Agile office space continued
By Adil Wali , 5th Apr 2010

Ok, so I have had the opportunity to sink my teeth into workplace design a bit more in recent days.  My recap of requirements is as follows:

  • We need collaborative space — so that people who are working on laptops/workstations can work together seamlessly.
  • We also need space that allows people to focus and get work done on their own.
  • The space has to look good and feel good for the employees – because we want to attract the best talent and keep them happy.
  • The space has to align with our culture.  We’re a creative company to whom style matters.
  • We are on a budget, and we’re still a scrappy young company, so we don’t want to be ridiculous.
  • The workplace must be agile and allow us to adapt to change quickly and easily.

So far, I’ve had the opportunity to research what other interesting companies have been doing with their workspaces.  I’ve also done some research on what some of the leading workspace design companies have come up with.  So I feel a little smarter on the subject.

Here are some things that are really interesting to me:

Pair-Programming Stations

The more I think about it, the more I think that having workstations like the one shown below would be really solid for pairing:

If you want to insert best practices into engineering, you have be willing to walk the walk.  You can’t just preach it and then ask two people to cram together around a 17-inch MacBookPro.  It’s not realistic, and it doesn’t jive with human nature.  If people aren’t comfortable in the pairing environment they are put in, they will just stop pairing.  (Duh.)

Collaboration for Bigger Teams

I think the above is relatively doable.  But what about for larger collaborative teams?  How do we get a workspace that suits the needs of 3-4 people working together on a creative project?

I was checking out the local Steelcase showroom and I saw a few things that really piqued my interest.  One was a collaborative space that allowed people to share what they were looking at in real-time.  It’s called “media:scape.”  Unfortunately, they don’t have great pictures up online, but these will give you a sense:

The idea here is that anyone can just walk up to a space like this and sit down with their laptop.  They can then work collaboratively as a collaborative team, easily tapping the ‘puck’ on the table to have the larger screen show what they are working on.  Does that sound productive and effective to you?  It sure does to me!

I am just thinking about how much time and effort (and thereby, money) that we’ve spent in the past just trying to get setup to show other people in the room what we are working on.  That problem is exacerbated significantly when there are multiple folks in the room trying to show people what they are up to at the same time.

Finally, and potentially just as interestingly, this kind of setup is totally useful from a user testing standpoint.  Being able to easily sit around a table with a testing participant and have a small group in the room observing their interactions would be fantastic, and apparently not that hard to set up!

About the Author

Hi, I’m Adil Wali. I became a Microsoft certified professional at age 14 and started my first web development company. That led to a career as a serial entrepreneur, advisor, and startup investor. I got my first “real job” at 33, and I’m now a FinTech executive with a passion for the markets.