Collision in the Workplace

Public space versus private space: Companies have been trying for decades to find the balance that best supports collaboration.

Facebook is planning to put several thousand employees into a single mile-long room. Samsung plans to design vast outdoor areas sandwiched between floors to lure workers into public spaces. Scott Birnbaum, vice president of Samsung Semiconductor, says the new building is “designed to spark not just collaboration but the innovation you see when people collide.”

When sparks occur from collisions in our open plan environments, we need to retreat to private spaces to bring our ideas to fruition. Privacy does not compromise collaboration but can nurture it. Creating spaces where employees can tune out the distractions and focus on tasks at hand can increase and strengthen their ability to come back and contribute to the whole.

According to the Harvard Business Review, author Thomas J. Allen identified the negative correlation between physical distance and frequency of communication nearly 40 years ago. Studies indicate that as technology proliferates, close proximity to coworkers actually becomes more critical to communication, not less. Perhaps the combination of old-style private offices located on a central hallway where you can mingle and collide with your colleagues will be the office of the future!