Val Yonchev

Co-Authors: Mike Walker Jeremy Brown

Team Workspaces

How to create the right workspace(s) for high-performing teams

foundation-culture-and-collaboration loop position

No. People

1+

Time

4 weeks (lead time), 1 day (setup)

Difficulty

moderate

Participants

The team

What is it?

This article contains a collection of best practices and lessons learned from real facilities build-out of global, permanent labs facilities, as well as experiences building temporary, ‘pop-up’ team spaces.

Why use it?

Intentionally designing workspace can greatly influence the way your teams can get things done.

Overall Space Recommendations

Open Plan

The open workspace plan allows for open, immediate, and constant inter / intra communication among teams and team members. The open workspace offers a professional environment fostering creativity and collaboration amongst multiple teams.

The open plan space should be big enough to accommodate for the whole team to sit together without being separated from distance, walls or objects, which makes the interactions hard.

The space should also allow for additional people (support acts, visitors, users) to be seated next to the team.

A dedicated open plan space works best, especially if it allows the reviews to happen in the same space. This way visitors for the reviews can literally see the work of the team and any questions during the review can be directly answered by pulling in some of the artefacts.

In shared open plan spaces, where the team will be seated next to other teams one should consider 2 important aspects:

  • Confidentiality - if the work and information required to complete or test designs is alright for 3rd party people - if they overhear or see something.
  • Noise - the team can both be the source of big noise for other teams or suffer from such. We have had experience where the team was forced to go into a meeting room for every discussion even if not too loud as the open plan space was considered a quiet area too. This was highly disruptive and hindered seriously progress and teamwork.

Wall Space (Windows/Glass Walls)

In order to visualize teams’ work, it is vital that a large amount of wall space is available. Throughout product development efforts, different information radiators will be used to clearly show the work being done. This will allow for anyone in or outside of the project to quickly get a complete status of where things stand by ‘walking the walls’. Visual cues are strongly preferred over storing status in computer systems when possible.

Wall space is often used as working wall space for paper & foil. The landlord or company operating the space should agree on the use of the walls for whiteboards and working areas, i.e. handing foil, boards, paper, applying sticky notes, etc.

There needs to be enough free space for stand-ups next to the walls (next to a Scrum Board, Backlog board or standing in front of a wall turned into a whiteboard using foil)

Just about the same is valid for windows as for the walls above.

Flexible Spaces

We prefer spaces that can be re-configured as needed to support different team and program-level activities. Putting desks on rollers, using foldable desks and stackable chairs, and generally creating the ability to create different workspaces is a good practice. See Make Space for design inspiration around flexible workspaces.

It should be possible for the team to move around boards - in and out of their core space, e.g. moving boards to flexible spaces, breakout areas, meeting rooms.

Breakout Areas

Breakout areas are multi-purpose spaces. They can be used for informal ad-hoc meetings, eating, or general relaxation. The are ideal for brainstorming and breakout sessions. They provide a more creative setting than traditional meeting rooms and ideally should have internet connectivity and power outlets.

  • Advantages - Provides instant-access meeting facilities for teams, ideally should be located within or adjacent to the open workspace area.
  • Disadvantages - Can be noisy and not ideal for certain types of meetings e.g. client facing, sensitive, etc.

It should be possible for the team to move around boards - in and out of their core space, e.g. moving boards to flexible spaces, breakout areas, meeting rooms.

Meeting Spaces

  • Available big breakout room for Lunch & Learn sessions or workshops to host up to 20
  • Available room for Sprint Reviews, which can hold up to 20-25 people seated
  • Available bigger room for the Demo Day event to host between 30-50 people
  • Smaller meeting rooms for ad hoc discussions to avoid noise in the team space.
  • Call booths/pods for calls

Quiet Zones

Quiet Zones are critical to the successful implementation of an open workplace setting. They provide a areas where workers can get privacy and quiet to perform work that may be personal or confidential or requires additional focus or attention.

  • Advantages - Provide on-demand quiet spaces for anyone on the team.
  • Disadvantages - If rules are not put into place the areas can be ‘hijacked’ by non-team members

Hoteling Spaces

Hotel spaces provide overflow work space to accommodate remote team members, vendors, etc. who may be visiting the office but are not their permanently. They are often incorporated with break out areas.

  • Advantages - They allow for flexible work spaces to accommodate spikes in workplace occupancy.
  • Disadvantages - They are typically smaller than normal team workspaces and are not designed for long-term or permanent use.

