Smart companies understand that workspaces are a business tool. An office environment reflects and reinforces a business’s core values, through the placement of different teams and functions and design elements that reflect culture, brand, and values.

For example, we’ve seen an explosion of open office layouts, in part because openness, transparency, and collaboration are some of the attributes companies strive for today. Sometimes these designs work well; however, research shows that this collaborative push may be too much of a good thing. Increasingly, people are rediscovering the value of quiet and focus and asking for spaces where they can concentrate.

In fact, collaboration and quiet are two ends of a continuum with a range of in-between work modes — each with an optimal setting. The best way to identify these is to identify everyday work patters and micro-moments that correspond to office design decisions.

This is easier said than done, however. It’s one thing to note a person working solo in an otherwise empty seminar room, or a group of people huddling around someone’s desk because a conference room wasn’t available. It’s quite another to imagine what an alternative, effective scenario might look like.

To get everyone speaking the same spatial language, we created a Collaboration and Quiet index consisting of seven attributes that can more concretely enable people to match a desired way of working with a physical space: location, enclosure, exposure, technology, temporality, perspective, and size.

To better understand how these work, try the exercise below on your own or with your team. Pick an example of a work activity that happens regularly, like a daily or weekly standing meeting. Using the continuum below, try to identify the ideals for your particular situation (they will likely fall somewhere between the two extremes on either end). For the attribute “location,” for example, you could ask your team: Is the meeting best facilitated if it’s held in an in-demand central meeting room or near where other people are likely to gather? Or is it best facilitated closer to your team’s work area and away from where you are likely to encounter others?


When you’re done, consider all your answers collectively — this can help give you the language to identify your needs beyond, say, “We need more collaborative meeting space.”

There are a variety of ways you can use this exercise beyond one meeting. It can serve as the basis of a design visioning workshop with a larger group about how and where people work and how they would envision working in new ways in the future. We created a version of our index as an online survey that feeds us input in a more systematic way and as a means of reaching more people — you could, too, if your organizations are more accustomed to engaging in surveys online rather than in person.

Getting Started

To begin the discussion in your organization, in addition to analyzing the seven attributes with your employees, company leaders should also ask themselves the following questions:

  • Who are our employees, and who will they be in the next 5 years?
  • Who else uses our space (visitors, clients, community members, etc.), and why?
  • How do we want clients, prospective hires, or other visitors to perceive us when they enter our space?
  • To what extent do we value flexibility and choice over how work gets done?
  • Are certain modes of working seen as a privilege only available to a select few?
  • What current workplace behaviors would we like to change?
  • What are the most satisfying attributes of the existing workplace that sustain productivity?

If people aren’t regularly coming to the office, do we understand why not?

The design and outfitting of workspace is a major capital investment for any organization that can affect a number of business outcomes, including productivity, employee satisfaction, engagement, talent recruitment, and brand impact. Given the myriad ways to design and plan a space, leaders should approach workplace design in a strategic way. Imitating the latest fads start-ups are adopting won’t necessarily get you the results your company desires; asking the right questions — and, above all, listening to employees’ answers — will.

The story originally appeared on the HBR website.


About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at or 208.322.7300.



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