New hotspot in offices: Breakout zones

Modern working environments need space for unplanned encounters

It may sound a bit paradoxical, but of all things, break or breakout zones are the new hotspots of the modern working world. Many companies are enlarging corresponding areas in their offices or creating new areas for interpersonal encounters. The classic tea kitchen is becoming a creative centre. During the Corona pandemic, this change has intensified. For in the lockdown and home office, the loss of spontaneous interactions with colleagues was missed above all.  

Nov 02 2021

Places for the unplanned 

Current studies indicate that the office will become a place of informal exchange and creative work even more than before. According to these studies, the success factors of a team-oriented working environment include places for unplanned encounters. These not only promote identification with the employer, but also creative processes and innovation. According to recent surveys, a majority of employees therefore consider breakout zones to be among the most important facilities in the office. 

Offering a wide range of activities 

But what does this mean for the design of modern working environments? "If communication zones are designed as central places in the office concept, larger areas with a wide range of standing and sitting options and a well-equipped kitchen can respond better to spontaneously arising different activities of employees than smaller facilities," says architect Christof Nellehsen from the Duisburg office aib. For clients such as Deutsche Bahn or Siemens, aib has created office landscapes with a variety of possibilities for collaboration and concentration.

Retreat room in the DB administration Lister Dreieck in Hanover © aib GmbH/Markus Heinbach

Invitation to encounter 

Such multispace concepts are increasingly gaining acceptance as a forward-looking form of office. In classic office structures, however, there is often a lack of opportunities for communication and retreat. Conventional working environments such as open-plan offices are therefore increasingly being broken up and supplemented by homely meeting and creative areas. A generous amount of space fulfils a dual function: it creates an inviting breakout area and a relaxed second workplace. 

Diversity in transition 

The office furniture industry is reacting to the changing requirements with new products. Today, there is a wide range of new products for furnishing breakout zones. However, the office kitchen cannot be a quiet reading corner at the same time. Flexibility is therefore called for in furnishing. Current solutions for furnishing communication zones therefore range from modular partition systems and seating groups to multifunctional furniture. Lounges, bistro and break areas or co-working spaces can thus be customised and easily integrated into existing spaces.

Product innovation Neo Lite bar stool by Materia © Skandiform AB

Added value at the workplace 

For those returning from the home office, companies are increasingly striving to create a more than purely functional working environment. Employees have long expected more from the office than a mere workplace. A fully equipped kitchen, a lounge area or a fitness room are now almost standard in many offices. They enable an informal exchange across different disciplines and strengthen the sense of community. It is not uncommon for decisive ideas to emerge in precisely such places. The more friendly, homely and inviting these areas are, the more they fulfil this purpose. This has meanwhile been accepted in all sectors and is being successively implemented.

Author: Broekmann+Partner

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