Team work is central to knowledge work, and collaborative settings provide the supporting structure. At its core, knowledge work is four activities: learning, socializing, collaborating, and focused work. Three of those involve two or more people in creating, evaluating, and building on knowledge to generate new ideas and creative solutions.

Collaboration spaces 3

Distributed teams need spaces that are highly functional, easy to use and available on the fly.

Collaboration spaces 4

The TeamStudio combines analog and digital collaboration tools in a private, enclosed space.

Collaboration places 1

Standing-height furniture such as this Campfire Big Table provides an open space for democratic sharing of information.


Today, a new view of collaboration is emerging. Among the key findings of ongoing Steelcase research is that a fundamental shift has occurred: most work today is done in collaboration with others versus individually. Moreover, rather than it being a segmented activity done in designated destinations such as a conference room, collaboration is now almost constant and it happens throughout the entire workday. It occurs at desks, in hallways, in team spaces, on smart phones and via the Internet, and it’s often spontaneous and informal versus planned in advance. When the workspace is designed to fully support the new realities of collaboration, better learning, more innovation and faster decision-making can result.


Collaboration at work drives innovation, but not just any kind of collaboration. The kind of collaboration that sparks breakthrough ideas comes from people working together specifically to solve problems and develop new insights and solutions. As we work more in distributed teams, whether across a campus or across the ocean, people struggle to build connections with coworkers when the places where they work don’t support and augment interactions. Teams need places (both virtually and physically) that allow them to see their teammates comfortably, hear each other clearly and share information easily so they can build the “shared mind” that is necessary to bring innovation to a successful conclusion.

Insights when designing for collaboration
•  Prototype or pilot spaces prior to implementation
•  Let it roll – literally let the furniture be reconfigured
•  Create zones within the floorplan
•  Make technology useful
•  Support both analog and digital collaboration
•  Add a social hub such as a work café

Key principles when designing a workplace that flows from private space to collaborative space include:
•  Help teams reach common ground by creating spaces with standing-height worksurfaces that encourage democratic participation.
•  Allow teams to make a space “theirs” by giving them the freedom to reconfigure and customize the space to fit their needs.
•  Create social areas near workspaces to promote informal interactions and building of community.

Collaboration 2Up

Building a wide variety of collaborative settings throughout a space helps build community and encourages the flow of ideas.

Image_trends_Infographics collaboration

Today, the majority of collaboration is informal and unstructured. However, the workplace should be designed to support the different types of collaboration:

generative (brainstorming)
evaluative (reviewing/sharing)
informative (coordinating/planning).



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