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Reinventing the Workplace: Pop-Up Workspaces in Open Spaces

Image © Gensler

While every company and organization would like to invest in a traditional and state-of-the art workplace, budget constraints, limited space, and the fact that knowledge workers are an increasingly mobile species can make obtaining a worthwhile return on such a project unfeasible. The proliferation of mobility is an especially critical component of this equation, because as an increasing percentage of knowledge workers choose mobility over tethering themselves to a single desk day after day, traditional workplaces slowly move towards obsolescence. Why invest in a single workplace when your employees (and next-gen talent) would just as soon plug in from coffee shop or hotel or home?

Mobility provides many benefits, but the independence it grants also comes at a cost. Without an office, the nomadic mobile worker lacks the ability to casually interact with coworkers, an activity shown to enhance creativity and innovation. The challenge and opportunity facing the design community is coming up for a way to create physical and virtual environments that attract hordes of mobile workers to one location while still providing a significant amount of flexibility.

Our answer: Embrace the pop-up workspace. Imagine a network of pop-up work communities in available and underutilized public space. Imagine work environments that create virtual and physical communities inhabited by knowledge workers from different backgrounds. Imagine the potential for sharing and innovation. Imagine the civic benefits that will accompany reclaiming unused public spaces for valuable social enterprise.

We propose a system that grants the ability to build workplace community both virtually and physically for the nomadic mobile worker. Borrowing themes and sensibilities found in co-working environments and the “Pop-Up” restaurant and retail culture, we propose a means to organize and temporarily create work hives where knowledge workers may work wherever they desire and, more importantly, meet and socialize with their peers.

Image © Gensler

An Open Source Model with Location Map Availability

Our pop-up workspaces will transform wasted public spaces into activity based environments within the urban landscape. Inside of these environments, mobile workers can actively engage open-sourced experiments. Such collaborative consumption within the sharing economy will catalyze a rethinking of the commons as a hub for socializing and incubating ideas. Location Map Availability will provide a window into the look and feel of the pop-up workspace while also displaying what amenities are available at certain times.

Image © Gensler

Swarm Intelligence (Hive Model)

The pop-workspace will use the collective intelligence and behavior of insects to help humans understand the effectiveness of collaboration and group interaction. Swarms can consistently make good and timely decisions as long as they seek a diversity of knowledge. Grid70 is the hive model of company-to-company working. It is a design hub meant to foster creativity and cross-pollination in a building that houses workers from four different companies.

Image © Gensler

Community Member Profiles and Lifestyle Clusters

Co-workers have an affinity for seeking out like-minded people as well as people who can offer diverse perspectives. Within our pop-up workspaces community member profiles and avatars augment the possibility for serendipitous encounters via data points that showcase the individual’s background, skills, and interests stimulating discourse around projects for potential collaboration. Lifestyle clusters illustrated through heat maps convey densities of certain populations of people. Mobile workers want to connect with others who share their same vision and philosophical beliefs. Heats maps and sensors will be a driving force of the future of co-working.

Image © Gensler

Focus Work versus Discovery and Serendipitous Encounters While collaborative settings are integral to the success of the pop-up workspace, privacy areas where a mobile worker can seek refuge to engage in deep, rich, and productive thought in a place free from myriad distractions is an amenity of great importance. Of course, nomadic co-workers must also learn to accept and adapt to constant change and embrace losing their sense of time and place. Open-mindedness, flexibility, and fluidity lead to the circulation and exchange of fresh ideas and shared experiences. Agile and permeable spaces promulgate casual conversation and interdisciplinary interaction.

Image © Gensler

Touchdown Spaces and Location Map Availability

The need for dynamic and easily configurable touchdown spaces is a major design trend in office environments and an area to which nomadic workers gravitate. These areas within the pop-up workspace provide a variety of assembly options for various desired work experiences. Adaptive and evolutionary design not only grants the introvert and extrovert control over their workspace but is also imperative to accommodate the work styles of future generations.

Image © Gensler

Events/Continuing Education and Social Enterprise

The pop-up workspace needs areas designed to host workshops, innovation labs, and events in order to foster collaborative learning and thought leadership in a diverse range of disciplines. Landlords, landowners, developers, local communities, and other stakeholders will want to be involved in dialogues that reanimate abandoned or underutilized public spaces in order to provide opportunities for community benefit and social enterprise.

The following people contributed to this project: John McKinney, Laura Latham, Nick Lawrence, Yongxiao Liu.

Stephen Ramos is a designer in Gensler's Washington, D.C., workplace studio.

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