We’ve all read and heard about the ways in which cubicles can make people feel isolated from their co-workers: movies where the main character longs to talk to someone on the other side of the floor but doesn’t know how, books in which office workers feel their lives slipping away from them, and TV shows about water cooler dynamics all hold a central place in American pop culture. By literally walling us off from each other, the architecture of cubicle office spaces can stifle the kind of cross-pollination needed to develop new ideas. Today, as the cultural stagnation of Covid-19 slowly thaws, it’s becoming clear that idea generation is largely dependent on the feedback and encouragement we get from our peers—without that kind of support, it’s hard to know what is possible.
That’s why building a communal space is so critical for cultivating creativity in the workplace. By having a central space in which people from different departments can come together and talk freely about their work, exciting and unexpected results will be generated in the office. When an engineer sits next to a content generator, for instance, their convergence of ideas could give way to an entirely unique perspective about the company and the work at hand.
Though they’re singularly important to a generative workplace, communal spaces can take any number of forms: a long conference table in the middle of an open room, a lounge space where people can freely sit and socialize, and a Zoom room in which employees can share a “cocktail hour” are all viable homes for boundary-defying discussions. The key to each of these spaces is a literal sense of openness, which should be reflected in the expansiveness of the conversation. By offering a counterpoint to the confines of the traditional workplace, employees are given the chance to embrace and expand on their dreams.