1. A multi-space office to support modern and flexible ways of working
2. Differences between an open-plan office and a multi-space office
3. How switching to a multi-space office should be implemented
4. Tips for designing a multi-space office
5. Download the free office pod placement guide

1. A multi-space office to support modern and flexible ways of working

Outdated notions about teleworking and mobile work have been shattered. We now know that work is best performed in the easiest and most effective place for it.

Thanks to digital solutions, office work is nowadays increasingly possible anywhere, anytime. In modern working life, what counts is results, not how much time is spent at the office.

Flexibility often improves work productivity. With teleworking opportunities, the time normally spent commuting is spent working or recreationally, which helps employees recover. The same applies to meetings: a two-hour meeting only takes up two hours when it takes place remotely. Physically showing up to the office for a meeting takes up time in the day from each participant – time they could have spent on other work.

Few people work productively in one place day after day, hour after hour. The condition for flexible work is trusting in the employees and accepting that each person knows how they work best. At the same time, the goal is to maintain a connection between co-workers, and working together is encouraged more than before. In modern working life, the importance of communication becomes clear to many only through experience.

A multi-space office is a work environment that offers the opportunity to switch up working methods and places as needed. Changing a work environment from an open-place office to a multi-space office also often calls for a change in the work culture. When the users of the space are included in the process right from the start, the office’s transformation from open-plan to multi-space can even be used as a step towards implementing bigger changes in the work culture.

2. Differences between an open-plan office and a multi-space office

  • Work stations: Employees in a multi-space office do not have their own personal work stations. They move to different work stations based on the type of work they are performing: writing takes place in a quiet room, and collaborative work in areas where conversation is allowed. An employee may use many different work stations in a day. Routine tasks are often handled in an open workspace, and meetings and tasks requiring focus are moved to closed workspaces, meeting rooms or quiet spaces.
  • Peaceful work environment: The biggest challenge for open-plan offices is the lack of quietude. A multi-space office contains spaces designed for quiet focus. Often in a multi-space office, a quiet area where conversation is not allowed and phones must be kept on mute is established. A sufficient number of workspaces, such as phone booths and meeting rooms, that employees can spontaneously withdraw to for work tasks that disturb others should be available to the employees. In addition, the office needs clear rules and guidelines for using different spaces.
  • Interaction: A multi-space office is a solution that encourages communication and collaboration in areas reserved for them. In open work areas intended for group work, employees can converse and move about freely. In a shared work environment, rules are also needed in the area of interaction: employees must clearly communicate when they are unavailable. This can be encouraged by creating dedicated areas or by setting rules. Conversing in open areas is often permitted, but the space also contains dedicated workspaces for phone calls and meetings. Mobile work and changing work stations also lead to spontaneous encounters that give employees working in different departments the opportunity to exchange information and ideas.
  • Meetings: In a multi-space office, the employees do not always need to reserve a room in advance and be confined to a separate meeting space: materials and spaces for collaborative work can be easily found around the office. Arranging meetings in a multi-space office is more flexible, and it is easier to find a time and place for discussions. The office has areas meant for group work, as well as the tools needed for group work. Conversations involving several people can, if necessary, also be moved to an office pod.
  • Confidentiality: In an open-plan office, it is challenging to find a place for confidential discussions or phone calls. Various partitions work well as space dividers, but they don’t offer privacy. Many people speak on the phone or hold video meetings and disturb those around them, even though a partition only serves as a visual barrier, not a sound barrier. A well-designed multi-space office features sufficient soundproofed office pods, where private conversations can be had if necessary. In addition, jobs that involve a high degree of confidentiality and data protection, such as most financial administration tasks, require private spaces.
  • Productivity: When employees can work without constant interruptions, their productivity improves. Studies show that employees who go from working in an open-plan office to a multi-space office experience significance growth in their productivity, even by dozens of per cent. Their use of time improves and their results are of a higher quality when they can work without interruptions in a pleasant work environment.

3. How should switching to a multi-space office be implemented?

1. Define the drivers and objectives behind switching to a multi-space office.

What problems need to be resolved by switching to a multi-space office environment? Is the challenge a lack of quietude for performing focused work or the need for creative spaces that allow conversation? What are the objectives behind making the change?

