The whiteboard and how it helps us brainstorm, innovate, motivate and create
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How do you design a hybrid workplace? Better yet, how do you create an office space that invites your employees to reengage with in-person meetings while still providing the support and flexibility of a work-from-home schedule? It’s a question thousands of offices have asked since remote work became the norm, but few have been able to answer.
It’s no secret that companies want their employees back in the workplace. Since the start of the remote work revolution, dozens of studies have shown that in-person interactions are proven to enhance cooperation and communication among groups. However, many people have grown accustomed to the many luxuries of remote work, and the thought of leaving their remote lifestyle behind has become a nonstarter for even the most loyal employees.
The key to designing a hybrid office, according to Jack Cline, President of Lost Angles-based commercial real estate brokerage Lee & Associates, starts by cultivating an atmosphere and creating a group space. “Designing an open office space concept coupled with amenities and a workplace that provides an experience of value will help employees feel more welcome.” Companies can do their best to provide employees with free lunches and top-of-the-line coffee, but if that’s all the office has to offer, many workers will opt to skip the daily commute and remain remote. Instead, as Jack suggests, the key to building a successful hybrid office is to offer your employees tangible, practical benefits that can’t be found over a one-on-one zoom and never-ending email chains.
If you’ve spent any amount of time texting with a large group of friends, you know how easy it is to get locked into a conversation. When you’re in the thick of it, you’re laughing at inside jokes, reacting to hot gossip, making plans, and engaging in thought-provoking conversation all at once. It can be equal parts intoxicating and distracting, but it’s these interactions that help maintain and build friendships over time and distance.
The same principle applies to the workplace. The tiny micro-conversations that happen at the coffee machine are what bridge the gap between being known as the new guy in accounting to becoming a trusted collaborator. These are the conversations that happen outside your group of team members and spread out across departments. It’s a part of the workday that The Atlantic’s Derek Thomson refers to as soft-work. Soft-work doesn’t have to be limited to discussing your plans for the weekend; soft-work can be mentoring a new hire or learning about a different project that someone else in your company is struggling with. The point of these interactions is to build long-lasting relationships that enhance and encourage collaboration across departments and teams. A hybrid office needs to provide employees with an opportunity to engage in soft-work while simultaneously avoiding the rigid nature of the office cubicle.
According to Architectural Draftsman at AC Design Solutions Zaeem Chaudhary, a hybrid office plan must go beyond the simple open-concept large desk design if they wish to create an atmosphere that encourages this soft-work dynamic while still offering the flexibility and privacy of the work-from-home lifestyle.
“As work becomes more hybrid, office spaces will need to have a flexible design. Meeting rooms should resemble open areas that can be closed off with adjustable barriers to promote more adaptable cooperation on the go. On the other hand, hybrid offices also require more private enclosed spaces to better resemble the at-home working experience and please employees.”
What Zaeem is really talking about is the concept of multifunctional design. It’s something every remote worker is familiar with. The kitchen that doubles as an office; the fireplace mantle that serves as a backdrop for presentations; everyone that works from home understands the importance of having a flexible workspace. If remote workers can transform their living space into a functional office, there’s no reason companies can’t follow suit when it comes to retooling their offices. Offices need to comfortably sit anywhere from one to ten people; board rooms need to have furniture that can be configured differently depending on the size of the team. The more flexibility, the better! That’s why products like whiteboard walls are such a popular choice for hybrid workspaces.
While the future of the workplace will continue to evolve, there’s no denying the growing popularity of the hybrid workplace. Employees will continue to work from home, and employers will continue to yearn for the days of in-office work. However, by providing employees with an office layout that encourages cross-department collaboration and private workstations, employees will continue to make their way into the office in search of an experience that can’t be replicated on a screen or phone call.
- Whiteboards Are Great For Collaboration
Developers often divide their projects into sprints, with teams separating into smaller groups that focus on a specific element of a project’s development cycle. Each group is typically comprised of a team lead and a few front and backend developers, and as a result, elements of a specific product or feature are designed independently and pieced together towards the end of a project’s timeline. Whiteboards serve as an excellent meeting point for project teams to collaborate and visualize how a project is coming together. Maybe you want to start with a large-scale visual of how the project will come together, detailing individual steps in the development cycle and assigning steps as needed, or perhaps multiple team members are encountering a similar bug in the system, and rather than working the issue out individually, you wish to tackle the problem as a group. Regardless of which of these situations you find yourself in—if any—chances are you won't find a better tool for the job than a dry erase board.
- You Can Always Erase With Dry Erase
If you’ve spent any amount of time developing or programming, you know just how excruciatingly painful debugging can be. As with any problem-solving situation, you have to create a workspace that allows you to quickly isolate a problem and receive instantaneous feedback on an issue. It can be difficult to create this environment with coding problems in particular because by nature they can be difficult to identify and isolate on screen. By using a whiteboard for debugging, developers can break down algorithms piece by piece and receive instantaneous feedback from their coworkers.
- Whiteboards Spark Creativity
In past blog posts, we’ve discussed how whiteboarding can have a direct impact on your creativity. In short, writing by hand is scientifically proven to help maintain focus due to the way the brain interprets hand gestures when we’re writing, and since developers are often required to find alternative and out-of-the-box solutions to problems, writing by hand may help stimulate original ideas. Taking time away from the screen may just be the best thing a struggling developer can do to beat programmers block.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can implement whiteboards in your workspace, you may want to start by learning about our WhiteWall dry erase panels!