Steelcase's WorkCafé - a dynamic space that connects people

WorkCafe’s coffee shop vibe, with the functionality of a well-planned office, is ideal for theImage Credit: Courtesy of Steelcase

Offices can be a drab, uninspiring maze of cubicles, prompting many to rush to the nearest coffee shop looking for inspiration or a break. But cafés aren’t really the ideal place to mix work and play. They can be noisy, with weak cellphone reception or slow internet speeds. So how about a workplace that can have the best of both worlds? Steelcase, a workspace  solutions provider, has recently introduced a new concept — the WorkCafé, which  addresses not only these issues but many more.

Steelcase’s WorkCafé is a dynamic space that connects people with their colleagues, work and organisation. It transforms the traditional corporate cafeteria into a destination for  connection, collaboration, focus and innovation. It redefines how the employee takes a lunch break, holds a meeting, interacts with colleagues, and seeks inspiration.

Research by the company shows that in the US, over 31 per cent of employees regularly leave their offices in search of a more relaxed, creative environment. Even in the UAE, employees are increasingly opting for cafés to conduct meetings, often staying back to finish their work if Wi-Fi is available.

A disadvantage of this is that cafés rarely offer the high technological and ergonomic standards that people need to be able to work efficiently. In addition, staff members are cut off from their colleagues and the company culture outside the office. “Our research shows that there are more private offices in companies in the UAE, and less open, breakout and
collaborative spaces,” says Andy Morris, Sales Director, Middle East, SteelCase. “This can lead to gaps in employee communication.”

The WorkCafé offers a solution to these issues. “It provides a central location for creative exchange, striking a Pictures: Courtesy of Steelcase balance between privacy and accessibility, socialising and working, and flexibility and consistency. Its coffee shop vibe, with the functionality of a well-planned office, is the ideal set-up for the UAE’s multicultural workforce to innovate, collaborate, socialise and relax.”

More research from the company suggests many merits of bringing the café to work. These include improved employee relationships — staff who eat together in large groups are 36 per cent more likely to communicate outside lunch hours. Over 80 per cent workers say they stay connected to organisational information mostly via team meetings, while almost 90 per cent say it is important to have a space where they can recharge and re-energise.

It’s not only about increasing employee productivity, engagement, creativity or morale; it also activates under-utilised real estate. Activity in a typical caféteria spikes during breakfast and lunch hours. Closing time is usually early afternoon. Converting the same real estate into a WorkCafé increases the overall utilisation of the space multifold.

Steelcase’s WorkCafé has five key zones — social hub, meeting commons, nomadic camp, resource centre and kitchen and dine. Each zone has a specific design intent to encourage desired user behaviours and is interrelated, working together to accomplish the design  intent for the WorkCafé as a whole.

The cost of converting an existing caféteria will depend on the zone and design. For example, a social hub could range from Dh110-240 per square foot, the meeting commons ranges from Dh65-Dh310 per square foot and the Nomadic Camp from Dh40-Dh335 per square foot, minus the design and construction cost.

In UAE, The Abu Dhabi National Energy Company  (Taqa) was one of the company’s first customers. Taqa’s WorkCafé was created in 2013 and supports almost anything that employees might wish to accomplish — catch up on work, socialise with colleagues, and, of course, eat. There are a variety of spaces, including open and semi-closed meeting areas and those that accommodate stand-up, sit-down or perch postures, all with spectacular views of Abu Dhabi city and its islands.

Internationally, Steelcase has applied its insights to two locations. The Rosenheim, Germany whose former caféteria has been transformed into the coffee house atmosphere of the Viva Café and the Grand Rapids, Michigan, US. The Workcafé in Grand Rapids, Steelcase’s headquarters, was built in 2011 on the 2,000-square-foot area of the former caféteria. Several of Steelcase’s prominent clients have visited these locations to seek inspiration for their future WorkCafés.

Source: Ashutosh Gupta, Special to Property Weekly

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