Hello readers! Today, I would like to share with you an experience of brainstorming and creating office spaces. The experience was a workshop I had just a few days ago in my office in Berlin, moderated and guided by 2 professional architects. Technically, we didn’t create anything, but the process of brainstorming was so interactive and entertaining, that I wanted to write a post in this blog.
The need for a redesign and renovation of the current office space started just recently when more employees started coming back to work from the office. The home office is great, but we are all human beings, and we still need a lot of interaction with other people. My employers have ordered the architects’ service to re-do our space to make it look good and to serve all the needs we have.
The creativity of people during pandemic was over the roof. From building a workspace in a balcony to converting garage into livable space. In our case, we wanted to convert an old office space into a modern and multifuncional office.
I work in a medical startup in the heart of Berlin, Germany. Our office takes up the entire floor of the building and technically is not bad, has tons of space and perks. It has meeting rooms, focus areas, relax rooms, private pods/booths, toilets, kitchen and dining area. All you need is there. But the main office of the company, which is just across the street, has all that as well, but the interior design, the concept and the entire multipurposeness of the space are incredible.
2 architects came to our office to gather information, interview people, and learn more about the space. And finally, they needed to find out how we work, our habits at work, our thoughts and concerns. So, they arranged a workshop that was supposed to help them with those open questions. They asked 15 volunteers from different departments and different roles to join the workshop of 5 hours.
I was one of the volunteers because the idea simply fascinates me. It was great that the people and their roles in the company were different. Because, for example, the way a designer works and moves around the office to clear things with colleagues is different to people like me, a software engineer, who stays at his desk the entire time.
The workshop was divided into 4 sections.
First, it was a set of short games, in which the volunteers had to ask each other questions like “The most annoying thing for me at the office is…”, “Working at the office, I value the most…” or “It’s absolutely taboo at the office to…”. The most important keywords were shared with the entire group, and we discussed them in detail.
Second, it was an exercise in bigger groups, in which we had to describe to each other our favorite office we used to work in in the past and mostly pay attention to details. The other members of each group would make notes and then we collected the notes and created some sort of mood board of things that were important to us. Then we shared the mood boards with other groups.
The most interesting part of this was that many details of each group were similar: good light, a spacious kitchen where nobody has to queue to get a coffee in the morning, adjustable walls, whiteboards to share ideas with your peers, etc. From some extra items, we got gym, showers, sauna, beer from the tap and a solution to hide cable spaghetti. I mean… why not, right?
Third, was the most interactive part. We all logged in to the special app with our phones, and we were answering the same questions anonymously by taping or typing the answers. The results of each question were projected on the flat screen so we could see the most popular and the least popular answers in the graphs.
It was a long part, but I can see the importance of this exercise to the architects. The questions were mostly about our habits at work, like “How many days a week you would like to work at the office?”, “How often do you collaborate with your team during the day?”, “How often does your team use meeting rooms?”, “What are the most important facilities at the office you use that you don’t have at home?”.
Finally, the last exercise was to design the floorplan of the room we were having in this workshop. They provided 5 ideas for us, and we had to split into 3 teams and design our vision on how we wanted the room to look. We were provided with the basic room layout and set of furniture drawn on paper and cut with scissors, so we could place the furniture around the room’s layout.
It was amazing to see how much we now focus on privacy and separation in smaller teams. Almost everyone agreed, we want to have teams to be separated by glass walls, which could be movable around. We wanted to have hot desks and some lounge areas that could be used as a meeting room, which I find amazing. The boring meeting rooms are depressing. The meetings rooms that look like lounges with comfy chairs and sofas are the way to go.
Of course, the final decisions will be made by professional architects, but it was so nice to see that they cared about the opinions of the people who will be working there and using the space daily, rather than pushing their ideas into us. Our floor plan design was used to see how we want to use the space and what is important to us in day-to-day work. The questions about our habits were important as well to learn what we do at the office and which facilities we use the most and the least.
It was a fun experience and a cool glimpse to see how professional architects work when designing or creating office spaces.