and the physical environment we do it in has a direct impact on our ability to produce creative ideas.

Activity-based working

So how can the design of a workspace encourage this type of interaction?

We were introduced to the idea of ‘activity-based working’. In the home we have specific rooms for specific needs: we head to the kitchen for food, the bathroom to wash and the living room to relax. Activity-based working is about transferring this principle to the office – in other words having an area to brainstorm, another to plug in to your tasks without distraction, and another to socialise with colleagues.

It turns out those water cooler conversations really might generate our best light bulb moments – so let’s design our workspace in a way that encourages them.

We discussed formal meetings too – how physically sitting together within the four walls of a room can put subconscious pressure on us to discuss things that might not need to be addressed yet. By taking this dialogue to a less formal environment – or even just by standing up – we might find things resolved more efficiently.

Time to put theory into practice

I could have sat for hours bouncing ideas back and forth on how to create the best working environment but alas our time was up all too soon. The timing was perfect for this conversation about shaking up working practices because here at Red Setter we’re preparing for an office move of our own.

Now I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned to build a new home for us that’s just right for the team – both in form and function.

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