The concept of community is often thought of as outdated, as something that was only possible in the past. With busy lives and stressful working environments, the personal connection between us is largely gone, since we simply no longer have the inclination to put relating to each other at the top of our to-do lists.
The truth is, that for any workplace to thrive, a sense of community is incredibly important. Allowing employees to feel supported by each other, and to be working towards a common goal, is key to building a successful business infrastructure.
But how exactly do we cultivate a sense of community in a large and busy workplace?
According to Natalie Slesslor, speaking at a WORKTECH Sydney conference in March 2017,
“we need to stop talking about the workplace and focus on designers creating familiar and easy places at human scale”.
In other words, to help cultivate community at work, we must stop thinking of the traditional workspace and instead think about design elements that promote human interaction.
Placemaking and the urban design principle
This is where organisations can take inspiration from the urban design principle of placemaking. Placemaking is a style of design and planning that incorporates a local areas’ assets and needs with the aspirations of local inhabitants to promote health, happiness and wellbeing. The same approach can work well in an office, big or small; surveying what the building has that works well, what the employees want, and what the organisation wishes to achieve, can help create a stronger community feel.
Bringing vibrancy and the opportunity to socialise into the workplace can also help create a sense of community. This doesn’t have to mean a huge re-design: on the contrary, simple but effective changes can be made easily. Look at how furniture could be moved to make the space more fluid, allowing more collaboration between colleagues. Some businesses may benefit from introducing more relaxed areas, for a different approach to working. Ensuring space is flexible is also important – what makes a community a true community can change and grow over time, after all.
In the long-term, the most crucial aspect of keeping up the workplace 2018 trend of cultivating a true office community is to listen to employees, and allow them to dictate the changes needed as much as possible.
The goal is to empower workers to connect with each other, and this can only happen if they are leading the way themselves.