Workplace Strategy

Leveraging Your Space to Inspire Tomorrow’s Talent

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1. Inspire Creativity


Consider the workplace as another tool to help workers do their job.

Think about it: place impacts mood.

An inspiring workplace designed to meet functional tasks of workers will improve creativity.

Telenor’s CEO thinks of its headquarters not as real estate but as a communication tool. When a salesperson increased interactions with coworkers on other teams by 10%, his or her sales also grew by 10%. (Harvard Business Review)

The solution lies in the culture of your business. Knowing how work is accomplished helps everyone better understand what works and what needs improvement. For a design to work in any business, it must respond to the essential, core ingredients of what makes that specific firm successful (CLICK BELOW to jump to sub-sections).

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Collaboration + Technology

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“Collaboration” simply means “meeting”. Some believe increasing worker interaction will increase innovative thinking. How do we create interesting, perhaps even fun ways to redefine the traditional “meeting”?

Here are the three basic ways in which people collaborate:


Classic, scheduled meeting usually booked in enclosed conference rooms. Tone and feel is typically very business-like.


Unscheduled meeting on the fly or with little notice to compare progress or notes. Occurs in open plan environment, enclosed office, or a nearby designated “huddle” room.

Ad Hoc

Unexpected chance interaction between colleagues in a casual setting (elevator lobby, copy room, kitchen, etc.). Organic, impossible to be planned in advance.

Taking these types of meetings into consideration, the design community’s responding solutions include a number of creative, new spaces developed to trigger interactive behavior and strategic collaborative placement. Terms such as Huddle / Cove / Haven / Clubhouse / Living Room are part of this new jargon. We at MPA have been tracking the collaboration trend with our clients since 2010.



Herman Miller, “From Conventional to Collaborative.”


Herman Miller, “From Conventional to Collaborative.”



“First and foremost is that creativity is a collaborative process. Innovation comes from teams more often than from lightbulb moments of lone geniuses.”

~Walter Isaacson, “The Innovators”

IRON MOUNTAIN // BOSTON, MA: Enclosed conference rooms are clustered around oval “nodes”, creating informal break-out spaces. “Huddle rooms” and “nooks” allow for smaller, informal collaboration or private conversations without tying up larger conference rooms.

An MPA survey launched in 2015 shows where and for how long employees interact with one another.

How much of your day is spent collaborating with your colleagues?





In what type of space do you typically collaborate with your colleagues?



People want enclosed collaboration space because:

  • They are sensitive to disrupting colleagues.
  • Many meetings involve some degree of private conversations.

As many office environments migrate to a more open plan, it is important to carefully consider how people can collaborate in a more private or noise-oriented manner.


Open area collaboration creates a higher degree of spontaneous knowledge sharing but its placement and accessibility to workers plays a critical factor. Careful consideration to the manner in which people work needs to be achieved before identifying how much open collaboration space is needed.

Is open office collaboration distracting?





“…another lesson of digital-age innovation is that, now as in the past, physical proximity is beneficial. There is something special…about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally.”

~Walter Isaacson, “The Innovators”

Technology in collaboration

Universally, collaboration space, whether open or enclosed, needs to be supported by technology to be truly successful.

Access to technology enables staff to readily share information. If collaboration space is highly functional from a technology perspective, it will trigger spontaneous team gatherings and be used as intended.

The more responsive a company is to technology, the greater it will support their workforce productivity. Providing WIFI and ease-of-use tools, such as laptops, tablets, and smart phones, facilitate movement and connectivity in all areas of the work environment. A carefully designed space supporting productivity should be able to evolve with the technology.

Follow these simple collaboration rules:
  1. Study the functions and culture of your business.
  2. Survey and document the manner in which collaboration typically happens.
  3. Establish a careful meeting/staff person ratio in response to collaboration demand.
  4. Integrate a variety of sizes, both enclosed and open, for gatherings.
  5. Deploy advanced, easily used, and accessible AV and technology.
  6. Define which spaces require reservation and which spaces are readily available.
  7. Create etiquette guidelines for your staff so they understand what is and is not acceptable collaborative behavior.

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As each generation enters the workforce, they come armed with a full comprehension of how effectively the latest technology can be used. With advancement in hand held tools and cloud computing, workers can be productive anywhere and at any time.

Essentially we have become always connected.

