Flipping the Workplace

By Mary Clare Garrity, IIDA, LEED AP | Senior Strategist

Khan Academy is based on the flipped classroom model. Khan Academy, Mountain View, CA.  Photography © Jasper Sanidad.

In a flipped classroom students process and assimilate new information in a social setting often at group tables. Khan Academy, Mountain View, CA. Photography © Jasper Sanidad.

The flipped classroom concept has been around for well over 10 years, although advocates for the tradition of live classroom lectures followed by homework remain. The idea of flipping the model and presenting a lecture on new material by video, watched at each student’s convenience and followed-up with a live session in the classroom, has caught on, delivering positive results and praise from educators, students, and parents. With this approach, the classroom is now a venue where students process and assimilate new information in a social setting at group tables, with greater one-on-one instructor interaction and collaboration time with peers—a mode of learning and innovating more aligned with practices in today’s collaborative workplace. The convenience of learning on their own time and schedule engages students more fully with the learning process, acknowledges their individuality, and accommodates their diversity.

If this approach is viable in the classroom and reflects key aspects of today’s workplace, why not use it in the workplace? Good question. We think it is only a matter of time. We know that work, in general, has increasingly become more creative and collaborative but that balancing work, commute time, personal and family life, diversity, and wellness has become a greater challenge. The flipped workplace would provide options.

Although, flipping the model might not lend itself to every enterprise and profession (emergency room personnel, dentists, etc.), working remotely full-time or part-time could yield a glut of benefits for many employees and employers. For employees, avoiding the daily commute would eliminate one stressor and benefit the environment. Choosing where to work and how to schedule time would provide for autonomy and self-determination, and allow for diversity, individual needs, and a more balanced lifestyle for wellness.

With individual work done outside the office, the workplace would become an energized zone focused on creative collaboration, brainstorming, networking, and culture building. At the office, managers would assume roles as coaches and enablers of creative efforts and group work, with each employee prepared to participate having done work off-site. Shared materials reviewed in private could empower a more agile and potent team collaboration from a refreshed staff eager to connect.

The flipped workplace would redefine the workspace. In general, it would include a greater percentage of activity based settings, including semi-defined spaces that allow multiple teams to work together without disrupting each other, as well as more huddle and conference rooms of different sizes. Technology would assume a greater role, allowing staff to share content easily and seamlessly at the office and remotely, and as a key to office wayfinding, identifying available space and which team members are in the office through use of a digital directory or app.

Red Hat's work area, Boston

The inventive use of space and curtains can provide additional settings for collaboration. Red Hat, Boston Photography © Robert Benson.

Mesh curtains would allow unused spaces too small or oddly configured for a huddle room to become impromptu meeting spaces. Freestanding glass walls, moveable partitions, and space defined by structure could be features. The inventive use of space, including pods, niches, and seating in hallways would provide additional settings.

Furniture would need to be reconfigurable at will. More relaxed furniture would be ideal. We know that meetings in lounge environments can lead to causal conversations that encourage users to connect and build relationships as well as brainstorm. The workplace would also be a social environment and additional amenities like gaming areas, video rooms, meditation/fitness rooms, outdoor areas, and cafés or pantries would be required for social interaction, team building, and relaxation.

Huddle area at Rapid 7 in Austin.

Space defined by structure without walls becomes a huddle area. Photography © Thomas McConnell.

The potential real estate benefits include the consolidation of space as workstations and offices decline, leading to a reduction in leased space, especially if the building provides shared amenity spaces, both inside and out. Overall, the advantages of a flipped workplace make good sense and will become apparent to some organizations as a model to enhance their production, reduce costs, and provide staff with greater control over work-life sway.

Mary Clare Garrity, IIDA, LEED AP

Senior Strategist

Mary Clare Garrity of IAs Los Angeles Office

Using statistical information captured through strategy studies and staff interviews at all levels of an organization, Mary Clare Garrity guides clients through an exploration of current staff space usage and proposes strategic methods of space planning to enhance individual and team performance and achieve new efficiencies. With over 15 years of experience, she has worked with an array of entertainment companies, financial institutions, and technology companies.

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