Designing Community Workplaces People Believe In

We can learn a lot about workplace design by looking at city planning. Sure, they differ in scope and size, but they’re essentially birds of the same feather in how they hinge on the activity and number of individuals engaging in the space.

Take a look at town squares. These are, by design, located in a publicly convenient area that’s wide open but contained enough to accommodate and facilitate a large crowd. Parks are similar, but because they lack boundaries, they help large groups of people feel free, playful, and unencumbered. Again, any great space design—whether it’s a large park or a small bedroom—must be centered on the experiences and interactions happening within it.

Designing community workplaces is no different. And understanding why some work better than others goes back to the very heart of “community.”

Communities, like individuals, are unique. They’re formed by shared cultures and values and the connective tissue that ties both of them together. And designing a community workplace is, in a very real way, community building. It goes beyond bricks and mortar into the fabric of what makes companies and employees tick.

This starts with a discovery of what makes organizations unique—why they matter, what they’re most proud of, and what’s the special DNA that brings them together. Employees, for the most part, come to work for more than a paycheck, so discovering why they get out of bed and head to work every morning is essential to understanding what makes any community tick.

When this discovery effort is allowed to bring forth a real vision of an organization’s emotional connection, then design doesn’t just support the interactions that happen within the space—it enhances the overall experience of what it means to be part of a community and an elite group.

Companies like Google, Adobe and Genentech are shining examples of companies that allow for community to take hold. Their campuses are built around both professional and personal interactions. Their employee experience is considered from many angles, but mostly for the perspective of what it means to belong to this community. A strong company, a strong brand, and a strong community all understand that the individual experience needs to thrive for the whole to flourish.

Projects like Worth Development’s The Reserve in Playa Vista, California take this concept even further by developing workplace communities that are shared by several companies, bringing a different kind of synergy and community understanding.

These companies and projects have one big differentiating factor in common—they placed the personalities and cultures of the inhabitants front and center from the start. The Reserve features a park that runs through the multi-tenant building and offers communal eating, volleyball, and workout spaces. This builds a community centered on vibrancy and energy—something previously limited to single-tenant campuses.

We’re currently working on a community workplace, and our thinking has really revolved around taking a close look at the tenants who are going to occupy the space. They’re all young, creative, athletic, and social. What’s emerging is a new work environment concept that many consider more like a residential development than an office space because the experiences we created within the workplace reflect the occupants’ culture. It’s a differentiation we like.

If you’re designing community workplace, you could do worse than getting to the heart of the matter. Before you start drawing, take a deep look at the culture and personalities you’re building for. And most importantly, design for experience. Just like we all form part of our identities from the cities we live in, designing in a way that harnesses the connective power of community accomplishes much more than creating a great space—it helps people feel like they’re part of something bigger.

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