Work Environment

  • ‎Coffee - free, quality brew
  • Water fountain
  • The team space should allow for some working “mess” as the paper and post-its on the wall and whiteboards need to remain up till the end of the residency.
  • Cleaning services should NOT touch, displace or remove any items from the room, even if on the ground - sometimes post-it notes may fall off the boards and putting them away may cause serious disruption to the work
  • Easy access at all times of day - should not restrict early starts and late end of the day
  • ‎It is OK to rearrange furniture, take out or add such, rearrange tables, etc.
  • ‎Whiteboards in meeting rooms - big whiteboards, i.e. at least 2m long

Visualization of Work

  • Must have sufficient wall space to visualize work
  • Space to hang/display boards (e.g. Scrum board) next to the team in a visible way - e.g. the Backlog, the Scrum board, the Event Storming / MBPM boards. This should be done in a way that the whole team can see the boards without having to get up and move from their seat
  • See this practice for more details.

Video cameras

Web Cameras are critical to successful remote work and meetings, etc. As more vendors, third parties, and remote employees are involved in the work, being able to see each other offers a sense of inclusivity

We recommend Meeting Owl cameras for 360-degree video conferencing. The microphone on the Owl is not ideal, and can be supplemented with a separate mic when needed.

Desks / Chairs / Storage

  • Desk should be big enough for allowing two people to sit next to each other in front of a screen - pair programming, pair reviews, user interviews, etc.
  • Visitor chairs should be available, especially if the team space is used also as a space for Sprint Reviews
  • Secured storage (shared) is required for many of the Labs in a box supplies to be stored - hardware (cameras, projectors, etc.), post it notes, moving boxes (boards) The secure storage is required for high-value items as cameras, mobile devices, etc.
  • As much as possible, make the items in the room moveable. Put everything on casters if possible, to be able to reconfigure the space. Flexibility of re-configuration is preferable to high fit-and-finish.
  • Folding desks provide the ability to clear out a space (though you must allow those desks not to be tethered down via power/network cables.
  • Standing desks are growing in popularity and prove to help with both productivity and employees physical wellbeing.
  • Enough seats to host team and SME or other experts, users or customers visiting
  • Presentations / Projectors / Screens
  • Small but powerful portable projectors are useful for ad-hoc flexibility
  • Creston / AirMedia equipment does not work with Linux
  • 2 big screens for the pipelines dashboard and presentations (reviews, mob learning, etc.) - projectors cannot be used for pipeline dashboards as this one is on for the whole time and can easily burn the projector
  • ‎External screens for developers - dual screen (laptop and external screen) has a big impact on developer productivity and is really important when pair programming is practiced as laptops do not provide a size suitable for 2 pair of eyes in front

Networking & Energy

  • Labs consumes higher amount of wireless and wired bandwidth than a typical office
  • Avoid hardwiring the networking to individual desks
  • Being able to use wifi and laptops instead of ethernet connectivity. This allows for fluid team mobility and self-organization
  • No filters or restrictions of the network, e.g. some enterprises would restrict access to the Google Suite of applications or not allow VPN connections
  • Having a backup connection, e.g. a 4G router
  • Have a SLA and an escalation path in case of network issues (e.g. intermittent connectivity) to prevent loss of time and agenda disruption as we work in very short sprints
  • Enough power supply sockets - that is roughly 3 per seat (laptop, external screen, mobile device/camera)
  • No restriction to number of IPs - we may consume a lot of IPs as each developer is likely to use more than 2 devices and there might be many visitors - we had issues with networks allowing only for as much as 1 IP per member of the team, which cut off visitors and additional devices

Phone

  • Wireless phones can provide great flexibility (used at WeWork spaces)

Printer

  • We typically use a shared printer, and do not dedicate one in the Labs space, to save space

Aesthetics

  • ‘Unfinished’ space (exposed cabling, exposed walls, etc) provides a new and different aesthetic that feels different than a corporate space, and implies that we are building new prototypes.
  • Consider avoiding the excessive use of corporate logos, branding, and color schemes. We specifically created a new color scheme for our space that did not match the corporate aesthetic, to imply that we are operating differently than our typical work areas, and to encourage creative thinking

Other Nice-to-Haves

  • Good restaurants / canteen / lunch options for the whole team nearby
  • Movable large whiteboards
  • Mouses and keyboards
  • Plant life
  • Portable / Bluetooth speaker for music, especially for after-hours coding, hackathons, workshops
  • Wellness room / quiet space for anyone that needs it

Other References

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