If you keep up with office design trends, you’ve likely noticed that single-purpose workspaces are on the wane. Instead, many businesses have adopted a fluid, change-friendly design outlook that allows employees, facility managers, and other invested parties to shape a space to the needs of the moment. Enter multipurpose office design, a philosophy that attempts to embrace the best aspects of the established structure and open choice, all while reducing the downsides of both.
Of course, it would be easy to plunk down tables and cube rows and call it a day, but your employees deserve more than that. By looking at the way your teams currently use the facilities at their disposal, you can provide equipment able to address any space need that might arise—without locking your employees into one space arrangement for the foreseeable future. Here are six ideas to get you started.
1. The mobility of technology: when people can move, productivity flourishes
With laptops—and more recently, tablets—stealing the spotlight from the anchored desktop towers of old, there is no reason employees shouldn’t be able to take their essential technology with them anywhere in the office.
This new mobility can be supported with the smart application of portable hardware and cloud technology.
In offices where cross-functional groups and temporary teams are the norm, mobile technology solutions allow for productive wandering and collaborating. Flexible tech liberates teammates to regroup at the snack bar or touch base on the patio, allowing for a freer exchange of ideas and turning every part of your office into a multipurpose workspace-in-waiting.
2. Breakout spaces and modular furniture: moveable work, boosted productivity
Breakout spaces are the latest way offices are accommodating the need for recreation and impromptu meetings. These are designated areas where movement, discussion and taking a minute to recharge are encouraged. Whether standing height or flanked with stools, breakout tables aren’t just a passing fad in office furniture philosophy: they’re part of a larger trend towards multipurpose solutions that match the multipurpose spaces they sit in. While options will naturally vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, the basic idea is the same: give employees a space to have a conversation and a breather—and good things will follow.
The same concept applies to modular furniture in your multipurpose spaces. Consider a collection of workstations that can be combined into a large, shared workspace, thus allowing teams to work together and break into individual segments as needed. Or a traditional table that is adjustable to standing height. These are just two examples of tools your office can deploy to allow for a greater sense of multipurpose design—and allow workers more functional flexibility than ever. When you have easily-modifiable pieces, you empower your employees to mold a space to the needs of the moment.
3. Is “coffee shop” the next design direction for your office?
On the topic of trends with actual value, consider the “coffee shop vibe”, which is currently making its way into office design. While it may sound like all fluff and no function on the surface, coffee-shop-like designs from cutting-edge design firms show just how the casual, communal atmosphere of your local java joint can be brought into the office. Like the best multipurpose offices, coffee shops feature a blend (no pun intended) of specific- and general-use spaces, where people of various working styles can select their most productive seating option. A mix of communal spaces, individual workspaces and shared resources is often all it takes to make a space truly multipurpose, and a little visual flair in the form of pendant lights and repurposed woods can help bring it all together.
4. Long, communal tables: the definition of “multipurpose”
Continuing with the coffeehouse theme, seating that suits any number of purposes is a smart way to allow multipurpose work to thrive. Long, communal tables fit this profile perfectly. On any given day, a long table could be a convenient spot for a team to sit for some quiet, shared work; the next, it can be used for a whole-office brainstorming session. For a quick way to up your office’s multipurpose capability, you could do worse than to implement a long table or two.
5. Foldable, storable and deployable: three traits to look for in office furniture
There’s something to be said for furniture that can be deployed and removed at a moment’s notice. Collapsible desks, foldable cube walls and other items that allow for quick setup and takedown can sit on the work floor for as long as they’re needed, then be removed to a supply closet or similar storage space, giving employees access to extra workspaces only as long as needed.
Pair these storable solutions with a communal table, and you begin to see how your multifunction office can take shape. The same long table that served as a meeting space yesterday can suddenly be a dozen or more quiet workspaces with the addition of foldable cubicle walls and collapsible office chairs—and when the project’s done, people can return to their usual workspaces without added furniture getting in the way.
6. Small spaces are the new multipurpose spaces
Applying the five tips above to the closed-off spaces away from your main work floor can turn a small collection of rooms into a broad collection of potential workspaces.
An office is only an office as long as it has a desk and a chair in it. The same can be said of a boardroom and a boardroom table. Provide some rolling tables and easily-moved chairs and a fixed space becomes a flexible one that’s perfect for teamwork. Drop in some folding cubes, and it becomes a quiet space for focused solo work. Apply this ethos to all the spaces in your office—particularly those that are only used at specific points and left undisturbed the rest of the time—and you’re well on your way to a thriving multipurpose space.
Article by Nick Mason, Officespace