The open plan

Design Domain’s Pooja Bansal shares a blueprint for a collaborative workspace


Staff playing cricket in Coke office in Gurgaon. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Staff playing cricket in Coke office in Gurgaon. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

First, create room for new collaboration spaces by freeing up area occupied by cabins and workstations. “For every 100 employees, there are now only 70-75 seats provided, through unassigned (or no fixed) seating. Cabins are limited, or eliminated,” says Bansal. Known as smart or agile working, this principle is based on the fact that there is rarely more than 75% occupancy, at any given point in time, in an office. With unassigned seating, employees are free to seat themselves wherever they like, supported by technology that enables mobility. As a result, there is higher occupancy, and workstations occupy a smaller footprint. 

Second, earmark enough area for collaboration spaces. “The minimum ratio is 1.5 workstation: 1 collaboration seat. 1:1 would be the best. Collaboration spaces would include most meeting rooms, as well as informal collaboration spaces, though not usually the cafeteria,” says Bansal. Coke is nearly there: 294 collaboration seats for its 322 workstations. 

 Third, identify different types of collaborative work, in order to create appropriate work settings. “At Coca-Cola, there are five collaboration spaces in the facility, other than the coffee lounge and enclosed meeting rooms. Two have been designed as informal collaboration spaces with a mix of high tables, benches and lounge chairs as well as a vending area," says Bansal

 The other three spaces are within the work areas, which are designed in accordance with a “neighbourhood concept”, enabling teams to have meetings or casual discussion, outside the meeting rooms, but near their workstations. "All the collaboration spaces are equipped with team storage, writable surfaces and are in close proximity to the vending areas and waste management systems,” Bansal says. 

 The fourth principle is essential: acoustic privacy. “This design will not work without phone booths for personal calls. A lot of people are on conference calls for 3-4 hours. There should be one phone booth for every 15 people. I did a benchmark study with other multinational companies, and this ratio is followed globally and is working well,” says Bansal. At Coca-Cola, there are 10 phone booths, less than Bansal’s ratio but much more than most offices of this size. 

 And finally, in a bid to promote teamwork, don’t leave the team behind. Involve them in the transformation. “An office like this needs a complete mindset change. The change move has to start before moving into office. The entire team has to be involved, through a visioning session with major stakeholders. Keep them aligned during the whole process, share the designs with employees,” Bansal advises. 

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