Smart bosses know that when their employees talk at work or during breaks, it usually involves exchanging experiences and solving problems. Communication in everyday working life is a lively, spontaneous form of knowledge transfer. In most cases, it is good for the working environment and important for collaboration and flexible productivity. Architecture can prevent or promote the internal communication flow.
In addition to the notorious “office grapevine”, which is not always an exchange of accurate information, in every enterprise there are many other forms of informal communication. Communication experts are convinced of their importance, not least for the productive cooperation of teams. Many technical or organisational problems have probably been solved together over a coffee or cigarette. Cognition researchers also know that creative solutions are often found rather incidentally, whether at home in the bathtub (Eureka) or in a stimulatingly designed recreation room “at work”.
“In addition to the flow of materials, the focus of layout design has moved to personnel, information and communication flow in recent years,” reports the factory planning handbook. Here communication relationships and flows can be visualised “with the same methods that are commonly used for material flows”. In order to facilitate an undisturbed flow of communication between members of working groups as well as between different but collaborating working groups, the “traffic” routes should be kept as short and barrier-free as possible. According to planning experts, “areas occupied by employees for offices, workshops and social areas must also be incorporated into layout considerations, since their position and design are decisive for the degree of internal communication”.
This means that architecture has the task of providing communication points and islands that are as flexible as possible which invite an exchange of ideas and allow undisturbed encounters. In a noisy workshop, attention must be paid to adequate sound insulation; otherwise communication will remain on call. Showcases and displays are befitting to provide important, target group-specific information.
Since personal communication is multi-dimensional and always involves multiple channels, visual transparency must also be taken into account. Glass surfaces not only offer a view out of the supervisor’s office or the meeting room, but also into it. When arranging hall offices, it should also be borne in mind that overview also creates distance. Wherever hierarchies should be avoided as much as possible, they should not be cemented through structural measures.