The types of workspaces available in today’s office environment are vast, as companies look to a variety of space types to better support everyone on the team.
In other words: goodbye, cookie-cutter cubicles, and hello, flexible workspaces that are tailor-made for the people who use them.
In this article, we explore 23 types of workspaces that companies can provide to help improve workflows and meet different workstyles in the office.
Discover the four models companies are using to adapt to hybrid work—and how to make them work for you.
An office workspace is any work environment for any type of work.
They can be quite big (like a fifty-person meeting room), or simply a small workstation for individual employees to finish up their tasks for the day.
When we think of ‘the office’ writ large, we tend to picture cubicles. And maybe a big, traditional office for the boss.
But the reality is that companies and facilities have many different types of space, all requiring careful planning and optimization.
This is especially true post-pandemic, as attitudes towards the type of office employees want (and its purpose) are shifting. Companies now need to ensure that the various types of spaces they’re offering their people are carefully planned. Additionally, they should also be inviting and engaging.
Offices now often have to accommodate a variety of hybrid work models as well. They need to meet the needs of both in-office and remote workers.
Different work areas can accommodate different tasks and working styles.
Most companies—from startups to Fortune 100—require some combination of the following 23 types of workspaces.
Yes, over relying on cookie-cutter cubicles may be a thing of the past. But don’t get us wrong: cubicles still have their place in modern office floor plans.
In particular, cubicles can offer much needed privacy in an otherwise open space.
Note: Some people that refer to an office that primarily uses cubicles as a ‘cubicle farm.’
Sticking with the basics, the alternative to cubicles is a traditional desk.
Desks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Their distinguishing feature is that they don’t have walls like cubicles do. This makes them a mainstay in open offices and flex spaces.
Whether we’re talking about cubicles or desks, traditionally, these workspaces are spaces that companies assign to one team member.
When you have ‘your’ assigned desk or workspace, you’re much more likely to outfit it with personal items like photos or potted plants.
As such, dedicated desks have the potential to become quite cluttered.
Increasingly, as part of the post-pandemic shift to hybrid work, companies are turning to flexible seating strategies when considering types of workspaces. Especially those that require shared desks and other workstations.
As we learned thanks to COVID, workers don’t have to be in the office full-time to do their best work. As such, not every worker needs to have their own dedicated desk.
Instead, companies are testing out a variety of workplace strategies that allow employees to share a rotating amount of desks. These strategies include hot desking, office hoteling, and free addressing.
Typically, any desk that employees use in this way will be much less cluttered than a personal desk.
In fact, most companies will have policies around how to use shared desks. They typically require employees to always leave the desk as they found it.
One of the most popular and exciting work environment types emerging today is office neighborhoods. These are areas of the office with shared desks with a catch: only certain team members can book them. Neighborhood layouts are usually shared by a certain team or department, or by people working on the same project or type of task.
As such, when considering types of workspaces, office neighborhoods can solve one of the biggest hybrid working challenges we’re seeing today.
Namely, we know that the vast majority of workers want flexibility in all things, especially in their hybrid schedule.
For example, 94% of knowledge workers want schedule flexibility. And they’re 2.6 times more likely to look for a new job when they don’t have it.
But when everyone’s on their own flexible schedule, and everyone’s desk changes every time they come into the office, collaboration in the workplace can suffer; how can you collaborate with your team members, when you always wind up on opposite sides of the office?
Neighborhoods can help provide the answer here. They ensure that when workers come in to collaborate or work on a project, they’ll be sitting with the people with whom they want to collaborate.
Especially when configured with the right neighborhood software and tools that simplify connecting with employees, working neighborhoods are a space type that can dramatically improve the workday.
Adding in a little comfort can also dramatically improve the workday. So don’t save your comfiest couch—or your only couch, for that matter—for the lobby.
‘Soft seating’ is basically comfy seating (like couches and armchairs) that many companies are now incorporating into the workplace in an effort to improve workplace wellbeing. It’s just nicer to have a place to relax when you need it. Or a place to take your laptop when you’ve been sitting at your desk too long. These types of workspaces are the kinds of small touches that can help with talent retention and attraction, by making the office a much more welcoming place to be.
Although many business leaders are ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to shared spaces in the office, many still require a private office space. They’re also a necessity for places like law offices, where people need to have small, confidential meetings. So especially at a company headquarters, expect to see some amount of private offices.
Note that, as we’ll cover below, private offices can be assigned, or they can be made available to everyone through desk or room booking software.
There’s a wide variety of meeting space types that offices can choose from. Meeting spaces can be formal or informal, big or small, built for just a handful of people or for dozens of team members at once.
Specific examples will vary based on needs, as will the meeting room design.
Similarly, conference rooms can be formal or informal. When considering types of workspaces, we don’t always consider the almighty conferences room. However, it too is a space type that people can use for working meetings or collaboration. Although we tend to think of these as the traditional long table with high back chairs, many companies are using new design strategies to create different types of collaborative workspaces and conference rooms.
Ideally, they’ll also use meeting scheduling software to ensure these spaces are easily accessible to all employees.
Speaking of alternatives to conference rooms, the humble huddle room is quickly becoming a go-to in hybrid office design.
Huddle rooms are small meeting space types, and companies typically design them for no more than 6 people. They’re great for quick brainstorming sessions, informal meetings, stand-up meetings, and hybrid meetings.