2. Set up an office-space team.

Involve the users of the space right from the start. The team that will bring about the change should include both employees who use the space daily and mobile employees who only spend part of their average workday at the office. Forming a team initiates change management: when the users of the space are offered the chance to participate already in the planning phase, there is less resistance to the change.

3. Who uses the space and how do they use it?

The office-space team’s task is to profile the users of the space and identify how the office space is used. Together the team lays down the ways of working that should be supported in a multi-space office. Every multi-space office is different, which is why, for example, the number of quiet spaces, separate workspaces and meeting rooms varies.

The kind of interaction that will be supported in the space is also determined. For example, the size of different work areas says a lot about whether the work environment encourages, above all, discussion or productive individual work. It is important for the analysis to also take into account the virtual work environment and to develop it alongside the physical work environment.

4. Take note of the organisation’s work culture when developing the work environment.

The work environment speaks volumes about the company and its culture. Work culture and the work environment often evolve hand in hand. What do the current workspaces say about the work culture, and what is the story you want to tell through a multi-space office? What elements of the physical work environment do the employees value? How can a multi-space office help the work culture evolve in the desired direction?

5. Communicate and include.

The better the change is communicated to the users of the space, the smoother the transition to using the new space will be. The users should be given an opportunity to voice their opinions on new plans and, for example, test out the office pods in advance.

When the revamped work environment is taken into use, it is accompanied by ground rules and guidelines. A multi-space office only functions optimally when everyone is clear on the purposes of the various spaces and they actively guide their own work.

The space must be continuously shaped based on needs. Remember to regularly collect feedback and development proposals.

4. Tips for designing a multi-space office

  • Partitions and dividers – Partitions can help create visually calm areas and remove visual stimuli in the office space. Modifiable wall systems are an option when the aim is to achieve sound-insulating walls in the space, and at the same time, they allow the space to be easily and quickly developed also in the future.
  • Office pods – Office pods must be easily within reach in all areas of the office to ensure that activities that require privacy and which may disturb others can take place in the environment intended for them. It is important to situate phone booths particularly in quiet work areas, but also throughout the office so that it is always easy to find a place for private phone calls. Conversation rooms and areas for focused work, on the other hand, are situated in areas intended for group work and in open working areas. Make sure there is a sufficient number of different office pods that can be used flexibly.
  • Furnishings and placement – Define clear and sensible passageways in the office space. Instruct the users of the space to walk along certain routes and to avoid passing, e.g., work stations that are intended for focussed work. Clear signs leading to phone booths and lavatories should be posted. The office pods should be situated such that employees can see from their work station whether a space is free or not. A work environment that has been designed for efficient use and where people can move about easily eliminates unnecessary disturbances in shared workspaces.
  • Meeting places – Also clearly define the places that are intended for personal encounters. Furnishings are used to create a place for conversation and a place for focussed work. If the intention is, for example, to place a sofa or hammocks in the office for employees to charge their batteries, these should be situated away from the noisy coffee room.
  • Rules – Ground rules should be set to guide employees in using different areas and office pods. This means communicating clearly on how the spaces are meant to be used, and providing the users with guidance.
  • Office maps and communication on use of the spaces – Different reservation systems can also be used to provide information on the extent to which the various areas are being used and their availability to the employees. When employees do not want to be disturbed, they can mark it in a calendar view or communicate it in some other jointly agreed way. Office maps and sensors installed in areas are other options for quickly seeing whether a work area is free. This solution is suitable especially for large, multi-floor offices, where it can help prevent employees from wandering about the office. The intention is not for the office pods to always be reserved in advance – office pods help foster a peaceful work environment best when they can be used precisely when they are needed.
  • Don’t forget about rest areas – In a flexible work environment, keeping track of working hours is not what counts. It is important for the work environment to also encourage recovery – taking a break in a tranquil space improves an employee’s productivity more than browsing social media at their desk. Create a space for breaks, where people don’t need to think about work and they can give their brain a rest. For example, after an intense meeting, an employee might want to take a moment to breathe and recover before tackling their next task.

Download the free office pod placement guide

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