The line between “office” and “home” continues to blur as technology gives us the capabilities to work remotely. Within the office, there are multiple settings in which people can work efficiently while connecting to their colleagues. While outside of the office, communication options are seemingly endless, and becoming more advanced over time.


Society for Human Resource Management

Increase in Americans working from home from 2000 to 2010 (Census Bureau):












THE CONNECTED WORK SUITE: Occupants are responsible for reserving their space and their support needs in advance. It accommodates a full time concierge and a variety of critical support functions i.e. conferencing space, short term storage, technology, and hospitality.

MOBILE IMMERSION: Smaller, short stay work benches or stations allow the mobile worker to integrate into the general workforce population when they do come into the office so that they are better connected to the culture and activities of their coworkers and colleagues.

ACTIVITY BASED WORK (ABW): A true free-address work environment, each employee is encouraged to seek out the most optimal work setting for their needs.

MOBILE WORK: From cafes, libraries etc. These employees work mainly from a remote location, checking in with their colleagues, but spending the majority of the time working alone. Advances in mobile work technologies allow people that work remotely to collaborate with each other.

The US Mobile Work population will grow steadily, increasing from 96.2 million workers in 2015 – to 105.4 million in 2020. (International Data Corporation (IDC) in Framingham, MA) 

REMOTE WORK: Many employees now use their commutes to and from the office to get work done. Advances in technology (tablets/mobile devices) and infrastructure (WIFI capabilities) allow for workers to get work done on planes, trains, and in the comfort of their own homes. This contributes to the notion that in today’s age, people have the capability to be always connected.

“This ‘always-on’ concept is challenging, but in reality it’s becoming the new normal – enterprise mobility lets people ‘time slice’ quickly and easily between ‘work’ and ‘home’ styles. This is only possible due to the efficiencies gained in moving seamlessly between different devices. Users can take notes on their tablet during a meeting, turn them into a presentation on their laptop over lunch, and securely share them with a colleague on their smartphone on the journey home.“

~Mobilizing the Enterprise: The definitive guide to the mobility revolution

“Countless studies confirm what I’ve experienced firsthand: Remote employees are happier, more productive, and more cost-efficient than their office-bound peers. The workforce as we know it is changing, and as leaders, we must be nimble and open-minded in our hiring techniques to meet this exciting challenge.”

~Harvard Business Review: How I Hired an Entirely Remote Workforce

Mobile learning enables employees to receive and engage with real-time information while on-the-go: anywhere, at any time. As the new generation of workers who grew up with social and mobile technology begins to enter the workforce, it is crucial employers create workplaces that support these technological advances.

A majority of employees worldwide say they don’t need to be in the office to be productive and that they value mobility more than a higher salary. (Fujitsu: Mobile Workspace)


Entrepreneur: Four Data-Backed Reasons to Use Mobile in the Workplace


Entrepreneur: Four Data-Backed Reasons to Use Mobile in the Workplace


Internet connected mobile devices are set to outnumber humans.



Fujitsu: Mobile Workspace


Fujitsu: Mobile Workspace


Fujitsu: Mobile Workspace

Effects of the cloud on mobile work (internal or external) (2014 KPMG Cloud Survey Report + Fujitsu: Mobile Workspace)






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Provide spaces for quiet, task intensive work

To support collaboration, most companies have created more open, inspiring workplaces by reducing or eliminating the need for offices and traditional high-panel workstations. The net result of this has triggered a greater need to design quiet spaces for concentrative work.


The consequences of distraction (Steelcase: The Privacy Crisis):






Importance of audible privacy to MPA clients:





Engagement and ability to concentrate (Harvard Business Review: Balancing “We” and “Me”: The Best Collaborative Spaces Also Support Solitude):




A workplace, to be truly effective, must be responsive to the various types of work that are necessary to maintain optimal efficiency.





Supporting materials

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking became the single most prominent advocate for introverts when she boldly claimed: “Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory.

Provide choices to enhance productivity. Companies must find the right balance of supporting individual and team productivity. When employees have control over how and where they work, they choose space most productive for the task at hand. With spaces supporting quiet or confidential work, and virtual or face-to-face collaboration, the workplace can drive sharing of ideas, employee engagement and a fostered sense of community. Employees given greater autonomy are more engaged and loyal to an organization. (JLL: Five Principles for Maximizing Workplace Productivity)

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