Huddle rooms are just one type of breakout space, which is essentially any informal, usually smaller space in the office meant for spontaneous collaboration and quick chats.
These types of workspaces also allow for casual socialization (critically important since having a friend at work creates more engagement and higher work performance, even leading to more engaged customers and higher profits).
Ultimately, if a breakout space is free, anyone can jump in for any reason that pops up.
War rooms are another new type of team workspace that’s becoming more and more popular. These are small spaces specifically designed for strategizing and solving problems, usually for leadership and team managers.
While, again, layout and design will vary, in general, war rooms need to be equipped with whiteboards, computers, and enough desk space to get work done.
There are many benefits to an open office, but many drawbacks, too.
Specifically, if your office is open (which is quite likely, given that 80% of American offices use this layout), then you might struggle with things like phone calls, both personal and professional. Especially if you’re not in a cubicle, you’re not going to want to disturb the people around you.
This is where phone booths really shine, creating small but private one-person types of workspaces where you can chat ‘til your heart’s content (or you’ve closed the deal you’ve been working so hard on).
Wellness rooms are another easily customizable space that can look different from office to office.
These are meant to be calming spaces, where employees can retreat and engage in a little self-care as they need. Part of efforts to promote health and wellness, they’ll usually include ergonomic seating, perhaps some meditation cushions, as well as plants and the option to play soothing music.
These types of workspaces can also be used as pumping rooms for nursing mothers (they may also be equipped with refrigerators for this purpose as well).
Similarly, companies without the space to invest in a complete wellness room may instead create smaller types of quiet workspaces (sometimes called ‘nooks’) to offer employees a space to get away and get some peace and quiet when they need it.
And just like the name suggests, companies can take these health and wellness efforts to a whole new level by creating on-demand spaces for naps.
The most successful workplace teams are those that are able to let off some steam here and there. With this idea in mind, fun zones are a new type of workspace idea that make the office a lot more fun—remembering that even when employees are letting off steam, they’re still engaging and building relationships with their colleagues.
Like the name suggests, these are public spaces with a fun twist.
Also called game rooms, these make great flex room ideas (i.e.: they’re a great way to optimize unused spaces in the office).
Companies can bring in board games and video games, or foosball, ping pong, or pool tables to help employees incorporate a bit of fun into their day. If you’re unsure what your employees might like to see, ask them. No doubt they’ve got some great ideas for livening the play up.
Likewise, relationship building also happens over a cup of coffee or during your lunch break.
In this sense, the kitchen, kitchenette, or break room can also be seen as types of collaboration spaces that benefit the workspace in a variety of ways. Of course they should always be clean and inviting. And no one ever got mad at a stocked pantry.
Being outside in the ‘real world’ can have a wonderful impact on our mood and mental health.
Plus, thanks to the pandemic, people may feel more comfortable coming into the office and collaborating if they’re able to be outside for much of the day.
As such, many companies are creating outdoor terraces and other types of outdoor workspaces where employees can work and get a little fresh air at the same time.
Although some often overlook this space, a copy room is another type of workspace where work gets done. Teams should carefully plan this space too, to ensure that it’s meeting the needs of employees. This means that beyond multi-function printers, these can also be places to store office supplies, to house files, and for mail pick-up and delivery.
Any company managing remote or hybrid employees also needs to consider the home office when optimizing their space. Remote working really only works when people have safe and reliable wifi and an ergonomic workspace.
For this reason, many companies now provide workers a stipend to help them better outfit their home office.
It also makes sense to provide these workers with a laptop, so that they can turn any place—the living room, a coffee shop, an airport, a hotel lobby—into a place to work.
To cut back on corporate real estate costs, some companies and a great deal of freelancers are turning to coworking spaces. These space types are provided as a business service, where you pay to use desks in a shared office. Coworking space providers work to create inviting, amenable spaces that provide all the perks of office working, in a very different building type. .
Finally, work today takes place both in and out of the office.
Companies therefore need to consider whether they have a ‘virtual office’ that can support their remote and hybrid workers. This means creating a digital workspace, so that everyone can sign in and have the same tools and work experience, wherever they are.
Not every area of an office building is designed for work. Other space types that building managers and facility managers (FMs) will have to consider are shared core spaces like elevators, stairwells, rest rooms, and parking garages.
The roles and responsibilities of a facility manager will typically involve ensuring that the right contractors are keeping these spaces safe, clean, and accessible.
With so many types of workspaces to choose from, picking the right one can be a big challenge for workplace leaders.
Thankfully, they should have two tools at their disposal to help them make any changes to their existing space.
First, good workplace reports and analytics can provide metrics around how people are currently using a space (and therefore what types of spaces workers need most).
Second, leaders can solicit employee feedback, to see what types of space they think will be most beneficial.
“Let’s look at how people are coming back and how that’s working,” says workplace strategist Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield. “Let’s get feedback from the users of the space. Whether it’s from low-tech comment boxes in the café, or whether it’s pulse surveys taken on a monthly basis, that’s all forming a story that can then drive decisions around the demand for real estate.”
There’s no single space that will work for every company, and no template that every company can follow. Each FM will have to work within unique constraints and specifications to create an entire office ecosystem that supports everyone who uses it.
An ideal workspace is ultimately one that is fit for purpose—i.e.: it’s catered specifically around the people who use it.
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